It looks like Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) is serious about becoming a hardware business. Larry Ellison will get a chance to prove his chops in a new market if and when the Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA ) acquisition closes.
A full-page ad in the European edition of The Wall Street Journal yesterday made Ellison's intentions perfectly clear. In bold type and colorful splendor that costs about $55,000 to publish in this medium, Oracle promised to outspend good old Sun on developing the SPARC microchip and the Solaris operating system, and on supporting Sun's hardware business.
"We're in it to win it. IBM, we're looking forward to competing with you in the hardware business." XOXO, Larry Ellison. P.S.: Bug off!
Okay, Oracle didn't sign this with hugs and kisses or sarcastic postscripts, but it might as well have. If Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) ever did have any plans to pick up Sun's servers and storage, I guess they can rebudget that cash now and turn to other acquisitive pursuits. A hardware deal was the last thing I'd expect from Oracle, but the company looks fully committed now.
IBM and Oracle compete head-to-head in several markets already, including databases, data management, and middleware. If Oracle truly takes Sun's hardware business to heart, the company becomes, in essence, another IBM. That is, assuming that anybody still wants to buy what Sun is selling.
Mind you, this is no acrimonious back-and-forth battle like when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) almost met Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) last year, or the shorter but just as overheated love story between EMC (NYSE: EMC ) and Data Domain. But Sun's rivals have taken every opportunity to swipe the occasional customer from Sun, and those opportunities were born from customer skepticism. The plight of Sun customers essentially amounted to, "Will Oracle continue to support and develop these expensive servers, or should we just go buy 'em from Big Blue and HP?"
This ad is clearly an attempt to stem that tide, and it's bold in more than just typography. But is it too little, too late? And how quickly would the remains of Sun wither away if the European Union puts a stop to this deal? Only time will tell, but that shouldn't stop you from airing your views in the comments box below.