Oracle challenges IBM to hardware race

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Oracle challenges IBM to hardware race
Larry Ellison was panned by many at the conference for his opening keynote (Credit: Oracle)

Keynote falls short.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has challenged IBM to a microprocessor race during his opening keynote at the vendor's annual conference.

In an hour-long keynote that focused largely on the company's hardware line, Ellison pointed to increased research and development spend on microprocessor speed as an indication of its ambition to one-up Big Blue.

"We want to take IBM on in their strongest suit," Ellison said.

"We now beat them in Java and we want to beat them in integer arithmetic."

Ellison said the performance of Oracle's T4 processor introduced last week surpassed that of IBM's equivalent silicon hardware using an undisclosed benchmark.

Though Oracle marketing had referred to "competing processors", Ellison removed some obscurities, singling out IBM and its P795 server as a core target for the new T4 chip and clusters.

The T5 version of the chip, due next year, would double the performance of the T4 in a further attempt to claim the server performance crown from IBM.

Ellison said any continuing shortfalls in the raw performance of Oracle's competing chip could be overcome in the server's data compression algorithms, Infiniband networking and heavy emphasis on "parallelised architecture" of multiple products.

Sun buy an Apple play

Ellison defended its hardware arm, bought for $US7.4 billion from Sun Microsystems.

He hinted the buy was an attempt to to mimic Apple's vertical integration strategy between hardware and software for consumer products, for the enterprise.

"I remember when we first bought Sun a lot of people said, 'Oh they're just going to get out of the hardware business'. I guess we didn't get the memo," he said.

"Apple, for example, is doing a pretty good job designing hardware and software and online services that work together. We said, 'Hey, that works for consumers, who you can argue are very demanding in terms of something that's easy to use, and delivers a lot of money'."

Ellison pointed to the increased sales of Oracle's Sun-branded Exadata and Exalogic products as an example of Oracle's focus on "engineered systems" appliances built specifically for Oracle's software products, and to the latest SPARC Supercluster launched last week.

Two new appliances

Ellison used his keynote to introduce a fourth hardware appliance - an in-memory analytics server dubbed "Exalytics".

Oracle server technology senior vice-president Thomas Kurian used the second-day keynote to unveil a fifth appliance focused on 'Big Data' that tied into Oracle's Hadoop tools based on existing Exadata hardware.

The reaction

Analyst firm Ovum's research fellow Carter Lusher said Oracle's CEO had missed an opportunity to clearly articulate the company's vision.

"Rather, the crowd in attendance was subjected to mind numbing technical specifications about Oracle’s Exadata and Exalogic appliances," Lusher said.

"This recitation of specs was a missed opportunity." CEO Marc Benioff labelled the keynote a "low bar" for the conference.

Benioff was the target of criticism by Ellison at last year's keynote. He was expected to take the stage at the conference on Wednesday.

Twitter users boiled Ellison's speech into a 60-second video based on some of his themes and repeated catch crys.

James Hutchinson travelled to OpenWorld 2011 as a guest of Oracle.

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