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Oracle event signals Sun hardware aspirations

The database giant isn't standing still as the EU investigates its Sun acquisition and HP and IBM promote programs to woo away Sun customers.

Oracle is touting its alliance with Sun.
Oracle is touting its alliance with Sun.
Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Oracle isn't letting a pesky EU investigation stand in the way of its planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Larry Ellison, the software giant's chief executive, is joining Sun's server chief, John Fowler, to show off some new Sun hardware running Oracle's software on Tuesday. The companies are touting their "partnership" with a jointly branded "Exadata" system shown in a Webcast invitation sent to press and published by both Oracle and Sun.

"You are invited to attend an exclusive webcast event where Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will unveil an innovative new product, the world's first OLTP (online transaction processing) database machine with Sun's brand new FlashFire technology," the invitation said. "Don't miss this opportunity to learn firsthand how the partnership between Oracle and Sun can benefit your business now and in the future."

Sun has been working on systems that take advantage of solid-state drives (SSDs), which use flash memory to store data rather than traditional hard drives with rotating platters that can store data in tiny magnetic patches. One advantage of such systems is that it's easier to retrieve data scattered in different locations over a drive, which can make reading and writing data faster. However, flash drives cost much more per gigabyte to store data than traditional hard drives.

Notable here is that Oracle is helping preserve the value of the asset it hopes to acquire. As Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice observes, Oracle is trying to counteract IBM and Hewlett-Packard programs to steal away Sun customers who might be hesitating over Sun's current limbo and its inevitable future changes.

Oracle is of course a software company, and one of its biggest challenges in acquiring Sun will be embracing hardware as well, even if it's in some subordinate role that mostly serves as a delivery vehicle for the software. Hardware still takes immense resources to design, qualify, test, manufacturer, and support to compete on the level of IBM and HP.

Tuesday's event telegraphs that Oracle does indeed care about Sun's hardware. So do marketing missives proclaiming that Oracle plans to spend more money developing both servers with Sparc processors and Sun's Solaris operating system than Sun does today.

Oracle doubtless is frustrated by the EU's intransigence, which centers on the open-source MySQL database software that competes with Oracle's own core database product. But it's doing the best it can to keep Sun's hardware business alive.