Oracle integrates data management with Sun servers

Oracle is tackling the challenge of data management by providing pre-integrated systems based on Sun hardware.

Oracle is tackling the challenge of data management by providing pre-integrated systems based on Sun hardware. But can existing users afford to continue running Oracle databases on HP or IBM servers? Cliff Saran reports.

Oracle claims its combined software/hardware platform offers higher performance compared to rivals and is cheaper and simpler to manage. Users of HP and IBM hardware may find their Oracle software will be 50% more expensive to license, claims the supplier. Businesses running sophisticated Oracle databases on large HP-UX-Itanium-based hardware will also be affected, since Oracle no longer supports Itanium. Forrester notes that Oracle is a huge and critical workload on HP's Itanium hardware

But Oracle's strategy is to make its own hardware – acquired with Sun Microsystems in 2010 – the most compelling platform for its relational database system. According to Oracle president Mark Hurd, the company is selling vertically integrated systems by providing what he describes as "vertical integration for extremely attractive price/performance".

Business drivers

Business intelligence (BI) is becoming more important to business. While Oracle previously focussed on BI software sales, it now sees the opportunity of tying its hardware in with BI and database software. A survey of 900 IT professionals commissioned by Oracle found that businesses have been caught unaware by the scale of data they collect. Oracle’s research highlights that businesses are only now working towards changing their datacentres to support the growth in data collection, storage and analysis. In fact, 200 of the people surveyed said that new data investment was being driven by the need to support business growth. Oracle is attempting to address this demand by combining the hardware it acquired with Sun Microsystems in 2010, with its database and analytics platforms

However, in a research paper published this month, Forrester analysts highlighted the challenges businesses will face with Oracle databases on HP servers. In the Oracle Versus HP: Customers Lose; Oracle And x86 Linux Vendors Win report, Forrester principal analyst Richard Fichera warned that acquisitions and supplier strategy shifts continue to disrupt the world of enterprise IT. Last year Oracle took the decision to discontinue support for Itanium-based platforms: "Despite Oracle's disclaimers, Forrester believes that this move was driven by Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, which placed it in direct competition with HP for profitable high-end Unix servers. Forrester interviewed customers affected by the move and found considerable disruption."

In Gartner's latest rating for Oracle, the analyst warns: "Customers express frustration that Oracle is not willing to negotiate changes to its contract Customers with licenses and hardware from companies Oracle acquired also complain that Oracle changes the rules to generate additional revenue.”

Users wishing to run Oracle on non-Oracle hardware may find they are paying 50% more for the Oracle software licences, according to Luc Opdebeeck, senior vice-president Europe, hardware strategy at Oracle.

Oracle wants to provide systems integrated for data management and analytics. Quoting Tim Berners-Lee, Luc Opdebeeck, senior vice-president Europe, hardware strategy at Oracle, described data as the raw materials for the 21st century. Presenting research into datacentre buying habits, he said: “People are starting to see value in data. How companies handle big data should be on their balance sheet. The board wants to hear what is happening in the datacentre, but data is not getting enough attention.” Some industries do not get the opportunities in big data, according to Opdebeeck. Oracle claims that engineering hardware and software together can make a difference. Oracle said it combines hardware and software to deliver performance and manageability, to help CIOs save money.

Some 66% of IT budgets are spent on maintaining existing systems. The company presented its plan for using the pre-integrated system based on Oracle hardware and software. In one financial firm, an Oracle customer switched its Oracle 11i database system to an Oracle Exadata integrated system, allowing IT consolidation and saving 66% of the IT budget, Oracle claimed. John Abel, chief technology architect, Oracle server and storage Europe, said innovation is still happening, even in the downturn: “Innovation has not stopped. The challenge is that IT departments need to come in on the innovation curve.”

He believes IT has to change and become more like the way a car is constructed, as a pre-integrated system. “The business experience is much more like buying a car. Because our software will run on our hardware, the IT department's applications will run on our IT stack.” The appliances consolidate together using Infiniband, a high-speed backplane network for connecting servers together. Abel claimed the Oracle hardware and software systems are pre-integrated, giving IT plug-and-play functionality without the need for integration. While Oracle software runs on multiple platforms Abel said: “The dependency on one operating system vendor is shifting.”

Other suppliers

Oracle is not the only supplier offering integrated hardware and software for data analytics. According to Gartner, businesses who need to improve the performance and scalability in their data architecture are turning in growing numbers to appliances, including IBM's Netezza and EMC's Greenplum Data Computing Appliance.

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