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October 7, 2010

Oracle as a mini HP? Don’t laugh – it will probably happen soon

Rumours abound that Oracle is chasing AMD. Buying a chip company would be a daft thing for a database and business software player to do, wouldn't it?

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Rumours abound that Oracle is chasing AMD. Buying a chip company would be a daft thing for a database and business software player to do, wouldn’t it?

CBR would like to stress at the outset that AMD is definitely not looking to be bought, as far as we are aware.

That alas does not allow us not to report in the public interest that a lot of people are saying different – and even putting a buyer in the frame; and yes, it’s Oracle.

Buying a chip company would be a daft thing for a database and business software player to do? Well, sure, but then explain why we used to have that thing, those people, what were they called, oh yes Sun. Which is now part of Oracle Towers, those slightly eerie greeny-turquoise rotundas in Redwood that are supposed to be disc drives but look more like big stacks of coins.

Enough poetry, let’s get back to the scurrilous gossip. So the story goes that as a coda to OpenWorld last month Mr Ellison told some financial analysts that Oracle could well be interested in a buy of a chip company as "silicon is important" and that his company is very focused on further building up its intellectual property portfolio.

As there are really only two members – three If you count ARM, I guess – of the class of chip companies that matter in enterprise ICT and one of them is really, really big and has a funny ad campaign and a tone-based identifier and the other is, well, AMD, looks like the latter could be the one in Larry’s brain. Right?

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And given that it seems HP and Oracle are coming more and more to the stage of getting out the knives and starting the really big streetfight, having AMD in his pocket could be a highly sensible strategic move, too.

Now don’t get too discombobulated about all this. Ellison also said he’d quite fancy nabbing storage device maker NetApp at the same meeting and he’s been (ahem) known for saying big things to keep himself amused and the rest of us guessing before.

But then AMD’s president and CEO Dirk Meyer – at a channel conference in Spain – said on stage as part of a keynote this week that his company is a) not for sale and, er, b) "happy to listen to any proposal" deemed to be in the interest of shareholders.

And some bird entrails diviners are also having fun online pointing out that Ellison has culled the old Sun x64 server family – in a move which could both confirm a lot of people’s thoughts that they weren’t very good but also that he now has space to plus something better in… and that’s basically AMD in a nutshell.

The likelihood is that this won’t happen – it would upset Intel, a key Oracle partner, too much, it would be a nightmare to manage and so Ellison might just plump out his Sun catalogue with an interesting smaller hardware player or too, such as NetApp.

But the fact we can entertain such scenarios underlines how seriously Oracle – cash-rich after years of solid software licence growth – needs to be taken as a full-stack player, as a mini IBM… or even a contender to be a midsized HP?

2011 could be a really interesting year for a lot of companies at the top and at the bottom of Silicon Valley, we suspect.

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