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Oracle tried to sell Sun hardware biz

'Unrealistic' price

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Exclusive Oracle's top brass has tried to convince Sun Microsystems' staff that they love hardware. And Sun has described its impending acquisition as "redefining the industry" by collapsing servers, storage, and networking around its open source softwae.

But we've already seen proof that Oracle's conversion to hardware isn't born of long-term commitment. It came during few weeks of activity this spring.

Now, it seems Oracle remains no more committed to Sun's hardware business than it was before the acquisition news broke - when we originally reported Oracle only wanted Sun for its software.

A source close to Oracle has told The Reg that Oracle has continued to shop Sun's hardware business around to potential buyers after the official announcement of its intention to buy the whole of Sun - and after it moved to re-assure Sun employees of its love for their hardware.

The Register's source qualified the price Oracle was asking for Sun's hardware business as "unrealistic." Oracle declined to comment for this article.

Oracle and Sun announced the planned $5.6bn acquisition on April 20, and two days later Oracle president Charles Phillips and chief corporate architect Edward Screven played up Oracle's experience in hardware and interest in continuing to develop and sell Sun's processor lines.

"We needed to be comfortable with the fact these were hardware platforms, systems, that we were going to keep selling and developing...we are very comfortable," Screven said during a Sun-employee town-hall meeting.

It is unclear whether Oracle is actively trying to sell Sun's hardware business after lowering the asking price. It may have given up.

The disclosure of Oracle's attempt to sell Sun's hardware business would seem entirely logical given Oracle was originally only interested in Sun's Java, Solaris, and MySQL assets.

Oracle has not said what it's got planned for any of Sun's products yet, apart from chief executive Larry Ellison making a surprise declaration for JavaFX at JavaOne.

That makes Sun a blank canvas of possibilities, especially on hardware. Thoughts on what Oracle could have in mind start with building more appliance-like database devices, similar to the Exadata Storage System launched last year. That option has some added prospect, given network equipment specialist Cisco Systems has moved into servers.

Spurred by the competition - and Oracle's famed competitive drive - Oracle could be planning its own such servers, tuned around data serving.

But it's unlikely Oracle would need the whole of Sun's mighty manufacturing facilities for this given the numbers of such appliances that can be expected to sell - based on their raw computing power and price tag. That fact makes a wholesale sell-off more likely.

At the other end of the spectrum of possibilities, Oracle could simply apply its smarts for operational execution to streamline Sun's hardware operation in preparation for a sale. This deal seemed more likely from the moment Oracle said it was buying Sun's hardware.

Such an outcome has added potential given Oracle's history on hardware is to partner with companies like Hewlett-Packard, companies who will be unhappy to see their software partner entering the server market. ®

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