Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oracle Owns the Stack

You’ve probably already heard that Oracle has acquired Sun Microsystems. It’s one big, happy, expensive enterprise systems family! Personally, I think this is not a good thing—it hampers competition. Oracle and Java already have a stranglehold on the IT space, and this merger just tightens the binds.

I have worked a total of 12 years at Microsoft, with two years in IT at other companies, which were both very big Oracle companies. I worked at Circuit City in the Oracle Retail implementation, and I worked at the LDS Church where most everything is running in Java on AIX. With my two years of experience, after working in Microsoft technologies, I have decided Oracle is overpriced, overhyped software. Java I could take or leave, but I firmly believe Oracle sells too little for the money.

Here’s the deal… Oracle sells their hardware and their software at astronomical prices. I mean, seriously… The hardware is expensive. The OS can often be open source, but it still requires people to manage it. If you add up the hardware, DB and other proprietary software, and the management software you’ve sunk a ton more money into than if you’d bought from the ‘Evil Empire’.

On top of that, I do not believe Oracle sells decent products. SQL is OK, but Oracle Retail? It’s a mish-mash of third-party acquisitions, none of which really share a common language or data format. And they bundle it all together and say “It’s Oracle – it’s enterprise quality” and people believe it. As a QA manager, I was appalled. For instance, I could NOT get the Oracle account rep on-site for Circuit to tell me what level of security testing the product had undergone. He told me that was proprietary information which he could not share. So we were investing millions in his software, and we didn’t have the right to know if it was secure? Another example: we tried for weeks (I paid three IBM consultants nearly $600 an hour for six weeks) to automate one of Oracle Retail’s components. The entire time, the Oracle rep was in our status meetings listening to us report blocked, unsuccessful, struggling… Never once did he peep up, until I finally asked how they automate regression testing. At first, he tried to evade with the same “that’s proprietary information” response. When he finally realized I wasn’t going to drop the issue, he admitted they didn’t automate anything in that area. What?? What kind of company watches a customer throw thousands (tens of thousands) of dollars down the drain, all the while knowing the effort is futile?

In my role as QA Engineer at the LDS Church, I was surprised to hear people tell me they would not deploy Microsoft products in the public-facing network segment because Microsoft controls the entire stack, and a security exploit in one layer of the stack meant the entire stack was at risk. ??? From a technology point of view, the opinion makes no sense. Ironically, these were the same people who approved of and supported internal development of security technology, when Microsoft had an existing product on the market (and deployed at the LDS Church). With Oracle now owning Sun, will that answer have to change?

So in a recent guest posting on HISTalk, Orland Portale (former GM, Global Health Industry) spouts on and on about how good this acquisition is. To me the nail in the coffin is the statement that Oracle will begin creating “tightly bundled system stacks which incorporate hardware and software components. Oracle will now have all layers of the systems stack under its umbrella, including the storage, server, operating system, programming language, database, Web services, etc.”

In recent years, Oracle has been snapping up enterprise solutions left and right. They own the entire retail suite. They bought BEA, one of the last independent web providers. They recently purchased MySQL and have control of it. At what point will all the “Evil Empire” opponents realize there’s a newer, much larger empire out there – and it controls all the software they deployed because they wanted to stay away from Microsoft technologies?

I know… Long rant about this. I admit I’m a Microsoft bigot. Except for one product (SMS, or System Center Cofiguration Manager), every enterprise server product I have deployed has just, well, worked! And been reliable and stable. So my bigotry is based on my personal experience. It doesn’t take a PhD to deploy MS software, it works well together, and it’s got great uptime. And the price is approachable, too.

Soon I think it’ll become obvious: Microsoft is the underdog here. Fight back, stop the Evil Empire. Buy Microsoft!

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