Ellison Pushes Clustering Technology

Banging the same drum that has been beat over the first two days at Oracle OpenWorld here, Oracle Corp. Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison continued to tout the application clustering capabilities in the company's 9i Database during his keynote speech on Tues

SAN FRANCISCO—Banging the same drum that has been beat over the first two days at Oracle OpenWorld here, Oracle Corp. Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison continued to tout the application clustering capabilities in the companys 9i Database during his keynote speech on Tuesday.

Ellisons wide-ranging, hour-long speech—and a meeting with reporters aftwards—touched upon other subjects as well, including the upcoming new release of the Oracle9i Application Server, national identification cards and Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmers dancing skills. But it was 9is clustering technology that took center stage.

As he did during Oracles launch of in June of its Oracle9i Database, Ellison emphasized application clusterings performance and scalability as the databases main distinguishing factor, compared to IBMs DB2 and Microsofts SQL Server 2000. He also again stressed that Oracle is less expensive, once standard options like data mining and online analytical processing are added in, along with hardware and labor costs.

Ellison was far more blunt in a press session after his public speech. Clustering will likely be adopted by 50 percent of application server users "within the next couple of years," he predicted. Still, Oracle is "a ways away" from having "rolling upgrades," or clusters that can stand major maintenance without being switched off first. That is "the next logical thing we have to do for the database, and also for our applications," a feature he said could be in version 10i or 11i.

The adventurous technologist—Ellison will personally captain a racing boat in the Americas Cup next year—repeated a pitch he made last month at Comdex, touting his databases usefulness as an e-mail server to replace Microsoft Exchange, which has been plagued by high-profile security and uptime breaches. Moreover, "Ill make the case that its much cheaper to run Oracle software than to run Microsoft Exchange. Im going to try to show you our cheap Mercedes software here," he added, referring to Oracles recent positioning of Oracle9i as an e-mail server.

"IBM has clusters, but theyre marketing-only clusters. All they can run are benchmarks or custom applications," Ellison said.

And Microsoft, he said, is a "game manufacturer, and Id like to say right here, I dance a lot better than Steve Ballmer," he said, referring to the Redmond, Wash., companys recent bet on a consumer video game console and to their CEOs enthusiasm at a developers event this past summer.

But if Oracles gamble on clustering as the basis for all future products is wrong, "I will spend more time sailing. I will offer up my resignation because Im an idiot. I have no back-up [plan]," he said.

Oracle is also doing surprisingly well selling its own software as a hosted service, with more than 100 customers subscribing so far, he said. "Everyone feels all the ASPs (application service providers) are dead. Not us," he said.

Ellison spoke more briefly about the new version of Oracles 9i Application Server, shipping in January next year, officials said. That product will include built-in unified messaging from Intel Corp., which in turn gets the technology from its Dialogic computer-telephony division.

Unified messaging—the concept of combing e-mail, voice mail and faxes into a single message store and delivering them to end users in a single inbox accessible from any computer or telephone—was hyped by niche players in the late 1990s but was never widely adopted, largely because of reliability issues. But the application clustering features could bridge the chasm, officials said in interviews earlier today.