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Memo To Oracle, SAP: Listen To P&G's Language

Oracle and SAP keep fighting a war of words over whose technology is bigger and better. They could learn a lot from Procter & Gamble CIO Filippo Passerini's big data work.

Listen closely to the language of SAP and Oracle. They battle over architectural differences, over whose technology is bigger, faster, better, over who innovates more, over whose lies are bigger.

Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison kicked off Oracle Open World with several big announcements, saving for last a major upgrade to Exadata, the company's soup-to-nuts hardware platform for running analytics and transactions in memory. The X3H2M2, or heuristic hierarchical mass memory, which Ellison jokingly said just "kinda rolls off the tongue," packs in 4 TB of DRAM and 22 TB of flash memory, and combined with Oracle's compression technology ... well, let's just say it's big and it's fast.

SAP, Ellison reminded attendees, also "has an in-memory machine that's a little bit smaller; they offer 0.5 TB of memory."

Only SAP has been shipping an in-memory system (Hana) with IBM that packs 100 TB of DRAM, with no flash memory, and SAP's columnar compression technology, according to Steve Lucas, SAP's executive VP of database and technology. He called Oracle's Exa-systems "exaggerated, expired, and expensive," and went on to say that Oracle's claims were "without basis, and without merit or truth."

For more, see InformationWeek's Charles Babcock's expert analysis of what Oracle's cloud strategy actually means. ]

Lucas said that Hana integrates all core data functions in the platform, but that Oracle "wants you to buy all of the pieces and do it [install and integrate it] yourself. Even if they do it for you with Exalytics, it is still just 'installation' of software, not innovation or integration."

Lucas said he has "zero concern that Hana will be able to outperform Exadata."

Ellison went further, comparing Exadata X3 to EMC's VMax 40k, which made its debut earlier this year. The VMax moves data at a rate of 52 GB/second, Ellison said. "That's it. They're maxed out." A single rack Exadata machine moves data at 100 GB/second, he added, and "we can just go and go and go, like the Energizer bunny."

Ellison also talked about reducing cost, saying that while Exadata doubles performance, it also reduces storage costs by a factor of 10.

But Ellison wasn't done. Exadata is, apparently, faster and cheaper than anything from IBM. He compared what he deemed a comparable Exadata system with an IBM P780 and demonstrated that Exadata came in at 1/8th of the cost. "For some people that's a big deal," he said. Indeed it is.

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The Exadata is, he said, "the world's fastest computer for business." It may well be.

Meanwhile, SAP's Lucas said that Hana has had a fantastic year, with more than 500 customers. He quoted IDC as saying that Hana is the fastest growing database platform. "We believe that apps drive demand for the database," he said. "We are the sleeping giant. We have awoken. We've got the mojo."

The Language of P&G

Now listen closely to the language of Procter & Gamble CIO Filippo Passerini, speaking at the recent InformationWeek 500 conference. (You can watch the whole interview, in a video clip located at the end of this article.) Passerini doesn't talk about DRAM or flash memory. Sure, he thinks about competitors, but instead of relying on partial truths, he simply looks at the data.

His Italian accent is thick, but his approach to business just kinda rolls off the tongue. It is rooted in the language of the customer, and rightly so: His customers purchase one of his company's products 3 billion times each day, and 26 of P&G's brands command revenue of at least $1 billion each year. In 175 years of doing business, you'd think P&G has seen it all. But Passerini is helping take the company on another incredible journey.

His IT department, he says, isn't merely an enabler for the business, but an organization that is accountable for concrete business results. At P&G there is an absolute fixation on tangible, measurable results. In fact, it's "never about the latest technology, it's about driving business value," he said.

Passerini set off on a mission a few years ago to reach that lofty height. The plan: to digitize, visualize, and simulate--to distill down the company's massive data to what matters, to provide a single version of the truth to 60,000 employees in an effort he calls "information democratization," to help the company speed products to market (but more cost effectively).

"We didn't need to run faster," Passerini said, "we needed to change the way we ran."

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2012 | 11:45:25 PM
re: Memo To Oracle, SAP: Listen To P&G's Language
great commentary by Fritz (no surprise). Oracle, SAP et al are falling into one of those narrative loops where they think fast is good, faster is better and fastest is best. CIOs know that getting the wrong answer faster is a fool's reply.
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