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Are Oracle's Exadata racks fluffing Apple's iCloud?

Larry rains on Big Blue's Power parade

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Oracle did not have a good fiscal Q2, as El Reg reported on Tuesday after the market closed. Server sales plummeted and new software license sales did not grow anywhere near what Ellison & Co expected.

But the Exadata and Exalogic lines of machinery were a bright spot, and may well be fluffing up Apple's iCloud.

Well, at least it looks like Apple, unless you think Motorola is quietly building some kind of cloud ahead of its acquisition by Google.

"A very large American smartphone manufacturer now has over 30 Exadata systems as they build their cloud," Ellison said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Ellison mentioned a lot of Exadata database cluster and Exalogic middle cluster customers by name, but not this one.

Apple has been pretty secretive about the gear that is installed inside the Maiden, North Carolina, data center that it opened for biz back in June.

Video shots of the inside of the Maiden data center clearly show Teradata data warehousing appliances, plus racks and racks of servers where the images were so fuzzy it was not possible to discern with any accuracy what the brand was. Others looking at the same pictures thought they saw Hewlett-Packard ProLiant servers and NetApp storage arrays.

If you parse the language from Oracle in the past couple of quarterly conference calls and in the statements the company made at Oracle's OpenWorld extravaganza in October, it looks like when Oracle says "system" in reference to Exadata and Exalogic machines, it means something akin to "rack of gear."

An Exadata X2-2 database rack has eight two-socket servers, three QDR InfiniBand switches, and fourteen Exadata storage arrays that have lots of flash memory and special software to compress and preprocess data for the database cluster inside the rack, which of course runs Oracle's 11g database. That rack has a list price of $1.1m. (See this story for an analysis of Oracle's Exadata pricing and configuration.)

So 30 such racks would be something on the order of 240 database nodes costing on the order of $33m at list price for the hardware and not including the database software. Put Oracle 11g Enterprise Edition and the Real Application Clusters (RAC) extensions onto these machines, and now you are talking about $134.1m at list price. Even at half off list price, that's a lot of iTunes downloads that Apple has to sell to cover the costs.

In addition to hinting about Apple using the Exadata clusters, Ellison did a lot of name dropping about who was buying the Exa machines and how it was stealing away business from IBM and fellow server upstart Cisco Systems. On the Exalogic front, the University of Melbourne bought four systems to run Fusion middleware, beating out a rack of Cisco blade servers running VMware virtualization. (The Exalogic machines run Oracle's implementation of the Xen hypervisor on the cluster and plunk Fusion instances on top of Oracle's RHEL-ish Linux.)

The US Food and Drug Administration bought five Exalogic machines to sit between applications and the Exadata database clusters the agency already has installed. Retailer Amway tossed out IBM's Power Systems machines and put in two racks of Exalogic to act as the middleware layer supporting a mix of homegrown and Oracle E-Business Suite apps, and another IBM account, Hyundai Kia Motor Company, bought an Exalogic box.

"I know that IBM is running a lot of ads saying that their machines run faster than ours, but I'd love to see their customer references because we haven't seen one," quipped Ellison. "We've seen a lot of ads, no customer references. We have lots and lots of customer references where we are replacing pSeries and running much faster than IBM. I'd like to see one from IBM."

In addition to the presumed Apple greenfield win, Ellison said that a big European bank now had over 24 Exadata "systems" and that media monitor AC Nielsen had moved a chunk of its data relating to the Wal-Mart retail giant off IBM machinery and onto Exadata iron. Oracle also won four SAP shops, moving their databases from other systems to Exadata. Oracle didn't say what those prior systems were, but given the distribution of servers running SAP apps, the likelihood is that it was not Sparc iron, but Hewlett-Packard Itanium or x86 gear or IBM Power Systems iron. ®

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