Oracle maps future for Sun customers

Sparc and Solaris still supported

Oracle has outlined the roadmap for Sun customers following the $7.4bn takeover of the flagging hardware firm.

In an open letter, Oracle co-president Charles Phillips was quick to calm jittery Sun customers and assure them that it would be business as usual for major products and services.

Support and investment will continue for Sun's hardware, Solaris operating system and Sparc microprocessor. Oracle will concentrate on the UltraSparc platform for high-end customers, as well as the M Series servers and Solaris systems, while some of the 50-plus server models will be axed. R&D funds will be pumped up from $2.8bn to $4.3bn.

"With Sun as part of Oracle, each layer of the stack will be engineered to further improve performance, reliability and manageability so that IT will be more predictable, more supportable, and more secure.  Customers will benefit as their system performance goes up and their system integration and management costs go down," said Phillips.

Overall the plan is to combine the hardware strengths of Sun with the software might of Oracle and go to market with a single, integrated solution to customers - in effect, playing the same game as IBM.

There will be 2,000 immediate lay-offs, but Oracle would be hiring 2,000 engineering and sales staff. Research and development spend will be boosted from $2.8 billion to $4.3 billion. No mention of Sun chairman Scott McNealy's role was made, but he is not expected to stay around for long.

Douglas Myhill, head of alliances at IT services and technology company Morse, said that Sun customers should be relieved by the details of the roadmap. "Any concerns should be allayed as it looks like Oracle will be continuing to invest in strong products across Sun's whole technology portfolio. Oracle has also been after an operating system for some time, therefore it will be interesting to see what it does with the Solaris platform in the future."

Martin Mutch, CEO of Oracle consultancy Rocela, said that customers have been concerned about the lack of clarity leading up to the deal, but commented that it could be a good opportunity for them, particularly given the Oracle's experience of making acquisitions work.

"Oracle's motivation is to make money, so the last thing they want to do is lose clients," said Mutch. "The biggest issue compared to other acquisitions is the nature of Sun's business is slightly different and the customers are different and the fact that it's a hell of a lot bigger company. I think it probably is a good thing for Oracle customers, but we need to give it a year to see."

Mutch said that it was important for Oracle customers to proactively talk to Oracle rather than wait for things to happen. "Work out what Oracle wants to do, then work out what you want and then work out what you want from the relationship. Those that put the effort in will get good things from this."