Combinatorics

The smallest bridgeless cubic graph with no three-edge colouring

Some of the furore following on from the announcement of the proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle appears to have died down today. However, taking a look round the blogosphere and various on-line discussion forums1, there does not seem to be much of a consensus about Oracle’s motivations, or future plans for Sun. There are a number of moving parts to this:

  1. Sun’s hardware platforms
  2. Solaris
  3. Java
  4. MySQL
  5. OpenOffice.org

One area that people seem agreed upon is the importance of Java to Oracle’s application strategy, so it makes sense – as a defensive move if nothing else – for them to seek to prevent influence over its future direction falling into the hands of a competitor (which in turn raises the question of when exactly Oracle and Sun started talking and how much overlap there was with the IBM negotiations).

The future of MySQL seems less clear. Some commentators feel that Oracle will support it and allow it to continue to thrive as one of their products. At the other extreme, I have seen suggestions that it will be killed off. Of course as an open source database, this might be easier said than done. There seems to have been a steady trickle of MySQL people out of Sun, pre-acquisition and I would have thought that there is enough expertise and ownership outside of Oracle/Sun for MySQL to have some sort of future regardless of Oracle’s strategy for it.

A bit of a dark horse is OpenOffice.org. A lot of commentary has focused on Oracle positioning themselves to compete with IBM via the acquisition. Perhaps OpenOffice.org offers Larry Ellison another chance to cross swords with his old adversaries at Microsoft.

Moving from software to operating systems, Sun’s Solaris has probably suffered more than most from the rise of Linux, but there have been rumours about Solaris offering Oracle a better route to the current technology Nirvana of cloud computing. Whether this is really the case, I’ll leave to more technically competent authorities to discuss.

But beneath Solaris beats the SPARC chips and other components of Sun’s hardware. Is Oracle’s real aim to offer a complete solution: ERP, CRM, BI and DW in a box? Sun’s hardware has not exactly been flying off the shelf in recent months, but perhaps the sales team at Oracle have other ideas. Maybe their feeling is that all that Sun’s boxes need is to be part of a more alluring overall package. Leveraging Sun’s hardware and operating system is what many people assume is behind Oracle’s strategy. This is certainly the path that would lead to challenging IBM as a company that can meet many of an organisation’s needs as a one-stop-shop.

However, this segues into another observation. If Oracle really has IBM in its sights, then it lacks one crucial piece of ammunition, a global services organisation; the sort of outfit that IBM acquired from the hiving off of PwC’s consulting arm. Maybe now is a good time to but stock in CSC?

But to return to some of the points I made earlier, there is a further possibility. Perhaps Oracle don’t want to move into the fiercely competitive and low-margin arena of hardware sales after all. Perhaps it was Sun’s software assets that were the real goal. Does Oracle really want to position itself as a hardware vendor, no doubt poisoning strong relationships with people such as HP in the process? Maybe not. If this is indeed the case then maybe there will be a spin-off of Sun’s hardware assets, or indeed a sale to someone like HP – assuming that they wanted them.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun is just how many balls have been thrown up into the air by it. It will be really interesting to see how they fall over the next few months.
 


 
1. Some of the blogs that I have read on this subject are acknowledged at the end of my earlier article.

A further main source has been comments on various LinkedIn.com groups, notably: CIO Forum (CIO.com and CIO Magazine), CIOs.com: Chief Information Officer Network and The IT Architect Network. As always, membership of LinkedIn.com and the group is required to view these.

Finally, you can sometimes glean a lot from 140 characters, so various comments on Twitter have also been influential.

 

5 thoughts on “Combinatorics

  1. Well done, Peter. You very succinctly captured the essence(s) of the potential future that awaits us. It ocurred to me as well that this deal must have been going in in parallel, especially since the deal was done for a paltry premium above IBM’s offer. Whaterver the case, it is useful prepare oneself for what may happen next. Will the world be a better place because this deal was done? A rehtorical question to be sure. We’ll have to wait and see.

  2. One of the key areas where Oracle and Sun are fierce competitors (and wasn’t mentioned in Peter T’s article) is Identity and Access Management (I&AM). Sun is the acknowledged leader in this space as far as I&AM suite vendors are concerned, with a comprehensive platform of products and a large customer base. Oracle, through acquisition, up to this point had assembled a competitive set of products to Sun and was a keen rival. With the acquisition of Sun by Oracle, what will happen to Sun’s I&AM product suite is of real concern to Sun’s I&AM customers who have invested millions of dollars in their implementations. Since both suites provide full-functionality, this isn’t a case of Sun’s products filling a gap in Oracle’s product line. It’s likely that “blood will be spilled,” and Sun’s customers are likely to be the losers in the tug-of-war that will surely ensue.

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