Oracle Outlines SPARC, Solaris 11 Plans

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2010-08-10

Oracle Outlines SPARC, Solaris 11 Plans

Oracle will release the next version of the Solaris operating system in 2011, and will double the performance of its SPARC processors every other year.

Those were some of the highlights of an Aug. 10  Webcast presentation by John Fowler, executive vice president of systems for Oracle, outlining an aggressive road map designed to raise the company's profile as a data center solution player and differentiate it from competitors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

The event in San Francisco was the first of about 80 that Oracle will present around the country.

Oracle officials are emphasizing the advantages the company enjoys after having brought Sun Microsystems into the fold. As the company courted Sun through much of 2009 and early this year, analysts and customers alike questioned the future of Sun's hardware business in the hands of a software giant such as Oracle.

However, CEO Larry Ellison and other executives said they planned to invest in such Sun technologies as SPARC processors and the Solaris operating system, and tightly engineer them to work well with Oracle's existing database and middleware software products.

Fowler was head of Sun's hardware business when the company was sold to Oracle for $7.4 billion, and now has the same role at Oracle. The combined company can now put Oracle's enterprise software offerings on Sun hardware, giving the company a level of performance and scalability unmatched in the industry, Fowler said in an interview with eWEEK before the Aug. 10 event.

Oracle has always offered software and applications that were open and could run in any environment, as well as management tools that helped these software products work better together.

"The Sun acquisition is just a fundamental extension of that strategy," Fowler said.

Oracle is building open systems that can run anyone's software, but that are designed to run Oracle products exceptionally well.

Some analysts have been questioning how well Oracle can do in the hardware space. In an Aug. 2 survey, TheInfoPro found that businesses are continuing to scale back their IT budgets, making for a difficult environment for server vendors. Companies like Dell, which focus on less expensive products, will be able to ride out the storm.

However, the survey found that Oracle is among the most vulnerable hardware makers, as TheInfoPro analysts have been seeing a drop in spending on Sun equipment, and that trend is expected to continue.

The Right Moves for Oracle


Other analysts see Oracle making the right moves with Sun. Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64, said Oracle officials have gotten rid of Sun projects that showed little promise of making money-such as the Rock SPARC processor-and simplified the way the company designs chips.

"[The sale to Oracle has] given them a lot of focus that was somewhat missing before," Brookwood said.

That can be seen with the proposed road map for the SPARC processors, he said. Fowler said Oracle has mapped out plans for the processor to 2015. The first of those new chips has been taped out already, and products with them should be coming out in the next 18 to 24 months, Brookwood said.

In his presentation, Fowler said Oracle will bring SPARC into two server lines, its T Series of energy-efficient systems and its M Series of high-end, mission-critical servers.

Within five years, the transaction processing capabilities of the SPARC processors will be 40 times what they are today, he said. The systems will be able to scale to 128 cores and 16,384 threads. Currently SPARC processors can support up to 512 threads.

"We have a very aggressive [processor] product road map," Fowler said.

Oracle also will continue supporting x86 rack and blade servers running on Intel chips. "We will continue to aggressively develop both blade and rack server systems for the x86 marketplace," he said.

This is one area where Oracle's ownership has helped, Brookwood said. Before the sale, Sun had a wide array of x86 servers running on chips from both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, but didn't have the volume of sales to support such a wide portfolio.

Oracle will only focus on Intel processors, which offer the best per-core performance, which is important given that Oracle licenses its software on a per-core basis, rather than a per-socket basis like Microsoft, Brookwood said.

The rollout of Solaris 11 in 2011 will be the first major release of the operating system since Sun launched Solaris 10 in 2004. There have been numerous updates to Solaris 10 since then, and Fowler said Sun will continue to support it.

"You'll see us really building on the gold-standard capabilities that are in Solaris today with significant enhancements in virtually every aspect of the system," he said.

Scalability, maintenance, security and file systems will be among the key areas of improvement in the new operating system, Fowler said.

Oracle will continue to support Oracle VM, its virtualization technology that enables businesses to run Windows and Linux environments-including Oracle's own Oracle Enterprise Linux-on SPARC-based systems.

On the storage side, Fowler said Oracle will continue to make improvements. For example, the company plans to increase the capacity of tape storage from its current 1TB to 20TB by 2015.

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