Oracle Takes Sun Message Back on the Road

After releasing new SPARC chips, servers and a Solaris road map at Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle officials head back on the road to outline the company's vision for the data center.

BEDFORD, Mass.-At the Oracle OpenWorld event the week of Sept. 20, Oracle officials followed through on promises to aggressively expand the hardware business the company acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems earlier in 2010.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and other officials had been saying for about a year that they saw the SPARC and x86 hardware portfolios as a key part of the $7.4 billion deal, and even laid out a road map in interviews a month before the show.

Still, there was some skepticism in the industry, though that was muted when Oracle executives at the show unveiled the new SPARC T3 processor and a line of new servers powered by the chip. They also outlined plans for the Solaris operating system.

Cloud computing takes center stage at Oracle OpenWorld.

Oracle has since returned to taking its message on the road, with 100 or so events scheduled around the world at which officials would lay out the company's road map for customers, show how Oracle plans to play a larger role in the data center and answer questions.

On Sept. 30, Oracle officials came here to Bedford, north of Boston, for a daylong event. They offered breakout sessions on such topics as consolidating and virtualizing on Oracle Sun servers, optimizing data center investments through use of both Solaris and Oracle Enterprise Linux, designing the modern data center, cloud computing, and using Sun blade systems.

With the Sun acquisition, Oracle is finding itself in tighter competition with the likes of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and Cisco Systems, particularly in such areas as converged data centers and data center consolidation. Cheryl Martin, senior director of system product marketing at Oracle, reiterated what Ellison has been saying: Oracle plans to aim its hardware business at the high end of the market, not only its SPARC systems but also its x86 Intel-based servers.t

Speaking to about 30 customers, Martin outlined the problems facing modern data centers-from explosive data growth to globalization to rising power costs-and how the combination of Oracle and Sun can help alleviate those concerns.

Martin noted that between the two, Oracle offers products throughout the technology stack, from servers, storage and virtualization to applications, middleware and databases. And the tight integration of those technologies will help bring offerings to customers much more quickly, she said.

"By bringing the two companies together, we're looking at being able to do innovation much, much faster," Martin said.

Oracle officials have talked about how the tight integration between Oracle and Sun products will bring significant performance gains to systems such as the Exadata database system introduced in 2009 and updated at the 2010 Oracle OpenWorld, and the Exalogic cloud-in-a-box product rolled out at the show.

Martin and other officials said Oracle's open technology platforms enable customers to use third-party products if they desire, but that using a complete Oracle platform would serve them better.

"You're going to see the greatest performance when using all the components of the [Oracle] stack," she said.

Martin made a point of highlighting what Oracle is doing with the Sun products it acquired, including SPARC and Solaris, and what it plans for five years down the road.

The operating system was an important point for one customer, who questioned Oracle's determination to keep both Solaris and Oracle Enterprise Linux. Martin said it was important for the company to keep both operating systems, though noting there could be some crossover technologies. She also pointed out that Oracle would have to keep Solaris if it wanted to keep the Sun hardware that it runs on.

"We can't afford not to have the two OSes," Martin said.

The SPARC T3 chip has 16 cores-twice the number in the current T2 chip-that can run 128 threads, plus integrated on-chip encryption, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and PCIe Gen 2. "Basically we have a complete system-on-a-chip," she said.

Over the next five years, Oracle plans to double the performance of the chip every two years, and will offer four times the number of cores, 32 times the number of instruction threads and 16 times the memory capacity.

Regarding Solaris, Oracle plans to release Solaris 11 in 2011, then roll out annual updates at least through 2015.