What the changes at Sun mean for the customer

What the changes at Sun mean for the customer

Summary: In the short term - meaning tomorrow- the major changes at Sun: a renewed focus on Solaris/SPARC, make to order mfg with direct shipping, more emphasis on Sun Ray, customer focused ready-to-rock appliance computing - are all good news. Look a bit deeper, however, and the handwriting on the wall says much of what Java brings to the server is going, going, gone.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Oracle
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For Sun employees - and customers: Sun is the brand, innovation is the product, Oracle is the company - but what's that really mean for customers?

Obviously not everything's settled, but three things are very clear for the short term:

  1. Make to order and direct ship are long, long, overdue - and great for customers.

    In a make to order system, the money you don't spend on distribution and parts inventories goes to sales compensation and customer support engineering. I doubt customer costs will be much affected, but the structure of Sun's costs making up the customer price will change to put more bucks behind keeping the customer happy, informed, listened to, and on side.

    Most importantly, the guy you talk to about buying a Solaris/CMT machine, will actually know what that is - and he won't try to sell you a PC instead.

  2. Selling appliance computing focused on application delivery is what Sun should have been doing for years, and the best possible news from Sun for the tens of thousands of mid range businesses previously forced to choose between living with Wintel's limitations or accepting IBM's pricing.

    Two weeks ago a customer with 500 employees and a real need for a lot of ERP/SCM features didn't qualify for Sun's attention and so faced a choice between laying off staff to pay for an IBM solution or going Wintel and moving a lot of staffing dollars from revenue generators to IT support.

    Today (well, RSN anyway) Oracle will sell that customer what he needs: a pre-configured rack with applications, site specific configuration, installation, and support services all on one bill - just like IBM, but with at least one zero chopped off on the right.

  3. Pushing Sun Ray is the right thing to do - for customers (especially big application customers), for the company, for the entire tech industry - and Oracle is going to do it. That appliance I mentioned above? they're going to be asking the customer "do you want rays with that?" and probably offering a cost break on support for those who do.

These changes are happening now, but there are big, longer term, changes coming down the pipeline too - and I want to speculate a bit about what one of the more distant might be.

I have a personal interest in a Sun research project called Wonderland - because the ideas behind it have the potential to become integral to any advanced enterprise communications environment. What Wonderland does is a create a networked virtual world environment you can carry your iPad (or whatever) into just as you would in real world meetings to take notes or share materials with others. Since it's largely scriptable, Wonderland lets you spread meetings across both space and time - giving subscribers to a particular instance almost office-next-door access to others without much regard for time zones or distance.

Wonderland uses the Darkstar gaming engine - and because Oracle's killing Darkstar, the wonderland folks are feeling a lot of pain.

Darkstar does what its creators set out to do: provide a gaming platform enabling developers to back end hundreds of thousands of game users with a grid of little machines running sub-scale OSes without limiting the interactions between players.

I suspect Oracle killed it mainly because they saw no market for it, but the reason it deserved to die was that it successfully solves a problem Sun doesn't have - and my speculation is that we'll see a lot more work based on this reality entering the R&D pipeline this year and next with product effects two or three years down the road.

The issue is this: what darkstar achieves, providing seamless horizontal scaling through box count, can also be achieved, although currently only at a smaller scale, using Solaris/CMT directly - and the hardware transaction commit in the ROCK technologies coupled with ZFS block level control will later reduce overheads for this kind of application by at least another order of magnitude.

So here's the speculation in chief: when the key players start to figure this out, they're going to see it applies to a lot of other things. Most politically in the Oracle world, the same logic applies to the core components in the BEA products Oracle bought for over $8 billion a few years ago.

That's a long term change, of course - but the bet is simply this: we're going start seeing a slew of major Oracle product overhauls and rationalizations as it becomes obvious that the most complex, over head intensive, (and commercially valuable because proven), components coded into those products are simply not needed on Sun gear.

Topics: Mobility, Oracle

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11 comments
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  • Buying SUN HW now is an even worse idea than ever before

    Now that MSSQL has:

    a) a dominent lead over Oracle in data analysis tools.
    b) $/transaction lead: lop another zero, sometimes 2, off on the right
    c) $/IT Management cost: lop off another zero.
    d) An order of magnitude less bugs than Oracle: lop off another zero.

    Oracle customers should be migrating both new and existing deployments WIntel to keep the option to migrate to MSSQL open. At the very least this should be good for negotiating 60-70% off the Oracle SW costs, but I'd ask for free future upgrades too. :)

    I wouldn't be surprised if Oracle sees this too within a couple years, that and that they can make all the sales/consulting money just as easily on WIntel, and SUN HW is gone forever within 4-5 years.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Competition is good - but MS? isn't in the game

      Ms is getting better all the time, but realistically running a terabyte OLTP on MS-SQL with millions in transactions per day? I know senior people who believe this possible - but they also think the average 9 year can write an erp app on laptop over a weekend.

      Don't be deluded, ok?

      Now as for the bugs ... some Oracle apps suck, many don't. I've used the dbms for years - think it's generally pretty good (and it can great if the local DBA isn't allowed to futz with it.) Similarly the original enterprise apps were/are insanely great if not customized by "experts", and peoplesoft is pretty much debugged too -again, provided you don't let pc people hack at it.

