Speculation Abounds as Sun-Oracle Wedding Day Nears


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Oracle's (NASDAQ: ORCL) acquisition of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) could close soon if the EU signs off on the deal next week — but what happens after that is anyone's guess.

Oracle isn't saying anything, and Sun has also been muzzled in recent weeks — attempts by Enterprise Storage Forum to get something, anything out of either proved futile.

"No one outside of Oracle and perhaps some people at Sun really know what's going to happen exactly when the deal closes," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. "My guess is that Oracle is still figuring out some things here as well."

Into that vacuum naturally flows rampant speculation — so read on!

Sun, of course, has a wide range of storage and file system technologies in its toolkit. Much of that is open source — ZFS, Lustre and Sam-QFS. There is some debate in the open source community about just how open these technologies are due to licensing terms that differ from Linux tradition. OpenSolaris, though, is 100 percent out there in the open source community.

These file systems include a local file system (ZFS), an enterprise-class scalable file system (QFS), a hierarchical storage management system (Sam) and a scalable high-performance parallel file system (Lustre). All of these products integrate well with Sun Solaris and OpenSolaris. Sun also has a monitoring tool called Dtrace.

ZFS, of course, has gained the most attention. Sun has used ZFS to enhance the raw capabilities of its storage hardware and server hardware, and it's caught on with users too.

"Sun puts a complete, hardened stack together in its 7000 Series Unified Storage, and the results are impressive," said Mark Peters, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. "Open Storage from Sun is a fine concept: It holds the promise of users getting a lot of features and functions, and yet paying less than through any other 'standard' route."

Most observers concur.

"Sun has a complete solution that allows the code for the file systems and the OS to be open, allowing for a community to develop around the technologies," said Jeff Layton, a Linux storage and file system specialist at a large hardware vendor. "This stack works well with Sun hardware."

File and Operating System Overlap

Oracle, meanwhile, is focused on its database as the core of its business. To make this platform more attractive, it benefits by adding to the stack from top to bottom.

"This ensures that Oracle will be stable and reliable for vital business operations," said Layton. "They can either tweak their database or tweak the stack (if it's open source) to improve their performance. So having a complete open source stack theoretically gives Oracle complete control over their destiny."

This wouldn't be the first time Oracle has gone in this direction. Earlier, the company unveiled "unbreakable Linux," as well as developing file systems for Linux such as OCFS and BTRFS.

Some observers argue that as far as Oracle is concerned, there is a great deal of overlap between Linux and Solaris in both operating systems and file systems. Others feel they are pieces of the same technology — there is a local file system and a clustered file system for both operating systems. Therefore, having the ability to combine technologies allows for better tuning for Oracle.

"What remains to be seen are the plans that Oracle has for either integrating these technologies for Solaris or Linux, or using one or more technologies to enhance the other," said Layton. "In my opinion, Oracle will probably continue to support both Linux and OpenSolaris."

To Layton, Oracle appears to be in control of its own destiny regardless of the direction the IT world takes toward the cloud, open source or anything else on the horizon.

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