Oracle today announced a slew of new products that, at least on paper, deliver one of the most comprehensive enterprise computing solutions around. The company has extended the concept of “stack” further than any other technology player, by covering the hardware from compute to storage, and every piece of software in between. While competitors like HP and potentially IBM, Dell, or Cisco might one day get there, Oracle appears far ahead of the other big technology vendors aiming to deliver the next-generation infrastructure for the data center. Currently, many of the hardware players will still have to turn to VMware if they can’t do the software themselves. Oracle has built and bought what it needs to go it alone.
More specifically, Oracle announced the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, a tightly coupled hardware and software appliance that packs the most powerful CPUs, gobs of DRAM, InfiniBand networking, solid state drives, and high-capacity SATA drives into a server. The configurations come in quarter-, half-, and full-rack configurations and can scale up to eight racks total. The specifications are indeed impressive, if you like the expensive hardware approach. Make no mistake; this is not the direction of scale-out, commodity hardware that many people refer to around cloud computing.
Instead, Oracle has positioned Exalogic as the one stop shop to provision virtual machines, middleware, and applications, to offer a tightly integrated hardware and software solution that will be beneficial for a large number of companies that don’t want to assemble their own infrastructure layers. Essentially, this is Oracle’s build-your-own private cloud for the Fortune 1000 set.
But Exalogic is just one piece of the overall puzzle. Oracle intends to couple many other pieces that should, in theory, provide a cloud-like infrastructure within a corporation. This includes its own version of Linux, dubbed Unbreakable Linux, an option that breaks away from strict Red Hat compatibility in order to take advantage of complimentary hardware and software capabilities, or a version of Oracle Solaris. Additionally, Oracle is touting Exalogic integration with WebLogic, its Java application platform, and Coherence, its distributed data manager. And of course, there’s Exadata, the precursor to Exalogic, which supports high-capacity, data-intensive workloads.
So what does this dizzying array of announcements mean? Here are my takeaways:
There’s still big business in integration. Plenty of customers have no interest or intent to qualify different hardware components, test for compatibility, manage configurations and optimize for performance. A pre-configured solution makes those headaches go away. Yes, cost is a factor (integration doesn’t come cheap), but obviously, not for everyone.
Java will be the money-maker for cloud computing over the next few years. There’s a reason VMware focuses on Java, that Google App Engine added Java, and that Oracle now emphasizes Java performance. Enterprises pay big bucks for Java speed, and those moving to cloud architectures want as much Java performance as they can get.
The proverbial “you can move your apps” card must be there. Similar to VMware and its emphasis on application portability to VMforce or AppEngine, Oracle is also making application portability possible to Amazon EC2. Oracle plans to create specific Amazon Machine Instances for Oracle apps.
More tightly coupled solutions simplify an increasingly complex stack. With architects now needing to plan for compute, middleware, data processing and analytics all at the same time, the complexity can be overwhelming. Oracle aims to simplify that by providing a set of pre-configured options for those that want to focus more on their business and less on their technology.
Specs still sell. Oracle’s news announcements about Exalogic and Exadata read like a sports car fanatic’s wish list. The underlying components still matter to many, and Oracle has spared no expense to make sure they include all the bells and whistles.
All in all, the payoff from the hardware and expertise acquired from Sun appears to be showing. Oracle has amassed a comprehensive stack that covers the major software layers, plus an impressive array of server and storage power. Oracle’s expertise in middleware shouldn’t be discounted as the race to improve the various Platforms-as-a-Service continues.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Oracle, and as I also mentioned, for VMware following VMworld, will be how to continue sales momentum with a product line that includes much more than traditional Oracle software markets. But don’t discount Larry Ellison in any of this. Though he mocked the cloud-washing early on, his company now has a comprehensive cloud portfolio. He knew hardware would be needed to compete with HP, IBM, Dell, and Cisco; he got a snazzy portfolio on the cheap in Sun; and he knows how to pull in top executive talent to keep the machine moving forward. This game is far from over.
Gary Orenstein is the Host of The Cloud Computing Show.
Image via Flickr user yatra.
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