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Riding injury doesn't stop Dell from bashing Vendorix

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Michael Dell did not let a mere leg wound stop him from attacking competitors during a Monday keynote at the OracleWorld conference.

The Dell CEO hobbled onto stage with the aid of crutches after injuring an ankle in a recent horse riding accident. As always, Dell used simple terms to give the gory details of the incident.

"I was riding a horse, and the horse slipped and fell, and, of course, if you are on a horse, and the horse falls, you usually fall," Dell told the OracleWorld attendees in San Francisco. "The horse fell on my leg, and it didn't feel too good, but I will be alright."

It's easy for Dell to be brave. His company has weathered the downturn in IT spending with style. While larger players such as HP, Sun Microsystems and IBM struggle to keep their hardware businesses in the black, Dell has marched forward, stealing share and generating plenty of revenue. Dell was quick to point this out to the OracleWorld crowd.

"Contrary to how I am looking today, we have never been on more solid footing as a company," he said.

Dell dove into one of his usual rants about the need for industry standards. It's all about two and four processor servers, clusters, Windows, Linux, Oracle, Intel and EMC. The world is simple in the land of Dull, and he wants everyone to know it.

Key to Dell's theory is the notion that all users will abandon Unix in favor of Linux and never need anything larger than a four processor server.

"We see the whole world, as least the Unix world, going to Linux," he said. "I think for Unix customers Linux is where it's at."

There is some sound reasoning backing this statement up. Intel servers do get more and more powerful as the years go by, and Linux is maturing. Why not link together a few small servers and replace that clunky SMP?

The problem, however, with Dell's logic is that all of this is supposed to happen in the next two to three years. We hope the doctors checked for head wounds after the fall.

Dell pays himself to be bullish in public, so his enthusiasm is understood, but the reality of the situation is that any mass migration off of Unix is going to take a long time. As proof that Dell's argument may not hold up quite as well as he hoped, we offer these questionable statements about the Unix vendors.

"We like to think of them as dinosaurs," Dell said. "They can eat big truck loads of raw meat everyday, but this is not the answer."

Huh?

"There isn't really Unix," he said. "There is Vendorix. We don't see any traction with the proprietary Uni or Vendorix."

Somebody call for help. He's rattled.

The situation did not improve when one of the OracleWorld groupies asked Dell why his company doesn't sell 64bit machines. Dell does, of course, sell a system based on Intel's third generation Itanium processor.

"Those are shipping now, and we would be happy to sell you as many as you like," he said.

This reply really brought the chuckles out of the audience. It was, however, hard to tell if they were laughing at the questioner for being unaware of the systems or at Dell because his gig was up.

It's a bit hard to beat the industry standard drum for forty minutes only to have some Oracle user bring up a product that almost no one in the industry has purchased. For the record, IDC shows Dell shipping a grand total of 14 Itanium-based servers in the first two quarters of this year. Add this to the tepid 9i RAC on Dell sales, and the cluster over SMP house of cards comes crashing down.

After all, the big customer win video Dell showed for 9i RAC was the state of Louisiana that purchased a two-node cluster. Since when did a two-node cluster become something to brag about?

The low-end push might be fine for a lot of customers out there, but rest assured there is a hell of a lot of demand for systems that require engineering know how. There is reason the Unix SMP market still generates billions. These systems have been proven to handle databases well for years and years. Try managing a cluster and then report back. Dell talks a good game, but sometimes it's only that - talk.

Just because he sees some cowboys hop on a horse down in Texas doesn't mean Dell knows how to ride. ®

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