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12/7/2010
09:21 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO #1 Story Of The Year: The Surge To Optimized Systems

IBM and Oracle are leading this new wave of highly integrated hardware-software combos that boost performance and cut busywork—and most other IT vendors are racing to catch up.

"Exadata is the best example of this clustered architecture where we have collections of machines, storage, and networks all built together with the software tuned for the hardware. What we've been able to do with Exadata—and there will be other machines like or clusters like Exadata coming out for middleware applications, pretty much for all the software that we sell," Ellison said.

"Exadata Version 2 handles not only data warehouses but also handles transaction processing--we added a lot of flash memory into it—and we're gonna have new Exadata models—I don't want to preannounce anything, but we're gonna get better and better at very large-scale transaction processing. Our intent is that the Exadata line will challenge the biggest IBM P Series machines and beat them badly in performance, reliability, and cost. And we think we can do that: in transaction processing, we're twice as fast, and in data warehousing, we're 10 times as fast. Those are our goals: to be twice as fast as IBM's biggest, best box and again, at a dramatically lower price."

IBM dismissed Ellison's comments as so much hot air: "There is a fundamental philosophical difference between Oracle and IBM," the IBM spokesman said. "Oracle is trying to convince the market that one system can efficiently handle both transactional and analytical workloads. IBM believes that systems should be optimized for particular workloads. For transactional use cases, Oracle sells Exadata. For analytical use cases, Oracle sells Exadata.

"On the other hand, IBM recommends systems that are optimized for particular workloads. For transactional use cases, IBM recommends DB2 pureScale, which is a tightly integrated, pre-configured, and pre-optimized hardware, software, and storage stack," IBM said. "For analytical use cases, IBM recommends the IBM Smart Analytics System, which is a tightly integrated, pre-configured, and pre-optimized hardware, software, and storage stack that includes ETL, data warehouse, Cognos reporting, SPSS analytics, and much more."

SAP late last month rolled out a revolutionary new appliance (in concert with hardware partners including Intel, IBM, and HP) called Hana that specializes in enormous analytics queries and uses SAP's new in-memory technology as a core factor in the dazzling speeds it has achieved.

SAP CTO and innovation leader Vishal Sikka said yesterday that a very large SAP customer in the consumer-packaged goods business ran queries against its 460 billion records (yes, that's billion with a B) and "the most-complex analysis they gave us took us 60 seconds to run through. Sixty seconds!" Sikka said.

"Technology is no longer the limit—only your imagination is the limit," Sikka said in the wake of the results achieved by that CPG company and the 50+ other customers SAP has been working with on early projects with Hana.

The system offers "a fundamentally different way to provide value to businesses, and we and our customers are only beginning to scratch the surface of what we can do. And the price-performance on this is unbelievable: it is several hundred times better than the other approaches our customer was looking at," he said.

The hardware used to crunch those 460 billion records was priced at $532,000, but Sikka said SAP has not yet set pricing for Hana, in part because the new system is delivering types of outcomes with no precedent—so on what basis should the pricing be set?

Those are the types of questions that'll arise as the tech industry looks to cast aside aggressively the approaches and philosophies that have been in place for 10 or 20 years, but are simply no longer sufficient to analyze the staggering volumes of data that will yield insights into future behavior—and to perform that analysis in real time.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard promised a couple of months ago that it was on the verge of a massive rollout of a family of purpose-built systems that would take full advantage of its vast portfolio of hardware, networking, and software products, along with applications from its software partners. You can read all about it at Global CIO: Global CIO: Gunning For IBM & Oracle, HP Plans Optimized-Systems Blitz, and here's a key excerpt:

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