February 4, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Sun floats open-source database idea
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compete with Oracle's products. Second, McNealy has criticized Oracle more than once for not updating its pricing method for new processor designs that employ multiple processing engines, or cores, on each chip.
In December, McNealy knocked Oracle for charging a license fee for each core rather than for each chip, as Sun would prefer. On Wednesday, McNealy added that the move effectively doubles the price for customers upgrading to Sun's dual-core UltraSparc IV chip and would put a $50,000 price tag on Oracle running on Sun's forthcoming eight-core Niagara processor.
"You have to be careful when you create that kind of pricing umbrella," McNealy said Wednesday. "Open-source alternatives start to look very, very interesting."
Although asked to comment for this article, Oracle didn't on Thursday.
Open-source software, in contrast to proprietary software such as Oracle's database, may be freely seen, modified and redistributed by anyone. The fact that it's available for free has made it popular with customers in many cases, despite the absence sometimes of companies that provide certification, technical support and other hand-holding.
Sun has placed open-source software squarely at the center of its strategy to attract more programmers to its technology--chiefly its prized Solaris operating system, a move it hopes will attract more experimentation, customers and alliances with other computing companies.
It's one of many bold moves from the company, which is trying a wide variety of new initiatives to reclaim its visionary status, attract new customers and avoid further revenue declines. The company also is betting heavily on Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor, novel software pricing and selling discrete amounts of computing power.
Starting a database project from scratch would be difficult, but there are potential partners in the increasingly mainstream open-source database realm. McNealy's slide listed MySQL, a prominent and widely used product that's gaining higher-end features, and PostgreSQL, which was employed in the short-lived Red Hat Database product.
Asked whether Sun planned a partnership with an open-source database supplier, Schwartz said, "We'll certainly be talking about that going forward. Right now we don't have anything concrete to talk about."
A MySQL representative said MySQL runs on Solaris but found no evidence of a deeper Sun alliance. PostgreSQL core team member Josh Berkus said he hasn't heard of any plans for Sun to rebrand his database, but he did start talking this week about better support for Solaris now that it's open-source software.
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