      The business inteligence apps are terrible - but they're mostly pc dependent, aren't they? See the trend here yet?
      murph_z
  • Ask again in 5 years

    Oracle's acquisition also means:

    - the effective end of the reseller channel. Most may not care, but there are significant Sun customers who stayed that way because some Unix pros did Sun better than Sun. Not the rule, perhaps, but they're there.

    - Many customers will miss the extent to which Sun would go to cut a deal. Oracle is the opposite and every one knows it.

    - the end of the open sourcing ethos behind former Sun product lines.

    - the probable backseating of Solaris behind OEL.

    - Worst of all, though, permanent uncertainty. When Sun existed, of course they were behind Solaris; of course they were behind SPARC. All the wood behind one arrow...it was their raison d'etre. With Oracle, no product is safe, given a few years when the promises age and the profit margins are less than anticipated. The deciding factor isn't best of breed, just best of buck.

    John C.
    jcawley
    • Agreed - time will tell

      However:

      1 - the reseller channel simply wasn't working. What Oracle's direct ship approach means there is that the big guys, all of them counter-productive for Sun, are gone and the little guys, many of whom were very positive for Sun, will get another chance - mostly to sell value adding expertise.

      You'll find that this works out in the end because shifting boxes (which get cheaper all the time) never made money compared to selling services (which get more expnsive over time).

      2 - Oracle doesn't discount much? it depends on the competitive situation - and one of the things they've been working on is clearer pricing.

      Basically, this is one of those situations where their approach works for me when applied to others and against me only in the few cases where I represent the customer.

      3 - actually I think you'll see Oracle move toward open source support for lots of stuff and be focused, years from now, on reducing customer capital cost and making it back on long term services/support. I would not be surprised to see, for example, many key products outside the PC world becoming "free" .

      4 - Solaris/SPARC will do well now. All the wood is now behind the application services (what the customer -not the IT people- wants) arrow.

      Previously Sun was under lots of pressure to sell x86 - that's going away. And no, Oracle won't advance a Linux agenda over Solaris.

      5 - i think the deal greatly reduces uncertainty all round: deep pockets, Solaris/SPARC as the platform, Applications as the ultimate product driver... it's why I'm enthused over the opportunities here.
      murph_z
      • Not my best argument

        After all, "permanent uncertainty" is the basis for competitive excellence. Not my best post.

        However, doesn't it bother you that x86 is being de-emphasized? So long as it wasn't a zero sum effort with SPARC, it was "the answer" to competitive pressure to both Linux on the OS front and Intel/AMD on the hardware front. It was complimentary to SPARC.

        Volume growth meant Solaris market penetration. It also meant the nascent grass roots support on the Linux model.

        I guess I'm looking for clarification: is Oracle talking about moving away from x64 in terms of low margin low end systems, or moving away from x64 at all levels of hardware?

        I remember being at the Vancouver Sun SUPerG conference when it was announced that the up and coming Solaris 9 would be the last version of Solaris to run on x64. For the first time, I heard boos from the audience.

        Had that particular arrow been fired in the opposite direction, and the Solaris on x64 iniative supported 100% that early, then computing history might have been different. Yes, I acknowledge, it's 20/20 hindsight, but is it a cautionary tale against ignoring x64 market yet again?

        It depends on Oracle's intent. Hence the question.

        john c.
        jcawley
        • Don't know - but my guess is

          That they tried to sell the x86 business as a bundle, failed so far, and will run out the contracts but not invest more.

          I doubt this will damage OpenSolaris much - first because they'll stand behind that and second because its got legs of its own.

          I've long thought staying away from x86 good for Sun - there's no value in putting a Sun label on the same stuff everybody else relabels too.
          murph_z
  • Murph: your blog looks increasingly irrelevant

    get another job.
    markbn
    • Sorry, but Rudy's always been irrelevant

      As for getting another job, there's not that many openings for museum custodians. I'm sure both Sun customers will turn off the lights when they leave.

      I suppose there's always a sales position for Sun - he certainly has the experience trying to sell it, just no results.
      tonymcs@...
      • Oops

        You meant to say "Oracle," right? And everybody knows that Oracle is a nonentity in business, right?
        jcawley
  • Not dead yet: We don't *want* to go on the cart!

    Both Darkstar and Wonderland will be continuing
    as
    community-supported open-source projects. Like
    the man
    in Monty Python's "Holy Grail", who "didn't
    want to go
    on the cart", they're "not dead yet"...

    I don't think you'll see them on an iPad
    anytime soon,
    but Project Wonderland is pretty much equally
    at home
    on Windows, Linux, Solaris and OSX.

    Project Wonderland does help solve a problem
    Sun was convinced it had: enabling people to
    communicate and
    work collaboratively at a distance. I believe
    that's a
    need found in a lot of places these days.

    http://projectwonderland.com
    http://twitter.com/proj_wonderland
    theRealMaggieL
    • Absolutely! WRT to Wonderland anyway

      I think Wonderland has enormous potential - and will eventually become "strategic" for most major companies.

      My point here is that Darkstar is a crippling solution - it's a great (near)product; it works; and it's appropriate to the hw/os world it was intended for. However.. the HW/OS world has moved on, and much of what it brings to WOnderland can now be done without it - so the sooner wonderlanders make the transition, the sooner Oracle will be picking it up for promotion.
      murph_z