Dell And Oracle Push Hard On Their Data-Center Strategy

They are pitching a future that might be none too fancy, but it also might be less expensive.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 2, 2003

3 Min Read

When Michael Dell and Larry Ellison envision the next-generation data center, they see raised floors dotted with clusters of two- and four-processor x86-based servers. To emphasize their point, and the role that Dell Computer servers and Oracle database software will play in their vision, the pair shared the stage Wednesday at a New York media and analyst briefing.

Dell and Ellison said their companies are deepening their relationship three ways. They will sell server and storage clusters that start at $18,000 and run either Red Hat Linux or Windows and Oracle9i Database with Real Application Clusters. They've also extended global sales agreements into Europe and Asia, with Dell as the single point of customer contact. And they're jointly selling fixed-price services to help customers migrate from legacy database architectures to Oracle running on Dell/EMC storage systems. Under this last program, a 10-day migration project from an existing database to Oracle9i is expected to cost about $35,000.

"If you run applications on a single RISC-based database server, it becomes a single point of failure," Ellison said, suggesting that the solution is to cluster x86 servers. "If you want higher performance, you have to be willing to spend less."

Dell acknowledged that this strategy wasn't practical before the introduction of Oracle's 9i RAC. "The database is really considered the choke point" of the data center, he said. Dell doesn't believe the economy will ever again experience growth comparable to the late '90s, a condition that only helps the proliferation of the x86 architecture. Still, when an rebound comes, clustered-server environments will help companies expand quickly, he said.

Dell and Oracle also used the opportunity to promote Linux as a way to cut data-center operation costs. Several of the company's customers said they agree. Menasha Corp., a $1 billion holding company with subsidiaries that produce plastics and packaging materials, runs 90% of its server workload on Dell PowerEdges and standardized on Linux in 2000. Menasha CIO Edward Wojciechowski says this move to Intel-based servers and open source resulted in a 22% reduction in data-center costs.

Not all of Dell and Oracle's shared customers are standardizing on Linux, however. Domino's Pizza/UK continues to run its Dell servers, switches, and end-user systems on Microsoft Windows 2000. Domino's IS director Marc Halpern acknowledges that Microsoft software falls short in the area of load balancing but notes that he's already paid for the Microsoft licenses.

Absent from Dell's and Ellison's presentations were details regarding how companies will efficiently manage large cluster of servers. Dell, in particular, won't necessarily want its customers using IBM Tivoli or Hewlett-Packard OpenView management software because it gives competing hardware vendors a foot in the door, says Frank Gillett, a principal analyst with Forrester Research.

Dell's vision meshes with Microsoft's recently announced Dynamic Systems initiative, which includes Resource Manager, Virtual Disk Service, and Automated Deployment Service. Of course, Microsoft's data-center management strategy doesn't address heterogeneous data centers that include Linux, Gillett says. "Dell's got nothing when you want to move from 50 to 500 Linux servers."

For its part, Dell Computer acknowledges that its OpenManage needs work. The company points out that it's still being developed and that it can always partner with systems-management vendors such as Opsware Inc. and Veritas Software Corp.

Dell also revealed Wednesday that it has begun making Dell/EMC CX200 storage systems worldwide. The CX200 storage system configured for two Dell PowerEdge servers with three years of service and support is available starting at $19,500. The CX200 joins existing Dell/EMC co-branded systems, including the CX400 and CX600.

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