McNealy and Ellison usher in new era for Sun

Scott McNealy, chairman and founder of Sun Microsystems, effectively passed the baton to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on the first night of the software giant’s user conference in San Francisco last night, even though Oracle’s proposed acquisition of the systems vendor has yet to receive regulatory approval from the EC.

McNealy’s keynote possessed a valedictory tone as he reflected on the company’s technological achievements of the last 25 years. “We kicked butt, had fun, didn’t cheat, loved our customers, and changed computing forever,” he said.

He reiterated Oracle’s previous announcement that it would not only continue but increase investment in such Sun Microsystems technologies as low-energy processor SPARC, operating system Solaris and development platform Java.

The same goes for MySQL, the open source database that is reportedly the source of the EC’s concerns for the deal, McNealy said. “We are working with the authorities to help them understand that open source is exactly that,” he said. “I’m not sure why [the acquisition] is being held up.”

To underline Oracle’s commitment to Sun’s hardware business, meanwhile, McNealy called to the stage Larry Ellison, who he described as “my hero”.

Ellison took the opportunity to chide now-rival systems vendor IBM for allegedly contacting Sun customers to encourage them to switch following the announcement of Oracle’s offer. “If IBM wants to compete, we are happy to compete,” he said.

He said that the company had beaten IBM’s existing record for the fastest online transaction processing (OLTP) system with a combination of Sun hardware and Oracle database software. The record-breaking system took just 9 racks of kit compared to IBM’s 76, and used one sixth of the power. “I don’t know what a ‘smarter planet’ is,” said Ellison, referring to IBM’s recent green-focused marketing campaign, “but Oracle / Sun is focussed on making smarter computers, which consume less power.”

In his wrapping up, McNealy perhaps gave some inclination of his true feelings on Oracle’s putative acquisition of Sun. He said that in accepting Oracle’s offer, Sun’s board of directors had made a sensible choice, “given the alternative,” referring most probably to bankruptcy.


Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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