Oracle + Sun: What it Means for Content Management

After many intellectual property and anti-trust concerns, one of the biggest deals in the technology space has been approved. Sun fans wipe their tears, as Oracle (news, site) chooses a new motto "Software. Hardware. Complete." -- aiming to provide a full stack of storage, hardware, operating systems, databases, middleware and Java.

All of the above are integral parts of the content management industry. Thus, we pondered a bit over what, if any, impact the Oracle/Sun merger will have on thee.

Middleware and Content Management

The "11g" series is the new black over at Oracle. Part of the Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g monster suite of products, Oracle Universal Content Management (UCM) is, as many of you know, largely based on Oracle's 2006 acquisition of Stellent. In the spirit of further consolidation, Sun products -- according to Oracle’s ambitious strategy -- will become part of Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Integrating Sun into its Oracle Fusion Middleware portfolio, Oracle says it is will provide maintenance to existing Sun middleware customers and will not force any migrations. Yet, the vendor doesn’t miss a chance to highlight a "variety of upgrade options."

It’s never easy to combine several WCM and/or ECM products in one portfolio -- just look at Open Text’s ongoing struggles. And while it is still early, we think that Sun’s integration may bolster Oracle’s position in the content management market and, perhaps, add some fresh blood to the rather stagnated UCM.

Portal Technologies

The portal technology area seems to be a bit more uncertain at the moment. We have Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g and Sun’s (open source portal Liferay-flavored) Glassfish Web Space Server.

Out of all the portal technologies that this merger brings together in one basket, most likely, the focus will stay on Oracle’s own product, although the company plans to continue support of Sun portal customers.

But we don’t think it will be long before we hear about migrations. If you’re one of those early adopters, Oracle is already advertising and re-iterating an upgrade path for Sun GlassFish Web Space Server to Oracle WebCenter Suite.

Collaboration and Office Productivity

Microsoft and Google may feel more competitive pains as Oracle takes Sun’s rather successful under its wing. Sun’s productivity offering dates back to 2000 and includes web-based and desktop versions of office productivity apps, running in just about any browser or any device.

It would make sense for Oracle to continue to invest in both the open source and commercial (StarOffice) versions of On Oracle’s side, we see a gap in the office productivity tools space. We wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing Oracle does is integration of OpenOffice with Oracle UCM and connectors to other Java-friendly web content management systems.

The same probably goes for collaboration tools. Oracle’s own Beehive may overpower Sun’s Java Communications Suite, where similar to portals, Oracle’s investment in Beehive may skew the priorities list going forward.

Java: The Most Important Software Ever Acquired

Oracle stressed its commitment to Java on a number of occasions -- even while waiting for the merger to be completed. Back in 2009, Oracle said:

"Java is one of the computer industry's best-known brands…and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired."

No surprise here. Oracle plans to cash in on Java, turning it into an even stronger alternative to MS .NET and extend its reach beyond the already considerable 10-million member community.

According to Oracle’s executive vice president, Thomas Kurian, the company plans to integrate and simplify the Java runtime. In the new version 7 of the Java Standard Edition client there shall be many improvements. The mobile version, Java ME, will be compatible with Java Standard Edition to lessen the pains for developers.

Kurian also said they plan to ease the pains of developers using JavaScript who want to also work with Java. This will be part of Oracle’s plans to invest US$ 4.3 billion into post-acquisition-integration R&D, said Oracle’s president Charles Phillips. Even as we watch trillions flushed away in the global derivative meltdown, that's no small number.

Thanks in part to their 2008 acquisition of BEA, Java is not new to Oracle. This event brought the highly popular -- in the content management space -- WebLogic J2EE application server under Oracle’s umbrella. With the Sun acquisition, Oracle now has the programming language itself. In addition, Oracle Fusion Middleware is built on top of Sun's Java language -- all in all, and if strategy executes well, Oracle stands to benefit from complete ownership of the Java stack.

