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Wolfe's Den: Why Oracle's Sun Servers Are Sinking (And Why That's A Good Thing)

Gartner reports scary Q3 sales news for the server business Oracle took control of when it acquired Sun Microsystems, but Larry Ellison's focus on optimized systems such as Exadata is the reason Oracle needn't worry.
"What we did with Exadata is design a set of flash components, which became part of the storage server, that get used by the partitioned database query engine. . . With Exadata, we've a constructed a completely integrated appliance where we put together storage, Infiniband fabric, and servers together with the software. We've designed the storage of Exadata so a portion of the database queries are actually executed on the storage side. In fact, [we've] partitioned some of the database and put it on the storage side. So this is a complete holistic design."

Now, it's true that focusing on decreased storage latency isn't unique to optimized systems; regular servers are taking this approach, too. Still, I do believe that the high-performance patina surrounding integrated platforms drives this stuff forward very rapidly.

I also don't want to pretend that Exadata makes everything smooth sailing for Oracle on the business front. As Global CIO guru Bob Evans relates in his latest column, IBM is going directly after Oracle customers in the market for integrated and optimized systems.

But this is a good battle, at least from the perspective of people who are interested in a scenario where advancing technology lifts all boats.

Of course, the danger in a shift towards integrated hardware-software platforms is that the server pendulum swings back from the commodity towards a market filled with what are effectively proprietary offerings. Good for vendors profits, not so good for customers' pocketbooks.

Heard From Hurd?

Finally, one prospective wild card in the equation is Mark Hurd, the new Oracle co-president who formerly ran HP. Hurd knows a lot about selling server hardware, having come over to Oracle from the server sales leader.

My thinking here is that Hurd, being an astute business operations manager, might resuscitate some of Oracle's lost commodity server volume. One can argue that Oracle is leaving money on the table simply because it's been neglecting a business which wasn't managed all that well to begin with. This is another way of saying that focusing on Exadata doesn't mean you have to let your lower end lapse.

However, Hurd undoubtedly won't change Ellison's maniacal focus on optimized systems, and that's a good thing, both for systems technology and, strategically, for Oracle.

RECOMMENDED READING:

State Of Server Technology Research Report

Global CIO: IBM Details Raids On Customers From HP And Oracle

Global CIO: EMC Taking Plunge Into Red-Hot Optimized Systems Market

Global CIO: Oracle's Fowler Says Systems Performance About To Explode

Oracle Server Architect Emphasizes Exadata

Global CIO: Larry Ellison & The New Oracle Rock The Tech World

Global CIO: IBM Doubles Down On Red-Hot Optimized Systems

Global CIO: Oracle Reveals Strategy & Customers For White-Hot Exadata

Global CIO: Larry Ellison's Hardware Boasts Are Nonsense, Says IBM

Global CIO: Larry Ellison's IBM-Slayer Is Oracle Exadata Machine

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.