Oracle SPARC Server Road Map Holds Promise, Challenges, Analysts Say

Oracle executives are finally talking about plans for the high-end SPARC servers gained through the Sun acquisition. Now they need to execute on those plans, analysts say.

Oracle officials' discussion Aug. 10 of their plans for Sun Microsystems' enterprise hardware offerings was an important step in getting the company seen as a player in the competitive high-end server space, according to analysts.

Six months after closing the $7.4 billion purchase of Sun, Oracle executives began to give the industry a glimpse of the future for the company's newly acquired SPARC servers.

"It is important to get that story out," Jean Bozman, an analyst with IDC, said in an interview with eWEEK. "They really hadn't said anything about it before, and that changed today."

During a Webcast with journalists and analysts, John Fowler, who came over from Sun in the acquisition and is executive vice president of systems for Oracle, outlined an ambitious road map for the high-end systems. For example, Oracle will double the performance of the SPARC systems every other year through 2015, and servers will scale to 128 cores, 16,384 threads and 64TB of memory during that time.

Oracle also will roll out Solaris 11-the first major release of the operating system since Sun launched Solaris 10 six years ago-in 2011, and the OS will scale to thousands of processor threads and tens of terabytes of memory, according to Fowler.

In addition, he said Sun would focus its efforts in the x86 world on Intel processors, moving away for the time being from chips from Advanced Micro Devices.

While some areas went unaddressed-for example, the future of the SPARC64 development partnership with Fujitsu-what was important was that Oracle finally showed customers and the rest of the industry that a road map was in place, Bozman said.

Sales of SPARC systems have suffered since Oracle first announced its interest in buying Sun in 2009, and Bozman said rival Hewlett-Packard earlier this year had talked about future plans for its Itanium-based Integrity servers, while IBM was moving aggressively forward with its Power7 road map.

Competitive pressures meant that Oracle had to start revealing more specifics, she said.

"This is a good step in being as public [about Oracle's plans] as they were today," Bozman said. "I don't think they've lacked plans for the systems. ... They just haven't spoken as much about it as they could have."