Now, the company is well aware of Java being comprised of many open source efforts, and we’re curious to see what, if anything, they do with the Java Community Process (JCP).

JCP was one of the factors that allowed the European Commission to approve the acquisition, since it was found that "Oracle's ability to deny its competitors access to important IP rights would be limited by the functioning of the Java Community Process (JCP), which is a participative process for developing and revising Java technology specifications."

For the content management space, let’s not forget that Sun’s Java is the heart and soul of many Web CMS, Document Management, DAM and Records Management solutions, not to mention strongly tied to standards like JSR-170 and JSR-283.

MySQL and the Database Market

Here's where it starts getting hot in the kitchen. Many people are concerned about the future of the open source MySQL database. One need not go far to find statements like "I hope [Oracle] don't try to ruin MySQL now."

Even before the Sun acquisition, Oracle has been dominate in the database market. Adding MySQL to its portfolio, Oracle (yet again) competitively nudges Microsoft with its MS SQL database. But that is not the whole story. Richard Stallman, the main author of the GNU General Public License asserts:

"Oracle seeks to acquire MySQL to prevent further erosion of its share of the market for database software licenses and services, and to protect the high prices now charged for its proprietary database software licenses and services."

MySQL is hugely popular in the content management space, especially for the lower end of the market. Many simpler products like XOOPS, Mambo, Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress, CMS Made Simple and TYPO3 rely almost exclusively on it. And  a good number of medium and upper tier WCM and ECM products also build on MySQL -- Bitrix, EMC/Documentum, eZ Publish, Jahia, KnowledgeTree and Alfresco are all members of the club. There's another raft of products that support MySQL as well as other databases like PostgreSQL, MS SQL and Oracle.

It would be surprising if Oracle worked to undermine MySQL in any way. According to The Register, Sun retained the entire 400 person MySQL team after their acquisition, and "Oracle has vowed to leave its sales and development team independent and intact." Oracle’s strategy is to include this DB offering as part of the Open Source GBU, invest in and improve MySQL, and better integrate it with Oracle’s products.

The Register quoted Oracle's chief corporate architect, Ed Screven, saying that  "the difference between Sun and Oracle is that Oracle will make MySQL 'better'."

Time alone will tell. But given that Oracle makes a significant percentage of its revenue on software support, the MySQL strategy is not an outlier at Redwood Shores. There is some reasonable cause for optimism. Nevertheless, the question remains: How smart will Oracle allow MySQL to become? Monty Widenius, one of the MySQL project founders, is not too optimistic. His words say it best:

A weak MySQL is worth about one billion dollars per year to Oracle, maybe more. A strong MySQL could never generate enough income for Oracle that they would want to cannibalize their real cash cow. I don't think any company has ever done anything like that. That's why the EC is skeptic and formalized its objections.

Vendors highly reliant on the MySQL database will be watching closely. Hopes that functionality currently implemented in the software layer will migrate down into the database core should be regularly cross-checked with reality.

Cloud Computing

Oracle didn’t express much interest in Sun’s cloud utilities, and the prognosis for Sun Cloud -- a public cloud platform -- was not very bright, when Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect, said "We're not going to be offering the Sun Cloud service." Some may refer to it as a setback to openness and interoperability in cloud computing, but it is clear that business-wise Oracle had to make cuts somewhere.

At the same time, Oracle does plan to revive the prematurely killed project. With some clarification, we know now that while Oracle's doesn't want to host several platforms (hence, the shutdown of, but will focus on as the hosted development community. So, perhaps, don't be to hasty to migrate to and the likes.

Tears of Joy?

In the days following the official announcement of the merger, Twitter was heartfelt comments aplenty. The end of an era, they said it was, when people saw redirecting to

Will Oracle + Sun combo have a profound effect on the web content management industry? Not likely. Some predictable changes aside, and with widespread M&As and industry consolidation, from what we see it’s nothing more than business as usual.