Oracle, Sun to reveal Net pact

Oracle and Sun Microsystems are set to announce a major Internet computing software tie-up later today in the US, and users could see benefits from lowered prices, according to one observer.

On Friday, in a statement, Oracle and Sun described the arrangement as "an industry shaping software deal." Reports today suggest that the agreement will involve the pair cross-licensing a pact of pieces of each other's software to form a united front against rival Microsoft.

Under the terms of the deal, both companies will be permitted to bundle Oracle's database with Sun's Unix operating system Solaris, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, the plan being to create computers solely dedicated to running databases and thereby avoiding the use of Microsoft operating systems.

This strategy ties directly into Oracle's "Raw Iron" initiative that the company's chairman and CEO Larry Ellison drew attention to at last month's Comdex show in Las Vegas.

According to Ellison, Raw Iron will involve bundling Oracle8i, designed for the Internet, with a streamlined operating system. The Raw Iron operating system will be made up of code from five different OS kernels -- Free BSD, Net BSD, Linux, Plan 9 and Solaris, he said, and should ship at the end of March next year.

At Comdex, Ellison also announced that Oracle was working to close Raw Iron-related deals with Sun, as well as with Intel, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. The Sun tie-up will be the first such arrangement to be publicised.

The hope is that together Sun and Oracle can stymie Microsoft's attempts to encourage users to run its own relational database SQL Server on its Windows NT OS. Microsoft officially unveiled the latest iteration of SQL Server -- version 7.0 -- at Comdex, the same day as Ellison talked up Raw Iron.

One analyst said the announcement furthers the evolution of the "functional server," whereby a box is designed for specific tasks, such as storage or databases.

"It very well could be good news for the user," since he or she could buy only what is needed, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with IDC. For example, a user could buy a server powerful enough to handle the company's current database, plus any expansion necessary over the next two or three years, he said.

"It has the potential of offering a lower-cost environment for the user if they're willing to take a functional-server approach," Kusnetzky said. "Sun and Oracle together are offering a functional-server approach which doesn't tie people to Microsoft, though it does support Microsoft."

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