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Alpha-male Ellison issues $10m Exadata challenge

Showmanship at the DBMS Corral

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Larry Ellison don't need no stinking benchmarks to prove the Exadata V2 database cluster recently announced with his minion Sun Microsystems has more oomph than IBM's "fastest computer".

Well, Oracle's chief executive doesn't need standard benchmarks. But he is willing to shell out $10m to a company that can demonstrate that an Exadata V2 setup has at least twice as much performance of an IBM setup running Oracle's database. If Exadata V2 doesn't run at least twice as fast, then alpha-male Ellison - who enjoys a good piece of industry theater - will shell out.

"Your company could win $10 million!" declares his company's Exadata Challenge, which you can see here. "If your Oracle database application doesn't run at least twice as fast on Sun hardware as on IBM's fastest computer, your company could win $10 million from Oracle. Even IBM is welcome to enter the $10 million challenge!"

The Exadata Challenge was issued in the wake of El Reg's outing of the impending announcement of IBM's own parallel database cluster, called DB2 Pure Scale, a clustered version of DB2 running on IBM's Power 550 midrange and Power 595 high-end servers running its AIX Unix variant, on Monday.

IBM was trying to steal some thunder back from Oracle, which is hosting its OpenWorld customer event next week in San Francisco and which is expected to roll out some sort of Sparc-based server gear that packs an OLTP wallop. It is not clear if IBM wanted to hold its powder until next week to launch DB2 Pure Scale (which seems likely), but whatever its original intention, the DB2 Pure Scale clustering technology was announced today and will begin shipping in December.

Now the fine print. As you can see from the official Exadata Challenge rules, the challenge is only open to US-based companies who are also members of the Fortune 1000. The company has to have been running an Oracle 11g database application as of October 7 in production, and Oracle says that the application code running on the IBM box has to be free of any bottlenecks that might make the database look like it was the slug.

The rules do not specify any particular IBM server as the platform on which the Oracle 11g database is running, but the presumption is that it is running on an AIX operating system atop Power-based servers. The server can't have any kinds of caching or other server appliances hooked into it to goose performance. I wonder if solid state disk counts, as it certainly does in the Exadata box, which has 4TB of flash per rack.

Anyway, potential entrants have until December 15 to run a benchmark test using their database applications on their own IBM iron. They submit this as an entry, and if Oracle accepts this as an entry to the challenge, Oracle will then run the same database and application on a server setup of its own manufactured by Sun, presumably an Exadata V2 x64-based machine and possibly a Sparc-based cluster if Sun and Oracle cook one up next week.

If Oracle can't make it go twice as fast - presumably this means process twice as many OLTP transactions, not cut response times per transaction in half - then the company gets a big fat check for $10m. If Oracle can make it go twice as fast, Oracle and Sun now have a potential Fortune 1000 customer.

Time to reload your pistol, IBM. ®

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