The Sun/Oracle Merger: What's an Enterprise to Do?

Arthur Cole

Nothing makes people more jittery than uncertainty, and for Sun customers, the ongoing merger process with Oracle Corp. undoubtedly brings to mind that old Clash song: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

The simple fact is that, despite assurances from both companies, Sun users face the prospect of a difficult transition as both technologies and overall corporate cultures are meshed into one. And even if the result does turn out to be cutting-edge, will the process be worth the hassle? Long-term goals are well and good, but they tend to take a back seat to the here and now at the end of each quarter.

That fear of the unknown is certainly playing into the hands of the other large hardware/software providers at the moment. Both IBM and HP are blatantly targeting Sun customers in an effort to wean them away from what could be a very powerful platform as data centers migrate to cloud-ready, dynamic infrastructures. Sun/Oracle has the disadvantage here in that much of its platform is proprietary, but since it is no easy matter to swap out server and storage infrastructure, IBM and HP are scrambling to garner as many defections as they can while the merger is still in the hands of regulators.

But jumping ship right now might not be such a good idea, according to InformationWeek's Bob Evans. While the future is certainly cloudy, a combined Sun/Oracle would have a number of distinct advantages over the existing field. Chief among them is that Oracle knows quite a bit about the inner workings of IBM, HP, Dell and just about every other platform on the market and could conceivably redesign the Sun lineup to take advantage. Like it or not, Oracle has made a pretty good living designing systems around third-party hardware. Imagine what it could do with an optimized platform.

Of course, enterprise productivity lives and dies by the applications it employs. And on that score, there is only one thing to say: Java. According to this slideshow on eWEEK, Java, particularly open source Java and variants like JavaFX, is not about to leave this world no matter what happens in the corporate office. The company also has a loyal following of MySQL users who are likely to be highly resistant to overtures from rival database providers.

Clearly, nothing would brighten Sun/Oracle's prospects more than a speedy conclusion to the merger. Right now, the major hurdle is in Europe, which tends to take a harder antitrust line than other parts of the world. And despite the delays, there is no talk at the moment about rejecting the move out of hand.

In the end, then, the question of going or staying boils down to simple calculus: Does the risk of switching over to another systems partner outweigh the risk of staying put?

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