Software // Information Management
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7/9/2010
02:43 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Seven Questions For Oracle On Exadata

Oracle and IBM trade claims while independents lead the big-data revolution.

Oracle has initiated a "pissing contest" with IBM, as Bob Evans appropriately characterized it, with bravado about adoption of its Exadata appliance. The numbers may sound impressive, but in my view, the vendors leading the big-data era are Teradata, Netezza, Greenplum and a few other independents and upstarts.

This crowd is talking about actual customers, real-world applications and new capabilities requested by users. Oracle spouts speeds, feeds and abstract market-share and revenue figures that make no difference to would-be buyers.

TPC benchmarks and claims to be X times faster than such and such competitor are irrelevant. Customers want references from other companies that fit their description and that have similar challenges.

There's no doubt that Exadata is on many short lists because so many companies have years of experience running Oracle databases. They have DBAs that are used to administering the environment, so something familiar yet faster and more scalable simply has to be considered.

I've heard a few actual customers quoted here and there, but most are obscure companies. A March whitepaper offered at Oracle.com provides six pages detailing hardware stats. Near the end, there are three short paragraphs about two customers: travel operator TUI Netherlands and Romania's Banca Transilvania. I am not making this up!

Yesterday I read a fresh article in ComputerworldUK about LinkShare, which is managing six terabytes on Exadata. Big woop!

I've certainly seen more familiar and more recent Exadata customer citations. But in-depth deployment details are rare. And I have yet to be directly offered a single Exadata customer interview.

Ditto for IBM, which doesn't ladle on the bravado like Larry Ellison does, but just today I was told that a Smart Analytic System customer won't be available for my planned August 9 InformationWeek feature on the big-data era. As I see it, Teradata had a cozy position at the high end of data warehousing until about five years ago. Then the likes of Netezza and Greenplum came along, just as data volumes were exploding, and they democratized massively parallel processing (MPP). In recent years, Oracle and IBM have both been reactive followers rather than leaders on this front.

Even Teradata, the MPP innovator, had to be shaken out of its enterprise-data-warehouse mindset. But Oracle, in particular, clung to its leadership status in yesterday's database market for far too long.

Exadata and the IBM Smart Analytic System will undoubtedly be big successes, appealing to each vendor's vast customer bases. And Microsoft, the most conservative and mainstream of the bunch, will soon be picking up steam with its SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse release, set for later this year. If Oracle doesn't move beyond speeds, feeds and bravado by then, it will find itself in a commodity war.

What inspired this rant was a request for timely questions for Oracle. The request came from a few honchos at InformationWeek who will be visiting the vendor next week. I came up with seven:

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