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Summary:

Along with all the big-iron appliance and big data hype at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 come a lot of questions. Is this Sparc resurgence for real? Is anyone buying Oracle’s soup-to-nuts software-hardware stack pitch? Can standalone business intelligence players survive? And just what is Oracle NoSQL anyway?

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As Oracle continues its stackapalooza at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 this week, here are my top five questions for the database-and-enterprise-apps giant as it forges into the cloud computing era.

1. How many companies are catching what Oracle’s pitching?

Monday morning, Oracle Co-President Mark Hurd once again touted the company’s soup-to-nuts stack. But his mantra, “Complete Stack, Complete Customer Choice” seems a bit oxymoronic on its face.

Oracle would love businesses to buy its upcoming Exalytic analytics appliance to massage their stats, Exadata for their database loads, Exalogic for their apps, and the newly announced Big Data Appliance to bring social network and other non-structured data into the fold. But that’s a pricey load of hardware.

There are companies that really want to source more of their IT hardware and software from fewer companies, if only to simplify procurement. But there are many more companies–among them some very big Oracle  database shops–that really don’t want to devote more of their budget to a company with support and maintenance policies they deplore. For them, vendor lock-in is worrisome; vendor lock in to Oracle is unthinkable.

Analyst Ray Wang said Oracle is right that engineered systems work better, as proven by Apple in the consumer world. “The question is whether or not Oracle can convince non diehard ‘redstack’ customers that the price and performance benefits are worth becoming an Oracle customer,” said Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research.

2. Just what is Oracle NoSQL anyway?

Is Oracle NoSQL based on Berkeley DB , the database company Oracle bought in 2006. Kinda. Here’s what a recent Oracle post has to say about that:

Oracle NoSQL Database leverages the Oracle Berkeley DB Java Edition High Availability storage engine to provide distributed, highly available key/value storage for large-volume, latency-sensitive applications or web services. It can also provide fast, reliable, distributed storage to applications that need to integrate with ETL processing.

3. Is a Sparc resurgence underway?

Most of Oracle’s fancy-pants appliances are, beneath it all, Intel machines. Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics–all run Intel Xeon chips (they also run Linux as well as Solaris). But with the fast Sparc T-4 chips which power Oracle’s new Sparc Supercluster, some beleaguered Sparc fans see reason for hope.

Supercluster builds on four four-socket Sparc T4 server nodes; Infiniband switches; ZFS storage appliances; and comes in half-or full-rack configuration.

4. Is there room for independent business intelligence/analytics players?

With Oracle, SAP, and  IBM all backing their own in-house or acquired BI and analytics, what happens to standalone players?

And by standalone players, I mean SAS Institute, the privately held pioneer in high-end analytics? IBM bought SPSS and Netezza; EMC bought GreenPlum; SAP bought BusinessObjects; and Oracle bought Hyperion (and has put Essbase into the new Exalytics box), so the field is otherwise pretty much clear.

5. How long will the era of peaceful co-opetition between Oracle and EMC last?

EMC Chairman Joe Tucci and Lieutenant Pat Gelsinger raised eyebrows talking about how many Oracle shops are heavily virtualized. Interesting, given how Oracle’s stated support policies pretty much leave VMware  users out in the cold. Oracle supports virtualization, provided it’s Oracle virtualization.

Gelsinger, president and COO of EMC’s Information Infrastructure Product group, also helped show off a GreenPlum big data demo. When it comes to big data appliances, EMC and Oracle are on a collision course. Right now, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is happy taking pot shots at IBM and HP, but things could get interesting with EMC-Oracle relationship going forward.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Emma, Michael and Elway’s Excellent Adventures

  1. As a member of the SAS team bringing our SAS High-Performance Analytics appliance to market, I believe there is a greater need than ever for independent BI and analytics companies who, through analytics, can help organizations turn huge volumes of data – from any database, on any hardware and in any format — into better, faster and more accurate business decisions. At SAS, we provide the best analytics on the market and work closely with our many partners, including Oracle, to ensure customers can turn Big Data into bottom-line results.

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    1. Hi tapan, i would like to follow up w/ you on this after OOW. I’ll find your email or you can ping me at barb dot darrow at gigaom.com

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