Ellison winds up rivals with stack-in-a-box vision
Boxes off Oracle OpenWorld
Opinion Larry Ellison's closing Oracle OpenWorld keynote told customers to stop buying best-of-breed, cobbled-together IT systems; just buy a complete Oracle stack-in-a-box.
Of course, if you want to run your Oracle software on Dell, HP or IBM servers with EMC or NetApp storage that's fine; you can do that, but just don't expect the resulting system to be as simple, as reliable or as fast as Oracle's all-in-one-box job. Says Larry.
Oracle's ebullient and very competitive CEO said: "Our strategy is very simple: take a lot of separate pieces that our customers used to buy as components, and take those pieces and do pre-integration, the software pieces and the hardware pieces. Let's get those pieces integrated together and deliver you complete working systems like Exadata and Exalogic. We think that will make … our customers' lives simpler… [with a product that] works first day, that's reliable, secure, fast, that's cost-effective."
Ellison singled out iconic consumer IT products like the iPhone and iPad as the model to use, not the mainframe as one might have thought: "Steve Jobs is my best friend. I love him dearly ... I watch very closely what he does over at Apple. … He's believed for a long time that if you engineer the hardware and software together, the overall user experience is better than if you just do a part of the solution."
This is the iPhone, iPad approach to enterprise IT, a fenced garden of integrated delights that does things better, that has a better ownership experience, than the collected best-of-breed pieces enterprise IT is largely built from today.
Ellison is not just rejecting the approach whereby customers or system houses integrate selected best of breed pieces into a finished enterprise IT system; he's rejecting the whole external storage model which has been espoused by server systems vendors as well as external storage vendors. Dell, HP and IBM have their own externally-attached block access arrays and filers, and this makes it easy for EMC, HDS, NetApp BlueARc, Isilon, Compellent and others to slot their products into Dell, HP or IBM server-based IT set-ups.
Enterprise IT Americas Cup
Ellison wants none of it. He wants, as he has always done, that Oracle should ship as much of the IT stack below Oracle's application and database software as possible, so that a greater proportion of a customer's IT spend goes to Redwood Shores. The initial approach to this was to push the use of commodity IT components for servers and operating systems as a platform and so move customers off higher-priced proprietary server and O/S combinations from HP, IBM and others. Now it has moved on to Oracle owning and shipping its own middle ware, operating system, server and storage hardware. It's using its $4bn research and development spend to integrate all the pieces and build a Ferrari of an IT stack-in-a-box while its competitors build Ford Crown Victorias.
In effect Oracle has re-invented the mainframe as a tightly coupled and incredibly scalable set of application software, middleware, virtualised operating system and virtualised storage in a clustered set of racks that should perform very well indeed. Ellison wants the America's Cup crown of enterprise IT. He wants to build such an incredible IT boat that customers will flock to float it.
"They believe walled IT gardens have better IT flowers than open meadows"
The flowers in the garden may be prettier. But the healthier ecosystem will be the meadow, not the garden.
Are Oracle and Apple the Monsanto of the IT world?
I'll take a stack-in-a-box please
It's no secret that having to write an application platform for multiple OS's, Hardware, and Storage configurations inflicts many compromises into the process, and that being able to assume the underlying hardware, and then tuning/tweaking the OS-on-up with that in mind *should* be able to provide better performance and stability. Less variables is a good thing IMO and always has been.
The concept is not entirely foreign to large enterprise environments. I've seen clients develop their own stack-in-a-box for internal deployment - shipping them out preconfigured in a rack. "Gold" server builds for standardized server configurations are common too. This practice, however, is expensive (or at least should be more expensive) than getting the stack pre-optimized and pre-configured from a vendor.
It does, however, present the problem of who do you call and how quickly can you get it fixed when something really buggers it all up. There aren't many vendors out there that can both deliver and support compelling stack solutions.
For those concerned about competitiveness, I'm not sure I really see the problem with this model (yet) - especially if the vendors continue to offer vanilla versions of their applications that can still run (albeit with less optimization) on your choice of OS, server hardware, and back end storage. Even if they do start to go full walled-garden on it, they are still limited in their impact by the number of applications/platforms they control - and if the price/quality of their walled garden solutions are not competitive then they'll weed themselves out of the market anyway.
Please note: we're talking about *server-side* applications. If Microsoft went out and bought Dell, for example, and said you can only buy Windows on Dell from now on - or if they said Exchange will only work with Windows Mobile 7 - there would be mobs with pitchforks and torches... and for good reason. Doing this on the server back-end is a different animal - nobody, that I know of at least, has ever seriously complained about Microsoft not offering Exchange, MSSQL, SharePoint, IIS, etc on Linux or AIX.
Maybe, and the more I think about it the more this seems to be the case, the real litmus test is if the public considers such moves to be in, or against their best interests. Ultimately, this is an arbitrary measurement... but application vendors have always had to constrain their choice of supported server OS platforms, which in the UNIX (not Linux!) world also constrained your hardware options. This is just taking it one step further and I don't think anyone will really give a damn - I don't at least.
/WTF for WTF's the big deal?
Decent standards that are adhered to
We need decent standards that everyone adheres to, All in one is not the solution.
When putting together the best seperates hifi it was always the case that you really needed to buy from different makes to get the best sound. Not every brand did everything well.
Having standard connections and interfaces made this possible.
In IT there are standards, but there are plenty of people who won't stick to them. They have to contribute some of their own ideas that aren't in the original standard.
Obviously Microsoft are one of the people who just can't stick to a standard, there's just too many examples to list.
Is it really so hard to come up with good network protocols that everyone can implement and enjoy?
FTP, HTTP, SMTP, DNS and so on are all well known network standards and protocols. Why can the Internet have such great connectivity but when you connect to a LAN it all goes proprietary and inoperable?