Dell, Oracle Make Cluster Push

Dell and Ellison claim clusters of smaller servers will overtake larger proprietary systems as the predominant architecture in all aspects of enterprise data centers.

NEW YORK—Clusters of smaller, Intel-based servers will continue to overtake larger proprietary systems over the next few years, eventually becoming the predominant architecture in all aspects of enterprise data centers.

That was the message delivered on Wednesday by Michael Dell and Larry Ellison during a press conference here.

In announcing their companies growing relationship, Dell, the chairman and CEO of Dell Computer Corp., and Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp., said the low costs, easy deployment and high reliability of clustered, standards-based systems convince more and more businesses to migrate their data centers from proprietary Unix-based servers.

"[The advantages] are simply too great to ignore, particularly in times of economic turmoil, like were in now," Dell told an audience of more than 100 reporters and analysts. "Proprietary systems will continue to become the exception and the niche."

At the press conference, Dell and Ellison announced that their companies will begin offering low-cost clusters for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, will sell a PowerEdge server and storage platform specifically optimized for the Oracle9i Database, which includes Real Application Clusters. The Oracle technology is designed to enable applications to view multiple clusters of servers as a single server.

The offering, starting at $18,000, will run both Red Hat Inc.s Linux and Microsoft Corp.s Windows platforms. The storage aspects will either be entry-level CX200 arrays—a joint product from Dell and EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, Mass.—or Dells PowerVault SCSI disk enclosures.

The goal, according to Dell officials, is to give smaller businesses an entry point into clusters, which are multiple systems tied together and designed to run as one.

Dell and Oracle also are partnering on a series of services for such tasks as migrating from Unix to Linux for Oracle9i Database, database mirroring and disaster recovery planning.

Aside from that news, the gist of the press conference was to push the vision of data centers powered by clusters of multiple two- and four-processor systems, rather than fewer, larger proprietary servers, with the CEOs obvious—but unspoken—target being Sun Microsystems Inc.