Ellison Challenges HP, IBM with New SPARC Cluster

UPDATED: The co-founder and CEO of the world's second-largest software-making company took several jabs at one of his most formidable competitors--and this time it wasn't IBM.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-Leave it to Larry Ellison to "sparc up" what at first was looking like a pretty standard, no-nonsense product launch.

During Oracle's introduction of a slew of new data center products, the co-founder and CEO of the world's second-largest software-making company took several sort-of-playful jabs Dec. 2 at one of his most formidable competitors. And this time it wasn't IBM.

On stage at the 1940s-era auditorium on Sun Microsystems' old Agnews campus, Ellison put up a series of slides showing how much faster he claims the latest Oracle Sun SPARC cluster is compared with IBM's Power7 and Hewlett-Packard's Itanium 2-based Superdome supercomputer clusters.

"If these computers were animals, what kind of animals would they be?" Ellison said in comparing benchmarked transaction processing speeds of each of those companies' fastest systems.

As the ensuing slides came up-indicating Oracle's Sun SPARC super-cluster can perform at a whopping 30 million transactions per minute, IBM's at 10 million per minute and HP's at 4 million per minute-Ellison slyly displayed pictures of a cheetah next to the Oracle logo, a racehorse next to IBM's and a turtle next to HP's.

Laughs and giggles were heard from the standing-room-only audience of several hundred Oracle partners, customers, staff members and media/analyst folks.

"So we're one big cheetah, IBM's a stallion, and HP's a turtle," Ellison said. "Make no mistake: We think the HP machines are slow, they're vulnerable in the marketplace, and we're going to go after them-with better hardware, better software and better people.

"We're going to win market share against those guys-in the database business, the middleware business, the server business and the storage business, because we have better products."

Oracle, HP in complicated relationship

Oracle, like most IT companies in cooperative/competitive situations, has a complicated relationship with HP. Prior to Oracle's January 2010 acquisition of Sun, the two companies had worked together for years, selling into large clients in government, defense, scientific and other high-end IT systems.

However, now that Oracle is in the data center hardware, software and services businesses-as well as the supercomputing business-with all of its Sun properties, that relationship with HP has become very strained, to say the least. Suffice to say that Oracle isn't co-selling into large accounts anymore with HP providing its servers, storage, networking and services.

Still, there are a high number of HP-Oracle deployments in operation globally that require-and will continue to require for years-cooperation between the two companies, no matter how acrimonious the larger corporate relationship gets.

Ellison, as has been his modus operandi for years, is again going to great lengths to pooh-pooh his competitors, and now HP has eclipsed IBM to receive the brunt of his criticism.

In fact, Ellison complimented IBM on its P7 cluster. A year ago, when he was bad-mouthing IBM at every opportunity, he never would have said the following, as he did Dec. 2:

"IBM has a good product [with the P7]; what can I say? It has an excellent chip. They have smart guys working there, the PowerPC guys. But nonetheless, we beat them 3 to 1 in throughput, and in better price performance.

"But the most shocking number of all is response time. We're three times better in response time. Our [average] response time was less than half a second, for all these millions of transactions."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...