Dell Hammers Sun, Unix

Computer titan tells OracleWorld audience that Linux is the future.

SAN FRANCISCO – Dell Computer Chairman Michael Dell pounded on Unix vendors and espoused the virtues of Linux in a keynote address at the OracleWorld conference here on Tuesday.

"In Linux, we have found a better Unix. Linux is the new Unix," Dell said. While minimizing the mentions of competitors name, Dell focused primarily on Sun Microsystems, calling vendors that sell proprietary hardware systems that "lock you in."

The purpose of the keynote was for Dell to discuss the growing relationship between software developer Oracle Corp. and computer maker Dell. Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., has standardized on Dells servers internally and maintains 2,000 Dell systems internally. Dell claimed that Oracle is a central part of Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Computers manufacturing and sales machine.

Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison said via a recorded video played at Dells keynote that by the end of the calendar year, all Oracle systems will be running on a cluster of Dell servers processing 125,000 transactions an hour.

The keynote quickly shifted from discussions about the partnership on ways Dell can help its customers lower costs. Thats when Dell began pounding on proprietary Unix distributions. "Unix is 17 percent of units, but 55 percent of revenue. Unix customers pay too much," said Dell. Meanwhile, Dell said that "customers are concerned with how to reduce costs while increasing performance."

Dell then rattled off statistics showing the companys growth. "Dell has almost triple Suns shipments, but we do that at 40 percent of the cost. So were saving customers money…. Dells Linux system is 69 percent faster [than Suns in internal benchmarks], but it cost 85 percent less," he said.

Dell said that computing fabrics (also known as grid computing) will play a factor in the future, but that concepts of IBMs autonomic computing may not. "Were not going to radically change our strategy in reaction to new marketing pitches from our competitors," said Dell. "We think fabric computing will be in the future. I dont see a massive shift in strategy."

After Dells short keynote presentation, he followed up with a scripted Q&A with an IDC analyst who mostly tossed softballs questions. However, Dell did manage to say that his company has done 22,000 Oracle installations this year and he sees that as "just the beginning."

Dell also said that Linux, a technology in which Dell is leveraging, is "in a gestation—an evolution." Dell said that Linuxs first wave was about key partners porting significant parts of their applications to Linux. "The next wave is with packaged applications."

Dell said hes putting more effort into professional services built around package application support. "In the last year, we have done 2,000 professional service arrangements—the kind of support that goes with these more mission critical applications."

The next softball question for Dell: "Why Dell?" The chairman and founder answered, "Part of the answer goes back to why would you [our customers] work with Dell anyway? I think the basic tenets that we have been able to bring to the market are actually appreciated across the entire spectrum of products and services and thats why weve been able to rapidly expand into the enterprise market."

Dell wrapped up by taking pot shots at Hewlett-Packard Co., whose CEO Carly Fiorina speaks at OracleWorld on Thursday. Dell said his company would avoid acquisitions.

"The vast majority of our growth has been organic," Dell said. "I expect it to stay that way. Weve made one or two small acquisitions…I think there are better ways to build a company than by smashing two companies together….I think the culture weve built over the last 18 years has been a significant factor in our success."