Oracle unveils first-ever hardware product

The company has entered the hardware market for the first time, with a storage server designed to work with the company's databases and be used in a grid
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison on Wednesday unveiled the company's 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 rollout, which was cooked up in a partnership with HP, 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 in San Francisco, said large databases are creating a fundamental problem: disk-storage systems can't 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 1TB (terabyte) you will notice data-bandwidth slippage. At 10TB, storage systems crawl. "At 1TB 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 datacentres.

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

Oracle's move could be disruptive in the storage market and with players such as 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 don't want to configure the systems. The initial machine has 168TB of disk data and 64 Intel cores.

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