Oracle enters hardware market

The product is a result of three years of development with partner Hewlett-Packard, and a year of testing with key customers including Google.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison unveiled Wednesday its first ever hardware product--a storage server with embedded software designed to work with the company's databases and be used in a grid.

The Exadata programmable storage server aims to put database intelligence next to each drive.

The hardware roll-out, which was cooked up in a partnership with Hewlett-Packard, is aimed at the emerging problem of moving data from hard drives to database servers. The storage server took three years of development with HP and has been tested for about a year with key customers such as Google.

Ellison, speaking at Oracle's OpenWorld conference, said large databases are creating a fundamental problem: disk storage systems cannot cope with data that has to be moved off of drives to database servers. He called it a "data bandwidth problem".

As data gets larger the slowdowns become more unbearable, at one terabyte you will notice data bandwidth slippage. At 10 terabytes, storage systems crawl. "At one terabyte the problem rears its ugly head and it gets worse every year," said Ellison.

Ellison outlined query processing and how Oracle's embedded software will handle query processing and other functions more efficiently. Oracle is hoping to sell its storage hardware as part of a grid. Drives will be searched in parallel also.

With the move, Oracle is copying Apple's model to a degree. Ellison is arguing that combined hardware and software efforts can be more effective. Instead of the consumer market, where Apple's secret sauce is tightly integrated in hardware and software for Macs and iPods, Oracle is coupling its database software with custom hardware to revamp data centers.

The Exadata storage server will be immediately available on Linux running on Intel, but Ellison noted other flavors for various platforms "are on the way".

Oracle's move could be disruptive in the storage market and with players like EMC and IBM, since it can offer a joint-software hardware sale and leverage its HP's partnership. HP and Oracle are also rolling out an "Oracle database machine", designed for customers that do not want to configure the systems. The initial machine has 168 terabytes of disk data and 64 Intel cores.

This article was first published as a blog on ZDNet.com.

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