Dell chief executive officer Michael Dell and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison shared a stage at Dell's Enterprise Event in New York yesterday to detail a growing alliance built around selling clustered server systems to enterprises, and predicted that their systems and open-standards approach would relegate proprietary systems to niche status.
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"There is no question that standardisation is taking hold in an increasingly large portion of the enterprise opportunity," said Dell. "Proprietary systems are going to continue to become the exception and the niche."
Dell's strategy is to sell servers primarily using two to four processors that can be combined, or clustered, to boost processing power. A key component of that strategy is Oracle9i's ability to run on such clustered systems.
Both companies introduced low-cost cluster configurations starting at $18,000. The systems are optimised for the Oracle database, which can run both Red Hat Linux Advanced Server and Microsoft Windows environments. Dell already has sold some 22,000 servers running Oracle databases.
To help push Risc/Unix systems into niche status, Dell and Oracle also announced a services partnership to ease migration from proprietary systems. Prices will depend on project requirements, but a migration to Oracle9i that takes 10 days to implement would cost about $35,000.
With the release of Oracle9i last year, Oracle also came out with a technology called "real application clustering" that allows Dell servers to be grouped together by end users who can then assemble their own "supermainframe", said Ellison.
But Dell's goal to replace proprietary suppliers in the enterprise could raise costs for those needing highly reliable systems, said Steve Randich, the chief information officer of Nasdaq Stock Market in Washington.
Nasdaq needs the very top tier of reliability, but mainstream suppliers would not try to fill that niche because they did not have the economic incentive do so for a relatively small number of customers, he said.
But Randich, a heavy Dell user, feared that if these niche players - which could include major suppliers making high-performance platforms, are pushed out of the mainstream market, "they are going to have to drive up the price for that [highly reliable system] to maintain a reasonable profit".
If that happens, he said, it "will compel firms like ours to use standard solutions to meet the cost and economic requirement, but then customise our applications to close that reliability gap".
Aberdeen Group analyst Peter Kastner said yesterday's announcement helped Linux, because Oracle and Dell were saying that Linux with Oracle "is good enough to run two companies that are north of $10bn".
It would also benefit Red Hat because that company is the provider of enterprise Linux, he added.