Oracle Unveils New Data Center Gear, Revamps Pricing

Oracle's pricing drop is parallel to something one might see at a big box store -- only for big computing devices that go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Larry Ellison's 56-minute message at a Jan. 21 press event could have been boiled down to this: "Still faster, still more secure, but now cheaper than any competitor."

Addressing a full house of several hundred people at Oracle’s headquarters, the chairman and co-founder of the world's largest database company unveiled the latest generation of its Engineered Systems, the X5 line. It is the fourth version designed and built by Oracle since its acquisition of Sun Microsystems five years ago.

The refreshed lineup includes the Virtual Compute Appliance X5, Oracle FS1 Series Flash Storage System, and sixth-generation Oracle Exadata Database Machine X5.

The announcement amounted to an Oracle data center equipment sale, parallel to something one might see at a big box store --only for big devices that go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

'We Never Aimed at Lowest Possible Price'

"Home-built systems can be expensive; you have to do the integration and make it all work together. Our strategy has always been to engineer all the layers -- compute, storage and networking -- together, so you don't have to. However, we really never aimed at the lowest possible purchase price with our tiered systems," Ellison said.

"We've never really competed for the data center core against those (less-expensive) Intel two-socket servers. We always wanted to do something different by engineering the storage, the networking, the computing, and all the software layers together to deliver extreme performance. And our very first one, Exadata, did just that,” he said. Oracle has continued to increase the speed of all its data equipment during the last five years, adding NAND flash and more RAM and improving all facets of the software, Ellison said.

To date, Oracle says it has shipped more than 10,000 units of its Engineered Together systems. But now it's also bringing the pricing down -- something that has rarely been mentioned previously.

Oracle has a history of being expensive; it's part of the company image and fabric. But that is apparently changing. It appears to mark a major change in strategy.

Now Competing for the Core Data Center Business

"We're going to compete for that core data center business," Ellison said. "Our customers want their data centers to be as simple and as automated as possible. With some of Oracle's engineered systems and appliances, you can pay 50 percent less, but you have to be willing to take twice the performance."

That last statement could set up a few arguments among data center people. For example, Oracle put up a slide that showed its new Virtual Compute Appliance X5 Intel 2-Socket Computer Server (972 cores, two fabric interconnects, and rack infrastructure) for $562,000 plus $22,000 in annual support. It compared the X5 to Cisco's UCS M4 Blade Server (also 972 cores, two interconnects, and rack infrastructure), which it had listed for $912,000 and $26,000 in annual support.

In another slide, Oracle showed that its X5 software (Linux OS,VM Server, Enterprise Manager) costs $45,000 in support per year, compared to Cisco's UCS package (Red Hat Linux Server, VMware vSphere and vCenter, and Cisco UCS Director and other UCS software), which it listed at a $265,000 up-front cost plus $166,000 per year for support.

If all true and accurate, Oracle is indeed becoming much more competitive on the sales side. Yet it remains to be seen how this will actually play out in the marketplace and how competitors such as Cisco Systems, EMC, Dell, SAP, and others will react.

Here are some of the other highlights of Oracle’s announcement:

* Paired with the Oracle FS1 Series Flash Storage System, Oracle said the Virtual Compute Appliance X5 provides a complete converged infrastructure system that can be deployed in a matter of hours.

* The Database Appliance X5 adds flash caching, integrated InfiniBand connectivity, more compute cores and increased storage density over previous editions.

. * The new Big Data Appliance X5 comes with twice the RAM and 2 ¼ times the processor cores as previous versions, Oracle said. Also available on Oracle Big Data Appliance is the latest version of Oracle Big Data SQL, which extends Oracle SQL to Hadoop and NoSQL, enabling users to run one fast SQL query across all their data, with no application changes.

*The new Zero-Loss Data Recovery Appliance X5 storage device provides Oracle Database-integrated data protection that eliminates data loss exposure for all Oracle databases.

* The Exadata Database Machine X5 includes scale-out database servers, scale-out intelligent storage servers, and high-speed InfiniBand networking. Oracle claims that it also provides significantly faster base than the previous versions.

Oracle also unveiled a new all-NAND flash storage server that uses PCIe flash drives, the latest Non-Volatile Memory Express flash protocol, and InfiniBand connectivity. Oracle Exadata X5-2, Oracle SuperCluster T5-8 and Oracle SuperCluster M6-32 engineered systems can be configured with the so-called "extreme" flash storage servers.

More detail about the updated Oracle data center products can be found here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...