Oracle CEO Larry Ellison delivered a long, stat-filled sales pitch for Oracle-Sun engineered systems such as Exadata, Exalogic, and Sparc SuperCluster at Sunday night's keynote kickoff of Oracle Open World in San Francisco. In a bit of new news, Ellison announced the Exalytics in-memory analytic appliance.
The Exalytics news aside, Ellison's speech was mostly a recapitulation of last week's introduction of Oracle T4 servers. Exalytics is clearly an answer to in-memory-powered products including SAP's Hana Appliance as well as business intelligence products including QlikTech's QlikView and Tibco Spotfire. Those products have been building demand for several years thanks to their speed-of-analysis benefits.
But Ellison didn't provide much business context. In fact, he didn't go much beyond recitation of technical stats and jabs at IBM and HP entirely focused on hardware.
"With such a diverse portfolio, a mega-vendor needs to clearly articulate a compelling vision for how customers can benefit," observed Ovum chief analyst Carter Lusher in a statement, adding, Ellison's "recitation of specs was a missed opportunity."
[What can we expect to hear from Oracle at OpenWorld this week? Read expert predictions at Oracle OpenWorld: What Enterprise IT Wants]
The closest Ellison got to articulating the business need for Exalytics was in describing instantaneous access to information. "Type in '36-inch Sa' and it will instantly fill in '36-inch Samsung television,'" Ellison said. "Type in '36-inch So' and it will instantly fill in '36-inch Sony television.'"
It could be automotive data or financial data or "it could be anything" Ellison allowed, but the description made it sound like a search engine. There were no business use-case or application scenarios. Ellison promised a Monday session would demonstrate a supporting interactive data-visualization interface that will present "an entirely new experience."
Ellison did dive deeper into the product details, starting with the hardware. Inside the box is 1 terabyte of DRAM memory and 40 CPU cores provided by 4 multicore Intel Xeon processors. The device scans 20 gigabytes per second, so it can explore the entire memory of the device in about five seconds.
One terabyte doesn't sound big, Ellison acknowledged, but he warned the huge crowd, said to surpass 40,000 at the Moscone Convention Center, not to be misled. The device will compress data by a factor of 5X to 10X, he said, so it's equivalent of 5 to 10 terabytes of user-accessible data.
As for the software behind Exalytics, two in-memory, parallelized databases will be available. TimesTen, which was developed for transactional workloads, has a new version that will provide an in-memory relational database engine. And Oracle's Essbase database has also been adapted to Exalytics to support speed-of-thought multidimensional analysis. Ellison also claimed Exalytics will be able to explore unstructured data, but he didn't explain how or for what purpose.
Exalytics can be integrated with any server running an Oracle database, Ellison said, but he extolled the virtues of pairing the device with Exadata. If the data is in Exalytics' DRAM memory, the device will provide the ultimate in query performance, he said. If it's not in memory, Oracle's fast infiniband connectivity to Exadata will move the required data into Exalytics in-memory cache nearly as quickly. "I recommend you buy both," Ellison quipped.
No doubt this week's database and server general sessions at Oracle Open World will help answer some of the many questions Ellison left unanswered.
What are the business cases Oracle is going after? What sorts of analytics will the Exalytics device support? What are the tradeoffs in choosing between the TimesTen and Essabase databases, and just how does Exalytics answer the call to analyze unstructured information?
There's a lot of explaining left to do.