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Ellison winds up rivals with stack-in-a-box vision

Boxes off Oracle OpenWorld

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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.

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