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28 January 2010, 12:31

Oracle to hire and invest in hardware and software

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Oracle has revealed its plans for Java, OpenOffice, MySQL and the other technology assets of Sun Microsystems. The overall theme of Oracle's strategy is investment, integration and improvement in all the Sun technologies as it focuses on delivering what it calls "complete systems". Officially, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison wasn't set to reveal what would happen to Sun after the takeover by Oracle before the event, but in two interviews with the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, however, the CEO announced that Oracle will hire 2000 new staff primarily in engineering and sales.

On the other hand, fewer than 2,000 lay-offs are planned, although further lay-offs may apparently be made later. Among those to go is Sun's current chief executive, Jonathan Schwartz. While Ellison said that he hoped to keep Sun's chairman, Scott McNealy, on board, this has become unlikely: in an email to employees, McNealy said that he intends to leave the company. By taking over Sun, a transaction which was approved by the EU last week, Oracle plans to enter into direct competition with IBM. According to Ellison, customers "will now be buying [a] complete system, and don’t have to hire IBM or someone else to assemble it".

Globally available as a webcast, the evening event kept revolving around these two aspects: new employees, and integrating hardware and software into complete systems. In the coming year, Oracle plans to invest $4.3 million in research and development. A good portion of this is to be invested in hardware and software engineers yet to be hired.

Among other things, these engineers will be working on improving the SPARC processors. Four new types which will offer the usual performance improvements as well as decreased power consumption are currently in development. Sun servers will only be available as custom products ("build to order"); their manufacture is to involve only half the current number of subcontractors who will ship finished products directly to customers. These measures are to cut costs, for instance, by eliminating stock-keeping and by reducing the amount of machinery required.

The company says that it plans to continue developing Solaris for SPARC and x86, alongside its enterprise Linux offerings. The announcements did not mention OpenSolaris, leaving the company's plan for the open sourced variant of Solaris unclear.

Oracle has also pledged to invest more money in Java. Version 7 of the Standard Edition (SE) is to be released as soon as possible and will support multi-core CPUs as well as enhance the performance of the Hotspot compiler. Future goals for the Enterprise Edition (EE) include increased modularity to allow, for instance, the configuration of a lean environment for pure web applications with every profile, and the faster delivery of UI components. Sun's Glassfish will, say Oracle, remain the reference implementation for Java EE. Major changes are to be expected for the Mobile Edition (ME) with plans to merge its APIs with those of Java SE, because modern mobile devices are said to be fast enough to support this unification. Oracle also wants to keep the "write once, run anywhere" promise for these platforms by abstracting the peculiarities of each platform in an intermediate layer. Oracle made a number of statements about enhancing the operation of the Java community, but made no specific statements about the JCP (Java Community Process).

Netbeans, the free Java development environment which has so far been supported by Sun, will continue to exist as a "light" IDE specifically for mobile applications and dynamic programming languages. For everything else, Oracle intends to promote its JDeveloper tools.

MySQL, the database many users have worried about, will continue to be developed by the vendor's open source division. While only few details, for example about the current jumble of versions, were given, at least a promise for improvement was made: both in terms of the database itself and in terms of its support. Oracle intends to combine the free database with its own products such as the Enterprise Manager, Audit Vault or its business intelligence software.

A separate division is to be put in place for OpenOffice. This division is to handle the continued development, deployment and support of the free office software as well as sell the product, particularly to Oracle's large customers. The free community version will continue to exist and a cloud variant is said to be in planning.


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