Ellison: Microsofts Out of Step with Grid

Oracle's boss used his OracleWorld keynote to mock Redmond for focusing on mainframe processing instead of joining Oracle in pursuit of grid computing.

SAN FRANCISCO—True to form, Oracle Corp. Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison began his keynote at OracleWorld here on Tuesday by ridiculing Microsoft Corp.

Forty years ago, Ellison said, IBM Corp. invented the 360 mainframe. Since then, the race has been on to build bigger and bigger servers. After 40 years, the joke goes, Microsoft Corp. has finally joined the race.

"I think what happened was Bill [Gates] sent a team of people out to IBM to figure out what was new," Ellison said. "Somehow the Microsoft intelligence-gathering team held their Yahoo map upside down. Instead of making a left turn into IBM Research, they made a right turn into IBMs museum."

The point was to compare Microsofts recently heralded 64-processor Windows mainframe benchmark with Oracles own push, with grid computing, to move enterprises onto pools of two- or four-CPU servers running Linux on Intel processors—a commodity hardware setup that represents a 30-to-1 price differential compared with mainframes, Ellison said. Microsoft in the spring released benchmark results running SQL Server 2000 Edition on a Hewlett-Packard Co. 64-processor Superdome. The Redmond, Wash., company also released the 64-bit version of SQL Server around the same time.


Getting bigger is no longer the right strategy, Ellison said, for a number of reasons: limited growth potential, expense and the problem of having a single point of failure. "There are problems with the 40-year-old architecture of buying larger and larger server computers," he said. "With your one big server that runs your critical applications, if you need more capacity, there is none. This is the largest machine they build. Theres no place to go with a single machine architecture. Plus, applications are beginning to outgrow even the largest computers. …

"Next, theyre very expensive," Ellison said. "They cost millions and millions of dollars. And when the next one comes out, you have to throw the old one away and buy the next one. And maybe the worst of the Achilles heels with single big servers is that theyre a single point of failure. If it goes down, all applications go down, all the users go down, and everything stops. They can only be so reliable."

The pricing for Oracles trumpeted grid technology, meanwhile, will be released next week, Ellison said. And pricing was definitely on attendees minds: The first question following the keynote was framed in the same "buy a bunch of inexpensive things for better performance" terms as Oracles call to run on commodity servers: With grid, can users buy many inexpensive Oracle licenses so they run on more licenses for less money?

The audience laughed, while Ellison took the opportunity once again to drive home the notion that grid computing will better utilize existing resources. If you can employ Oracle grid computing to use CPUs to run Oracle applications more efficiently, you dont need to buy more licenses, he said.

Next page: Grid wont change Oracle pricing, licensing.