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Sun to subsidize Oracle database software

To compete with IBM and HP, Sun will bundle Oracle's database with higher-end Unix servers, subsidize customer fees. Photo: Best buddies McNealy and Ellison

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Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
REDWOOD SHORES, Calif.--In a bid to compete better against IBM and Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems said Tuesday it will bundle Oracle's database with higher-end Unix servers and partially subsidize the fees customers would otherwise have to pay to use the software.

Oracle's Enterprise Edition database software will be an option when customers buy the four-processor Sun Fire V490 or higher-end servers using the UltraSparc IV or IV+ processors. Sun will pay the Oracle license fee, but customers will be responsible for paying Oracle's annual support and maintenance fees, said Larry Singer, Sun's strategic insight officer.

Ellison and McNealy

Because Oracle license fees correspond to the number of processors a server has, Sun's subsidy can be significant on machines such as the E25K, which has as many as 72 dual-core processors. Singer said the Oracle license fee for such as system is $850,000.

"The bigger the machine, the cooler this gets," Sun CEO Scott McNealy said at a Sun-Oracle employee town hall meeting at Oracle headquarters where the deal was announced. "We're going to effectively give you the Oracle database for free with a year of support with our new pricing model."

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said the partnership shouldn't cause rivalries between the two companies' sales forces. "The Oracle salesperson gets credit for the Sun sale," Ellison said. "I think the Oracle salesperson will appreciate the help of the Sun sales force in making quota."

More than half of Sun's revenue comes from selling low-end servers, but the company hopes the Oracle deal will help boost its high-end models too, where IBM has been making major market share gains against Sun.

"In the last couple years, we've lost some of our momentum at the high end. This is about getting some of that momentum back," Singer said. Through the deal, running Oracle's database on Sun servers will be about 25 percent cheaper than on IBM's Power-based Unix servers or HP's PA-RISC based Unix servers, Singer added.

The database bundling deal should be available on Sun's Web site in coming days, Singer said. The partnership, which also involves joint marketing and advertising, doesn't currently extend to Sun's UltraSparc T1 "Niagara" systems or its "Galaxy" line of x86 servers.

Also Tuesday, the companies announced that Oracle will extend its license to use Sun's Java software technology for another 10 years. Oracle is rebuilding its applications using the software, Ellison said.

"You guys are signing up for another 10 years of collaboration and cooperation," McNealy said, praising Oracle for its help developing Java. Oracle is "probably our No. 1 contributor here in the Java space," McNealy said.

The move comes a few months after another long-term Java licensee, IBM, also extended its Java license 10 years.

Best buddies
Having McNealy and Ellison share the stage was emblematic of the two companies' work in recent months to patch up their relationship.

In 2003, Oracle said Linux would become its primary software development platform, a move that demoted Sun's Solaris. But in November 2005, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company updated its position, saying Solaris is the "preferred development and deployment platform" for 64-bit x86 processors.

Meanwhile, McNealy has complained about how Oracle based its software fees on the number of cores a processor has. Sun, which has the most aggressive multi-core processor strategy in the server market, would have been at a major pricing disadvantage by such a move. But Oracle in December announced more liberal pricing for Sun's chips.

The partnership is far from exclusive, however. Sun still includes other database software, including the open-source Derby, MySQL and PostgreSQL packages. "There's lots of choice," McNealy said.

And Oracle still has many other server partners. "We have a very close relationship with Dell," Ellison said.

The two CEOs joked genially on the stage. McNealy opened the event by asking whether Oracle planned to acquire Sun.

"You'll see it in the newspapers," Ellison responded. "Oracle's strong preference is to do everything hostilely."

And in showing a slide with Sun-Oracle partnership milestones, McNealy observed, "The one they didn't put in is when you and I were both pushing the network computer," the ill-fated thin client that both companies hoped would displace the personal computer.

"Let Google make the network computer now," Ellison said, a reference to the Google PC rumor that circulated last week at the Consumer Electronics Show. "They're young and foolish."