Oracle Plans to Keep Sun’s Storage Business

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Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison has no plans to sell off Sun Microsystems’ (NASDAQ: JAVA) data storage business — or any of the company’s other hardware product lines.

“We are definitely not going to exit the hardware business,” Ellison told Reuters in an e-mail interview published late today. “If a company designs both hardware and software, it can build much better systems than if they only design the software. That’s why Apple’s iPhone is so much better than Microsoft phones.”

Ellison said he intends to hold on to Sun’s data storage and tape backup businesses, creating a new competitor for the likes of EMC (NYSE: EMC), IBM (NYSE: IBM), HP (NYSE: HPQ), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP).

“We believe the best user experience is when all the pieces in the system are engineered to work together,” Ellison said. “Disk storage and tape backup are critical components in high-performance, high-reliability, high-security database systems. So we plan to design and deliver those pieces too. Clearly many Sun customers choose disk and tape systems from other vendors. That’s what open systems are all about: providing customers with a choice. But Oracle expects to continue competing in both the disk and tape storage businesses after we buy Sun.”

Oracle and Sun shook up the server and storage markets when they announced merger plans last month. Ellison’s remarks were the first detailed comments on Oracle’s plans for Sun’s product lineup since then.

Ellison said he believes that by jointly developing Oracle’s software with Sun’s hardware and SPARC chips, the company can build machines designed for specific purposes that are better than ones pulled together from separate components.

“Sun was very successful for a very long time selling computer systems based on the SPARC chip and the Solaris operating system,” Ellison said in the interview. “Now, with the added power of integrated Oracle software, we think they can be again.”

“Once we own Sun, we’ll be able to plan and synchronize new features from silicon to software, just like IBM and the other big system suppliers,” he said.

His comments could reassure Sun customers wary of investing in new hardware, but Reuters said Ellison declined to respond when asked what he would do if efforts to turn around Sun’s server business falter. He also didn’t say what he plans to do with Sun’s open source-based projects, such as Open Storage, but since Sun’s Open Storage products are both hardware-based and among the company’s fastest-growing products, it’s not hard to imagine them finding a place in the new merged company.

Ellison said Oracle also remains committed to the Intel- and HP-based Exadata database machine, and doesn’t plan a SPARC Solaris version. He called Exadata “the most successful product introduction in Oracle’s 30-year history. The Sun acquisition doesn’t reduce our commitment to Exadata at all.”

StorageIO founder and senior analyst Greg Schulz compared Ellison to his “flamboyant counterpart” Richard Branson.

“Both are first and foremost business people who are out to build and increase the size of their empires,” said Schulz. “Ellison cannot afford to simply discard businesses with large installed bases that have the potential to generate revenues and margins in pursuit of a pet project or two.”

For a transcript of the Reuters interview, visit

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.
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