Dell, Oracle Make Cluster Push

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2003-04-02

Dell, Oracle Make Cluster Push

NEW YORK—Clusters of smaller, Intel-based servers will continue to overtake larger proprietary systems over the next few years, eventually becoming the predominant architecture in all aspects of enterprise data centers.

That was the message delivered on Wednesday by Michael Dell and Larry Ellison during a press conference here.

In announcing their companies growing relationship, Dell, the chairman and CEO of Dell Computer Corp., and Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp., said the low costs, easy deployment and high reliability of clustered, standards-based systems convince more and more businesses to migrate their data centers from proprietary Unix-based servers.

"[The advantages] are simply too great to ignore, particularly in times of economic turmoil, like were in now," Dell told an audience of more than 100 reporters and analysts. "Proprietary systems will continue to become the exception and the niche."

At the press conference, Dell and Ellison announced that their companies will begin offering low-cost clusters for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, will sell a PowerEdge server and storage platform specifically optimized for the Oracle9i Database, which includes Real Application Clusters. The Oracle technology is designed to enable applications to view multiple clusters of servers as a single server.

The offering, starting at $18,000, will run both Red Hat Inc.s Linux and Microsoft Corp.s Windows platforms. The storage aspects will either be entry-level CX200 arrays—a joint product from Dell and EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, Mass.—or Dells PowerVault SCSI disk enclosures.

The goal, according to Dell officials, is to give smaller businesses an entry point into clusters, which are multiple systems tied together and designed to run as one.

Dell and Oracle also are partnering on a series of services for such tasks as migrating from Unix to Linux for Oracle9i Database, database mirroring and disaster recovery planning.

Aside from that news, the gist of the press conference was to push the vision of data centers powered by clusters of multiple two- and four-processor systems, rather than fewer, larger proprietary servers, with the CEOs obvious—but unspoken—target being Sun Microsystems Inc.

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Ellison said Oracle saw that coming several years ago, when it was developing its 9i database.

"We needed to find a way to run not on a single server, but have our database and our middle-tier application server run on a cluster of smaller servers," he said.

The companys 9i technology is now designed to do just that, Ellison said.

"I believe that in a couple of years, Linux and Dell will be the dominant component combination in the enterprise," he said.

Dell said that standards-based systems already are becoming the enterprise choice for such uses as Web servers, file and print and applications servers, and that eventually they will overtake Unix-based servers in the more complex high-end duties, such as customer relationship management, financials, enterprise resource planning and databases.

Several Dell customers said they agreed with Dell and Ellisons vision of the future of data centers, although some said it could take some time before such clusters of smaller servers take over the bulk of back-end duties.

Wyndham International Inc., which runs luxury hotels and resorts around the world, uses Dell servers for most of its front-end tasks, and in February adopted Dells PowerVault network-attached storage systems.

Andy Miller, director of network operations, said he is exploring the idea of using computing clusters within his system, but that for the time being, he will continue using larger IBM systems for the back end.

"If an opportunity [to look at Dell servers for the back end] presents itself, it certainly is compelling to look at," Miller said. "But we have a high amount of dollars already sunk into [the IBM servers]."

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