Oracle Unveils Powerful New SPARC Servers, Chips

CEO Larry Ellison touts the performance of the new midrange and high-end Solaris systems, but can they help bolster a flagging hardware business?

Oracle is rolling out new midrange and high-end servers powered by new SPARC processors that officials say are the fastest in the world.

At a Webcast event at the software giant's Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters, CEO Larry Ellison boasted that the SPARC T5 and M5 chips and the servers that they power are proof points that his company's controversial $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems three years ago is paying dividends.

"When Oracle bought Sun, a lot of people said, 'Gee, the SPARC [processor] was a laggard. It will never catch up,'" Ellison said to a roomful of analysts, journalists and employees. "We did catch up, and we passed [competitors]."

Oracle engineers were able to double the performance of the SPARC chips every year for the past there years, he said, and the results are the T5 and M5 and the systems they power—the midrange T5s systems (with two, four and eight sockets) and the high-end M5s servers (with 16 and 32 sockets). The systems outperform larger, more expensive Power servers from IBM running a range of enterprise applications, from databases to Java to Java middleware, all while using less power and taking up less space, Ellison said. In addition, the new servers offer as much as a tenfold performance improvement over Oracle's last-generation systems.

In particular, he pointed to the T5-8, an eight-socket system that Oracle claims is the fastest single system in the world, with price/performance advantages of 2.5 to 12 times that of particular IBM Power systems.

"There's not a single computer that can run a database faster," Ellison said.

Ellison and John Fowler, Oracle's executive vice president of systems, touted the engineering environment within the company that enables system developers to work closely with their software counterparts to develop servers that are optimized to run Oracle's enterprise applications, an idea of "engineered together" that company officials have been trumpeting since the Sun acquisition. Fowler, speaking at the event, called it a "lifestyle" within Oracle.

They have argued that having software optimized for the systems, and a Solaris operating system that can handle the demands of such systems, creates tightly integrated hardware-and-software packages that offer significantly more performance and cost-effectiveness than other systems. Over the past few years, Oracle has rolled out such systems as the Exadata database appliance and Exalogic Elastic Cloud product that officials have said are proof of this idea.

During his talk, Ellison said Oracle, with an eye toward continuing the ability to double the chip performance every year, will begin moving more software functions onto the silicon, enabling the chips to keep up with the demand for greater speed and efficiency. Oracle already does it with such tasks as encryption and decryption, he said.

"We ultimately are going to put database and Java accelerators right onto the chip," Ellison said. "We showed you, you can do this [with encryption and decryption]. Why can't you do it with the database?"

The result will be continued performance improvements, he said.

"We believe this will give us the ability to double our performance again and again and again," Ellison said. "We are a software company that also does silicon, and a silicon company that also does software."

Along with the new SPARC systems, Oracle launched two new optimized solutions, one for the company's database software and another for its WebLogic offering.

With the new SPARC T5 and M5 chips, Oracle was able to double the number of cores (from eight to 16), threads and cache over the previous T4s, as well as ramp up the frequency, according to Oracle. Now the T5-8 system offers 128 cores and more than 1,000 threads, while the M5-32 holds 192 cores, runs 1,536 threads and has up to 32 terabytes of memory.