There's a lot of consternation over the long-term viability of the Oracle merger with Sun. Obviously, there is much to be concerned about in terms of execution. But as we look toward where customers want enterprise technology to head, it seems like there will be more vendor combinations in the future that will be just as large and troublesome.
The issue that customers are having, especially in a downturn, is that they don't want to spend their time and money on systems integration. In fact, they disdain that task so much that it has engendered a whole IT services industry that primarily caters to integrating technologies. The problem with that from the customer's perspective is that while it saves them time, it still costs a lot of money.
So the question isn't really whether combining companies such as Oracle and Sun should be done. Rather the question is how best to go about it. Oracle attempted to outline its vision for doing that today. But even the most optimistic of souls would concede that it will take years to get this and other potential combinations right. Clearly, the handwriting is on the wall for more of these deals, though.
For example, the recent expanded technology alliance between Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard is an attempt to deliver high levels of integration out of the box. Cisco, with its alliance with VMware, EMC and NetApp, is heading down the same path. In a world where there are pre-integrated servers, how long can storage and switch vendors stay independent? There's no doubt we can achieve any level of integration we want using software that would guarantee platform independence. But customers may not want to do even that level of work anymore.
From their perspective, hardware is a means to an end, during which that hardware depreciates in value and eventually breaks down. Software, on the other hand, appreciates in business value as it absorbs more and more data.
Ultimately, it's not just companies such as NetApp and Brocade that have to wonder where all this will end. If Cisco and Oracle are right, Dell needs to make some major decisions. IBM, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, for all intents and purposes, are mostly committed to higher levels of integration already. Where they differ from Oracle and Cisco in that regard might easily be attributed to a matter of degrees.
Major change is coming to the IT industry in the form of new vendor combinations that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. But now customers are making it clear they would like to get out of the IT integration business, and with that new reality comes all kinds of pressure to be more efficient.