Oracle, Sun tout alliance, slam rivals

Two of Silicon Valley's leading players, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, pledged a renewal of their on-again, off-again alliance Tuesday, while taking shots at common rivals such as Microsoft and IBM.

Oracle said it will support Sun's Java programming language by licensing it for another 10 years. "We can't emphasize how important Java is to Oracle," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in a "town hall" meeting at Oracle's California campus. "Our entire middeware strategy, J2EE, is based on Java, so much so that we are rewriting all of our business applications in Java."

In return, Sun plans to bundle Oracle's enterprise database on midrange or high-end servers running its UltraSparc IV processors and UltraSparc IV+ processors for free to customers that sign up for a year's service contract from Oracle.

Sun has long claimed that more Oracle databases run on Solaris than any other operating system, including Linux. Sun CEO Scott McNealy said customers will benefit by getting a product bundle that is 25% less expensive and ready to go out of the box. "There's no need for you to call IBM Global Services," he said.

The long-term commitment by Oracle to Java could boost mind share for the flagging develoment platform. Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT California, said Java's struggles are partly because Sun still declines to release Java's source code open-source.

"When Sun said it would open-source Solaris [its Unix operating system], people on the sidelines were saying, 'Forget Solaris; open-source Java for God's sake!'" King said. "When a vendor ignores the needs or demands of the developers it's working with, they'll go elsewhere. But as long as [Sun] can get sign-on from partners like Oracle, Java remains a viable business."

The two CEOs started off Tuesday's event with banter. McNealy drew big laughs when he started off by asking Ellison, "We've got to get this out of the way: Are you buying Sun?" Ellison retorted that McNealy would have to read about it in the newspapers first, because "Oracle likes to do everything hostilely."

McNealy later said he had hoped to recount Oracle and Sun's shared history together, including the ill-fated Network Computer, but "marketing wouldn't let us get that in there." Ellison's reply: "Let Google make a network computer -- they're young and foolish."

Ellison also said that Sun and Oracle are committed to standards-based computing -- even if it means they could get "beat on price" by competitors -- in contrast with Microsoft, which "goes off on their own proprietary direction."

The high-profile event featuring two of the industry's best-known CEOs felt at times like a repeat of Sun and Google's public get-together in October. After rampant speculation preceeding the event, McNealy and Google CEO Eric Schmidt simply announced that Google Toolbar would be bundled with downloads of Java Runtime Environment.

McNealy seemed to acknowledge that, at one point saying: "There's not a ton of news today."

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