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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Oracle and Sun team up to provide .NET alternative

Sun and Oracle have established a new strategic partnership in an attempt to challenge Microsoft with what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison calls "standards-based systems." According to Ellison and McNealy, their mutual goal is the production of a complete Java-centric enterprise datacenter architecture that leverages Solaris 10 and Oracle's Fusion middleware. Designed specifically as an alternative to Microsoft's .NET technology stack, the new platform is competitively priced and based on robust frameworks.

Both companies have lost a lot of relevance in the modern world, where cost-effective open source software and disposable commodity hardware reign supreme. These days, Oracle is adopting Java in a major way, because they feel that it will help them to modernize. Ellison criticized Oracle rival SAP, claiming that Oracle's extensive use of Java facilitates higher quality solutions:

"SAP believes that they can modernize their applications without changing them. They keep writing programs in a language called ABAP [Advanced Business Application Programming], which is a 25-year-old proprietary language not related to Java. It has the same number of letters in its name, but it really is an old-fashioned proprietary technology."

According to Ellison, this is all about providing users and developers with technology based on standards. But what standards is he talking about, and are those the standards that consumers care about? The availability of an open source .NET implementation based on ECMA standards certainly makes Java look more proprietary. Rather than emphasizing open standards — an area where both companies fall significantly short of competitors like Novell and IBM — Sun and Oracle should focus on the real benefits of their technology: extreme reliability and virtually incomparable scalability.

Solaris 10 and Fusion middleware are both relatively impressive technologies with a lot of value, but does that justify the cost and the interoperability limitations that afflict these somewhat isolated platforms? Fusion is an end-to-end solution for developing, deploying, and managing extensible service-oriented application architectures. It is virtually unbreakable, but the price is steep. Solaris 10 provides extreme reliability but it is still very expensive if you run it on Sun's hardware (which is necessary if you want to take advantage of the free Oracle licenses associated with the new partnership) and it doesn't perform as well on the commodity x86 hardware favored by the industry. Sun is actively working to improve support for other processors, particularly AMD's powerful Opteron line and Oracle is hoping that broader integration of Java technology will facilitate greater interoperability, but both companies are going to have to fight an uphill battle against Microsoft and open source industry leaders like IBM.

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