Oracle Seeks Sun Revival With Sparc T4 Servers

Next-gen chip is the key to a do or die job for Oracle's hardware business: Regain the confidence of 50,000 Sun customers.
The Sparc announcements are the proverbial other shoe dropping, following Oracle's March announcement that it would stop developing future generations of its software for the Intel Itanium processors used by HP.

"Oracle would obviously love Itanium replacement business," Fichera said, adding that the move to discontinue development on Itanium was undoubtedly "informed by the competitive advantage it could win for Sparc servers."

The new servers, and the Sparc SuperCluster T4-4 in particular, promise what the company claims to be the best performance available for Oracle software.

"Whether you have our database or middleware or packaged applications, we want you to also take Oracle hardware not because you have one guy or gal calling on you, but because it works together better," Fowler told InformationWeek in an interview after yesterday's announcements.

[ Want more on Oracle's newest database appliance? Read Oracle Introduces Baby Exadata. ]

The SuperCluster is described as a general-purpose machine, but Fowler said its biggest appeal will be to those running Oracle database in combination with other workloads. He cited SAP, SAS, Oracle e-Business Suite, Oracle PeopleSoft, Oracle Demantra and customer apps as typical examples.

"The pairing is always going to be with the database, but not everybody will be using our middleware because there are a lot of other applications out there that access the database," Fowler said.

Since Oracle apps or third-party apps will run on the same cluster as the database and that database is "massively accelerated," thanks to Hybrid Columnar Compression and a storage architecture borrowed from Exadata, Fowler said applications would run a lot better than on "anything they're running on today."

SuperCluster is available in full-rack or half-rack configurations, and you can add capacity in half-rack increments. The full-rack includes 1,200 CPU threads, 4TB of DRAM, between 97TB and 198TB of hard disk, and 8.66TB of flash memory.

Fowler deflected a request for comparisons to SAP's Hana in-memory appliance, noting that Oracle will address in-memory databases at next week's Oracle OpenWorld event in San Francisco.

Fowler said that transactional performance for SuperCluster would be ten times faster and data warehousing performance 50 times faster than conventional server architectures. Nonetheless, it's doubtful that the SuperCluster could make much headway in data warehousing, as that market has been steadily moving toward scale-out deployments on X86 hardware.

Ellison claimed SuperCluster will simultaneously run Oracle database as fast as Exadata and middleware and apps as fast as Exalogic, all while incorporating built-in support for virtualization. Nonetheless, there's still a huge market for Exadata and Exalogic because they're X86-powered engineered systems running Linux.

SuperCluster and other T4 servers run either Solaris 10 or the just-released Solaris 11 flavor of Unix. Fowler noted that Exadata can be tied into SuperCluster deployments. But Unix deployments are a largely separate world in which high-end ERP systems, big-iron custom apps, and high-scale e-commerce platforms and Internet sites typically operate.