February 4, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Sun floats open-source database idea
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Chief Executive Scott McNealy offered the provocative idea Wednesday at a meeting of influential financial analysts at Sun's headquarters here. During a speech, he showed a slide that placed the words "Sun DB" next to a list of existing database products.
McNealy offered no details besides "stay tuned," but Sun President Jonathan Schwartz indicated in an interview that database software is one possible way Sun plans to extend into new open-source software realms.
Sun has hinted it may offer its own database to flesh out its server software suite. A Sun DB could anger partner Oracle, but it could curry favor with advocates of open-source software, which is at the center of Sun's strategy to attract more programmers to its technology.
Starting a DB project from scratch would be tough, but there are potential partners in the increasingly mainstream open-source realm. And though offering an open-source DB that competes directly with Oracle's cash cow might irk a major business partner, Sun has shown a willingness lately to tussle with the giant.
William Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, believes Sun will eventually offer a database to flesh out its server software suite. But a direct fight with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would be foolhardy and unlikely.
"I would counsel strongly against them acquiring database technology to go head-to-head with Oracle," Hurley said.
If Sun chooses a partnership for a database, one company stands out from the alternatives: Computer Associates International, which is working to bring more attention to its 30-year-old and now open-source Ingres database. "We have ongoing efforts with Sun, and some of those efforts include Ingres," said Tony Gaughan, senior vice president of development at CA.
Unlike rivals IBM and Microsoft, Sun has no database software to sell in a $13.5 billion market that Oracle leads, according to IDC.
Lacking a database is significant given Sun's argument that customers want to buy a package of integrated technology rather than parts that must be assembled. Instead, Sun relies on a tight partnership with database giant Oracle.
First of all, Sun promotes with increasing aggression its Java Enterprise System, server software with several components that
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