The companies said they will incorporate Oracle's database software into Sun's Solaris operating system. The companies will begin shipping the software in March, and they said they are in the process of striking deals with computer makers planning to include it in their machines.
The OS will be virtually invisible, the companies said, meaning users will not see the underlying database when they try to access information in their database. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Sun CEO Scott McNealy said the 64-bit software would run on Sun's Sparc and Intel Corp.'s architecture. Long-time Microsoft rival Ellison said the new strategy for accessing data through a network is better than Microsoft's plans to put mini-databases on every desktop. "It's a model of distributed complexity," Ellison said of Microsoft's strategy. Instead, he said "installing a server appliance [with the Sun-Oracle software combination] will be as simple as plugging it in."
McNealy said a user could simply turn on the machine and start to work on storage functions. "You can't complain that Solaris is hard to use because you won't even see it," he said.
Monday's announcement is the latest in a series of plans by both companies to thwart Microsoft's dominance of the OS market. Previously, they've joined forces on the network computer, an OS-less PC connected to a network that never really took off, and Java, a programming language that has enjoyed success even as Microsoft has tried to hijack it.
As part of their cross licensing agreement, Sun and Oracle will sell and support each other's products. The suites will include at least part of the Solaris kernel and the Oracle 8i database engine, due to ship the end of this year. Customers who need functionality not provided by the suites can get full Solaris and Oracle 8i licenses from the respective companies.
Sun will provide middleware applications such as the Jini lookup service and session management and will offer a single sign-on for the database engine and applications. "There's also the opportunity to include NetDynamics and Solaris Internet Mail Server and our LDAP directory and all the jointly developed products with Netscape after the AOL deal closes," McNealy said. "We'll make sure products can talk to any database environment out there, but we'll make liberal and aggressive use of Oracle technology embedded in Solaris so applications don't have to assume what database is out there for persistent data storage." Ellison expects Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell to become Raw Iron partners, although they have not yet signed on. He said customers will purchase a SPARC or Intel box that runs an Oracle database and the Solaris kernel will be invisible.
Developers will write applications for Oracle 8i. The box is supposed to be up and running when customers plug it in. "The Network Computer was a new business, but databases are our core business. Anyplace where you have a database by itself is a candidate for a server appliance software suite. We think this will be a huge portion of our business going forward, and we think the Microsoft model of having little servers everywhere makes no sense," Ellison said.
Ellison and McNealy claim to have "a non-exclusive Catholic marriage" where the companies will continue to support each other's software even after their long agreement has expired.