Oracle and Sun have spoken about it in the past as well. Sun was right when it said: "The Network is the computer" and when I looked up (on FindArticles, a good place BTW to look for the "future", if you know what I mean) for some information about a Os-less application stack, I came across Oracle's "RAW Iron" project. Quoting this older news from 1998:
Why it didn't succeed? Maybe because they didn't target the technology but Microsoft. I think competition is irrelevent here. RAW Iron is still what we actually need, somewhere, not on my desk as I am happy with a "ZeroClient". but something that will run my applications on the transistors. I dug my own blog to find my 2nd oldest post ever that also mentions the raw need (pun intended).
By picking his Nov. 16 keynote speech to unveil the Raw Iron project, Ellison timed the announcement for the same day as Microsoft's heavily promoted launch of SQL Server 7.0, a major upgrade of its flagship database.
"We are not going into the general operating system business," Ellison said. Raw Iron is targeted at servers dedicated to running Oracle databases and would eliminate the need for running Windows 2000, which is expected to have an excessive amount of coding, Ellison said. He estimated about half of the servers running Oracle are dedicated database servers.
Gavin, from The Register (13 Nov 2007) adds:
The giant is also taking a second, more cautious, stab at delivering a database server appliance after its first effort - Raw Iron launched with flare by chief executive Larry Ellison at Comdex in 1998 - crashed amid slipping schedules and lack of interest from customers.
Oracle is now working with hardware partners IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, EMC, and Sun Microsystems on the new strategy. The goal is for a hardware and software combo that combines power with relative simplicity and ease of set up.
Ahead of that, there's Oracle Optimized Warehouse, a set of reference implementations for Oracle's database and OEM's hardware. Oracle joined with Sun to announce their Optimized Warehouse at OpenWorld on Monday.
Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of server technologies, told OpenWorld delegates Oracle is moving cautiously towards the "Tetadata experience".
"We tried it with Raw Iron five years ago. That was an out-of-the-box, pre-configured Oracle database. Customers didn't see the imperative, they said: 'I can buy that database myself, why do I need the box?'
I think this time the raw iron will succeed. Virtualization has done something very crucial to the industry, it has woken up the industry and like I have said before, real innovation is coming your way, I can promise you that!
Oracle 1998 news and El Reg Nov 2007 article.