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Larry Ellison on Oracle's Hardware/Software Data Center Fusion Vision; and Our Agreement on "the Cloud"

Posted by editor on September 22, 2010 at 5:24 PM PDT

Larry Ellison presented Oracle's vision of hardware and software fusion this afternoon, talking about servers, Solaris, Linux, Java, MySQL, and much more. Ellison said Oracle's research and development budget will exceed $4 Billion, "and why stop there?" The objective is to deliver complete, integrated systems, utilizing the host of components that are now are growing under the Oracle umbrella.

Larry highlighted the recent additions to Oracle's management, saying Oracle has never had such an experienced management team.

Larry returned to one of his pet peeves: the cloud. He cited comments from saying he doesn't understand "the cloud" because he (Larry) thinks everything runs on a box. Larry is quite common-sensical on this, in my view. A data center is a bunch of "boxes" -- I work in one. Believe me, calling it a "cloud" doesn't help us accomplish our 9's of uptime objective.

A big part of Larry's discussion was about the size of the boxes. Do you use thousands of small boxes (PCs), or might it be better to have just a few enormously powerful boxes (like the Exalogic Elastic Cloud box, which has 360 processing cores, and 30 separate servers all in one box). The Exalogic provides the fastest Java performance today. "Elastic" means that if you need more processing power, you just launch new JVMs -- rather than having to deploy new hardware.

The Exalogic can handle 1 Million HTTP requests per second, and 2 Million messages per second. Yet, according to Larry, the Exalogic requires only 20% of the hardware and software footprint compared with a standard small-box cloud. And, the Exalogic provides full fault tolerance -- there are no single points of failure.

Larry's next point is that all Exalogic machines are identical, which means there is a standard configuration that includes both hardware and software. This is the typical data center problem: your configuration is unique. Instead, with the Exalogic, Oracle provides the hardware and software as a unit, fully tested. You then run your apps on that base hardware / OS / JVM platform. A pretty nice idea, in my opinion.

I guess the Exalogic machines "phone home" -- patches will be automatically delivered to the entire network of Exalogic machines. Scary? I don't know if the patches will automatically be installed, but it sounds like you'll automatically be notified that a patch is available. But if the patches weren't automatically installed, then Oracle would quickly lose the advantage of everyone having the same configuration. So, it will be interesting to see what the licensing agreement will be, and what mechanism will be applied for delivering and installing patches.

50 Terabytes of data can be stored in Flash memory, meaning data access is very fast compared with disk-only data storage.

Oracle Linux will be 100% compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux -- but Oracle will fix bugs faster than Red Hat, Larry says. Beyond this, Oracle will be developing its own "Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel" -- which will provide extreme performance, extreme reliability, extreme security, and is also optimized for Oracle hardware and applications.

The next topic was business intelligence, CRM systems, ERP systems, etc. Then new user interfaces for those types of apps. Content of greater interest to business analysts than developers, I think... An interesting point was that Oracle's Fusion applications are available either for installation in your own data center, or from Oracle's cloud -- with exactly the same application, the same code base. Larry says this is unique.

From here on, the presentation became very Oracle-product-centric -- interesting from a business point of view, but kind of outside of's focus.

In the End

In the end, my thoughts go back to Larry's discussion of "the cloud." I think Larry Ellison is a quite pragmatic guy, a nuts and bolts guy, at his core. Why doesn't he like the term "the cloud"? Because he considers the term and image "the cloud" to be a mask that covers over the incredible difficulty that providing high availability and reliability and fault-tolerance entails. In a "la-di-da" world, yeah, "my app is running in the cloud, I have no worries" -- a tiny start-up company might think this, before they suddenly have an enormous surge of hits to their site.

Larry knows that without rock-solid fault-tolerance, that idea of what "the cloud" is, is an illusion. So, Larry says: "Ladies and Gentlemen, do you want rhapsodic visions, or something that works?"

I'm with Larry on this one. Give me hardware and software integration that works with complete fault-tolerance. I don't need a mask named "the cloud" to make me feel comfortable. In fact, if it's called "the cloud" I may worry that the vendor doesn't understand how difficult it is to actually deliver highly reliable availability. I might even think they're wearing rose-colored glasses that have a cloud imprinted on the lens!

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-- Kevin Farnham
Twitter: @kevin_farnham