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Oracle deal puts future of Sun products in doubt

Questions remain over Sun's app server, IDE and cloud platform

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been fawning all over Sun Microsystems technologies lately, such as Java, the Solaris OS, the MySQL database, and the SPARC CPU platform.

But it still remains to be seen how Oracle will deal with redundancies in the Java enterprise application server and IDE spaces once Sun becomes part of Oracle.

The merger between the two companies is pending. At the Oracle OpenWorld 2009 conference in San Francisco on Monday, Oracle promoted planned advancements in the WebLogic application server platform it inherited from its 2008 acquisition of BEA systems, involving modularisation and support of OSGi technology.

In another OpenWorld presentation, James Gosling, a Sun vice president considered the father of Java, hailed Sun's own open source GlassFish application server.

"The adoption of Glassfish is pretty amazing," Gosling said. Deployments have taken place all over the world, and the technology is used for mission-critical systems, he said, noting that "it's running at about a million downloads a month."

Oracle already has made WebLogic its core Java server while putting its own application server, which it owned prior to the BEA buy, in support mode. That application server is now called Oracle Container for Java.

Gosling also touted the NetBeans IDE Monday, which rivals the Eclipse IDE that has been backed by Oracle.  Additionally, Oracle has its own JDeveloper IDE.  Gosling called NetBeans a top-of-the-line IDE and said he was "a huge NetBeans fan."

If the $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun goes through, Oracle would have to either find a place for GlassFish and NetBeans in its product roster or could spin them out. Thus far, Oracle has expressed strong commitments to Sun technologies while not addressing, specifically, what would happen with technologies such as GlassFish and NetBeans.

Asked if he was concerned about Oracle's commitment to NetBeans and Glassfish, Gosling deferred to Oracle.  "I have no data one way or the other," Gosling said.

Oracle's Ted Farrell, chief architect and senior vice president, said Monday that such questions could be cleared up once the merger was completed.

"We need the EU [European Union] to let this thing go through," and then questions such as the fate of NetBeans and Glassfish could be addressed, Farrell said. The EU has had issues with Oracle owning both its own commercial database and the MySQL open source database, which Sun now owns.

Modularisation of the application server platform is being pondered in a project called WebLogic DM (Dynamic Modules). The point would be to modularise the core of the application server so functionality could be built on top of it, Farrell said. OSGI, according to Oracle officials, offers benefits in that it is small, fast and mature, is service-oriented and has multi-environment support. The microkernel-based DM technology is eyed for release in 2010 or 2011.

The company, however, has run into issues with providing tooling for DM, according to Oracle officials. Security also is an issue. The DM technology would not replace the existing application server.

Sun's cloud platform also remains a question mark. In another OpenWorld session, Sun's Tim Bray, director of web technologies, touted benefits of cloud computing and acknowledged Sun's planned Sun Cloud computing platform. Announced in March, Sun Cloud was supposed to be rolled out this summer.

While Ellison has been skeptical of cloud computing, Bray said to stand by for an announcement pertaining to Sun Cloud.

Also at OpenWorld, Farrell noted plans for a product called ADF (Application Development Framework) Mobile Client, a Java-based runtime client that runs disconnected on a mobile client. "The problem that we're trying to solve is how to extend my enterprise applications into mobile," Farrell said. ADF Mobile Client is due as a developer preview later this year.


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