Monday, October 12, 2009

McNealy's Keynote Dovetails with Industry's Fascination with Integrated Stacks

Both Sun Microsystems Chairman and co-founder Scott McNealy and Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison took the stage to deliver keynotes that kicked off Oracle OpenWorld last night.

In keeping with the industry's fascination with stacks, McNealy made the case for why Oracle is keen on Sun's technology. According to McNealy in his keynote address,

"If you think about the Sun technology that we're bringing to the party here, it's the data center. It's the servers, the storage, the networking, the infrastructure software, all the pieces, all of the executable environment within the cloud, the data center, the distributed computing environment, whatever else you want to say, and then you bring in the database, and the applications and ERP and middleware capabilities and developer tool capabilities of Oracle, and you have a very nice data center. A very robust, very scalable... enterprise data center."

Like the other big players in the enterprise IT market, IBM, HP, and Cisco (via its VCE alliance), Sun-Oracle recognizes the power of owning all the pieces of the end-to-end stack. There are clear advantages in a company being able to offer its customers fully integrated cross-domain bundles and be a one-stop shop to the enterprise data center. One of the biggest advantages is having a sticky reason for customers to want and value you that's not based on price.

Clearly, the major vendors are seeing a shift among enterprise customers toward a focus on higher level application value and services rather than a focus on specific technologies and products at the bits and bytes level. This shift is partly due to the economic downturn and the pressure on IT to cut costs and add tangible value to the business.

When it comes to the single integrated stack concept, analysts say they've seen this movie before. Back in the dotcom era, a lot of industry pundits talked about the "God box" in the networking space. It was basically a big, intelligent network switch that functioned as a router, switch, PBX, VPN, and firewall integrated within a single device. In the end, no customers wanted to go there. For the networking vendors, it was sufficient to articulate the vision as part of their corporate strategy, and have the majority of the individual components within their product portfolio.

Time will tell whether the integrated stack concept is a remake of this movie. For now, we're watching industry consolidation in action and having a fascination with stacks.

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