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Ellison takes aim at Microsoft crown jewels – Windows NT

After lashing-out in all directions, Oracle's Larry Ellison seems to be finding the right target at last

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Oracle chairman CEO Larry Ellison is taking aim at Microsoft's core enterprise strategy, mounting an attack on client/server computing, which he describes as an evolutionary dead end, and more specifically taking a pop at Microsoft's 'servers everywhere' distributed computing model. Chairman Larry has a long history of this kind of outburst, famously describing PCs as 'brain dead' a couple of years back, and pitching the Network computer as the beast that would blow Windows PCs away. But this time, delivering the keynote at Internet World in New York, Larry seems to be shooting at the right target, rather than his own foot. Microsoft's view of the world is almost entirely driven by two factors; first, the Wintel platform of NT and x86 server isn't yet sufficiently scalable to rival centralised computing models based on Unix, mid-range and mainframe models, and secondly Microsoft's revenue stream requires per seat payment of licence fees. So on the server side its roadmaps have to be based on larger numbers of servers distributed around the organisation, and therefore on more favourable bangs per buck ratios in aggregate than, say, a Sun-based centralised system. On the client side, the Microsoft corporate 'tithe' will consist of client OS licence, Client Access Licence (CAL) per seat for access to the NT network, and single user licences for all the apps running locally. If the apps stop running locally, if Microsoft were forced to move to concurrent licensing (ie. customers only have to pay for the number of connections at any one time, rather than the total number that could connect), and if there were no need for a local PC and its associated OS licence, Microsoft would become quite poor, all of a sudden. So Microsoft needs for both technical and financial reasons to drive distributed computing -- but the model is flawed, and that's why Ellison is finally attacking the right target. Financially enterprise customers are growing more receptive to pitches that cost them less per seat in licences, and until such time as Microsoft produces the software that will allow distributed models to be managed as efficiently as centralised ones, distributed computing tends towards the chaotic and expensive. With NT 5.0 still a good way off, and the effectiveness of the cost of ownership and remote management features Microsoft proposes for it still doubt, this is a good time for Ellison to strike. Don't run the applications locally and hold the data centrally, he says, put it all back centrally where it belongs. It's an old song, but it can still play well, and note -- if Ellison directs fire at the server end, enterprise customers agreeing with him don't necessarily have to rip out their PCs and replace them with NCs. Not straight away, anyway. ® Click for more stories

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