Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stack stack stack stack stack stack stack

Although it's highly unlikely that I'll be attending Oracle OpenWorld this year, I did attend the conference for several years in a row, and therefore have heard more of my share of presentations that included the word "stack." As I've mentioned before, the concept of a "stack" is a model that shows how a variety of technical offerings work with each other. As Oracle has acquired companies over the last few years, it has been able to offer a much bigger stack consisting of only Oracle products. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle is now able to offer a stack that ranges from hardware to operating systems to databases to middleware to applications.

Now I don't attend a lot of other vendor conferences, so I've been primarily exposed to Oracle's marketing message. However, Oracle isn't the only one with the "my stack is bigger than your stack" message. David Vellante speaks of two companies who have followed an approach similar to Oracle's:

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has always invested in various segments of technology and owns lots of IP (e.g., semiconductors, servers, storage, software, services). Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) also has been aggressively acquiring IP and expanding beyond printers for the better part of a decade.

But there are other ways to skin a stack:

Different competitors are taking different approaches to the stack. Each has a choice to vertically integrate throughout the stack or virtually integrate through partnerships....

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), for example, has primarily stayed focused on its software stack for the enterprise, choosing to partner with hardware companies such as Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and HP. Intel for its part is focused on hardware generally and semiconductors in particular, attempting to be the microprocessor "arms dealers" for enterprise and consumer markets.

Some would argue that the drawback of Microsoft's approach is that you don't have any control over the portions of the stack that you do not own. If Hewlett Packard were to suddenly decide that its future lay with an "HP Linux" of some sort, Microsoft would lose a significant chunk of its business. Oracle, on the other hand, can guarantee that it will keep the Sun server business.

Well, as long as Sun servers are around. Despite the high-stackers' loud pronouncements of wonderful synergies, some IT executives see huge risks in putting all of your eggs in one basket. For these people, a partnership with Microsoft helps to guarantee that they can, for example, do business with multiple hardware vendors with no problem.

For another part of the battle - virtual stacks - read Vellante's article.
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