When I heard that IBM was trying to acquire Sun, it seemed like a no-brainer. Even if a little part of their motivation was to spite Microsoft, IBM has long been a driving force behind Java's successes. In recent years, they've spearheaded the very successful Eclipse project, acquired Rational, continued to invest in Websphere... So, to have Sun and IBM under the same banner just seemed to be the perfect union between very different but nonetheless compatible companies.
Well, it wasn't meant to be. After IBM dropped negotiations, Sun Microsystems was left at the altar, wondering what had happened.
Caught you on the rebound
The bouquets from the cancelled IBM/Sun wedding hadn't even faded when Oracle entered the scene and, for a paltry 10 cents more a share ($9.50 vs $9.40, or 1.06% difference), swept up a darling of the industry that had been reeling since the "dot com" bubble burst in the early 2000's.
This unexpected acquisition is a great example of how a company can leverage its strengths (e.g. solid product, reputation, cash reserves) to build up a foundation for further success. In this case, given the level of trust that people (customers and potential customers) already have in their DBMS, I can easily imagine Oracle developing and packaging Oracle-branded turnkey hardware+software DBMS solutions à la Google Search Appliance.
Whether you're talking about a rack-mounted cluster of servers or a single box, they will be able to deliver and support integrated solutions featuring Sun hardware, Solaris and the latest version of Oracle. Just brand it all as an Oracle product, set up a clear (subscription-based?) fee structure and start printing money. If they do it right, Oracle may well have hit a home run with this acquisition.
Et tu, Java?
As for the Java angle, well, Oracle is already closely integrated with Java (see: Java stored procedures in Oracle), so on the technical side they'll be working in known territory. What remains to be seen is whether they will be able to increase Java's market share and what they will do with fledgling initiatives such as JavaFX.
I'm also particularly curious to see how IBM will react on the Java front. I can' t imagine them moving to a scorched earth policy and trying to sabotage the progress that Java has made in recent years, but even if they just lose some of their zealousness, it could damage the Java market overall. I personally believe that without IBM's support over the years, Java would never have had the level of success it has enjoyed. Oh well, we'll find out soon enough.
Congratulations, Oracle. Now go forth, be fruitful and multiply.
As always, thank you for reading and I invite your comments on this topic.