Ellison: Only Oracle can do OLTP clustering

Armonk, we have a problem

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So, how's it doing?

Up until the September launch of the Exadata V2 database appliances, Oracle had been peddling a prior generation of gear based on HP iron, which was summarily pushed off a cliff. Up until that point, Oracle had reportedly only sold 25 of the HP|Oracle Database Machines, and it had only been aiming them at data warehousing workloads. But with the addition of flash memory and the optimizations that Oracle put in the database and storage software with Exadata V2, now the box can do random OLTP processing as well as the more sequential data warehouse dicing and slicing.

So how its Exadata V2 doing? Better than expected, apparently. Ellison said that Softbank - one of the largest telecom providers in Japan, who just so happens to be Teradata's biggest customer in the Asia/Pacific region - has picked up an Exadata V2 setup that can do some database crunching work in 4 hours that used to take 30 hours on the Teradata machine. Because of such performance improvements, Ellison said that the pipeline for Exadata V2 machines in North America alone were "measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars." (Ellison was not more precise, unfortunately).

John Fowler, the former Sun exec who is now executive vice president of hardware engineering at Oracle, said that interest in Exadata machines for proof of concepts was outstripping Sun's ability to deliver gear to prospective customers. He did not discuss numbers either.

Ellison was asked if he took a threat from IBM seriously, considering that Big Blue has similar hardware and database assets.

"They do not have the same assets," Ellison said with a bit of condescension. "The Oracle database scales out; IBM DB2 for Unix does not. Let me see. How many servers can IBM put together for an OLTP application on what used to be called DB2 UDB - IBM has two databases, one on mainframes, one on Unix, totally different products - let's see, how many of those can they group together? One." Laughter ensues.

"They can have one servers attacking really big jobs. When they need more capacity, they make the server bigger. That's all they can do for OLTP. So they don't have the same assets," Ellison admonished. "You would have thought, years ago, that IBM would have come up with its own Database Machine. I mean, it's so obvious. They've got the hardware, they've got DB2. It's fascinating.

"We think we have a huge advantage over IBM in the ability to scale out to cluster systems for OLTP. IBM can't do that, and that will be a big problem going forward." And wait for the punch line. "IBM doesn't have the same assets, and that is a big problem for them. They don't have Java, and they don't have the Oracle database. What they got is a problem."

Ellison said that he believed Oracle has a ten year lead on IBM, and it didn't bother to mention that IBM is, in fact, cooking up its DB2 PureScale OLTP clustering for DB2 running on Unix, which was previewed last October and which was supposed to start shipping at the end of last year. IBM has been quiet as a mouse about DB2 PureScale and clearly needs to get it ramped up and competing with Exadata V2.

As Ellison reminded the crowd, IBM does offer clustered DB2 on mainframes (which is based on Parallel Sysplex clustering that predates Oracle RAC and is arguably still better). He referred to it as a "good product" with only one fault: it only runs on mainframes, rather than on "modern computing systems" as Oracle's database does.

IBM has offered database clustering on its OS/400-i/OS platform, called DB2 Multisystem, since 1995, well in advance of Oracle RAC. While the DB2-Parallel Sysplex combo does give IBM plenty of revenues and profits, DB2 Multisystem has not been leveraged by midrange shops that are basically allergic to complexity and that much prefer SMP systems despite the extra price you pay for hardware and software.

But Oracle has been on the clusters kick for nearly a decade now, and as networking, memory, and other system components can be brought to bear, it may be very difficult to argue SMP systems are better if they are so expensive compared to clusters. IBM - and indeed any platform provider - needs to be able to sell clusters for OLTP and data warehousing alike. Oracle has that right, and if it didn't, IBM would not have rushed out the DB2 PureScale announcement so quickly last fall.


Oracle took the "Sun" part of the Sun Microsystems logo out of italics and dropped the Microsystems entirely. Larry don't sell no stinking Micro anything. But he is the Sun King now. ®

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