Oracle To Sell Hardware

Oracle Corp. is getting into the hardware business.

Speaking to attendees at the company's annual Oracle OpenWorld conference on Wednesday, CEO Larry Ellison unveiled a three-year-old partnership with Hewlett-Packard to produce a new storage server. Kept under wraps until this week, the Exadata programmable storage server combines Oracle software with HP hardware (and dual-core Intel processors) into super-fast disk-drive storage systems.

Two offerings in the new server line are ready to go, Ellison said: the HP Oracle Exadata Storage Server and the HP Oracle Database Machine.

The high-capacity Exadata server is based on the HP ProLiant DL 180 G5 server. It will come with either SAS or SATA drives and a storage capacity up to 12 TB. A version that runs on the Oracle distribution of Linux is available now; versions for other operating systems are on the way, Ellison said.

Exadata is billed by the company as the "building blocks" for the Database Machine, which is a package of software, servers, and storage aimed at large, multi-terabyte data warehouses.

"I'm here today to announce Oracle's first-ever hardware product," Ellison told a packed auditorium in San Francisco's Moscone Center. He called the decision to add metal to the company's product line "radical new thinking," and he pointed to the design of his own racing yacht as an example.

Oracle actually first took a stab at the hardware business back in 1996 with a product called The Network Computer (NC). The Internet-only system (no hard disks) failed to capture much of the market, due, it was thought at the time, to slow network speeds, and was scrapped.

One difference this time around: "We're going into the hardware business, but we're not going alone," Ellison said.

HP chief Mark Hurd joined the keynote via video. "We're bringing to market two great things that our companies do best," Hurd said.

Partnering with HP has allowed the company to create servers that aren't "just a bunch of dumb disk drives," Ellison said.

"[We've] put intelligence next to ever disk drive in the storage system," he said. "That intelligence, built into the storage server, allows us to reduce the amount of data that flows across that interconnect between the storage servers and the database servers...We've taken a tremendous burden off the interconnect."

The company will also be relying on bigger data pipes to enhance the performance of the new systems, combining them with InfiniBand networking. Oracle is also exploiting multi-level grid technology to accelerate DBMS performance.

"The disk storage systems that are available today simply can't cope with the amount of data that has to be moved off those disk drives and into the database server," Ellison said. "There's a huge bandwidth problem. To solve that problem, we had to go beyond software."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].