Oracle’s boxes more about integration than innovation

Oracle did its best to paint its Exalytics data analytics and Big Data Appliances as game changers at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 this week. And they might be, for Oracle (s orcl).

But both boxes are all about Oracle taking existing IP assets that it acquired or open-sourced, and packaging them up with Intel (s intc) hardware and Infiniband network pipes.

That’s not to sell integration short: It’s harder to knit together hardware and various bits of software than putting old wine in new winebags (as one pundit put it.) But it’s important to realize that much of this stuff has been around for a while. Exalytics is essentially a bundle of the TimesTen in-memory database acquired by Oracle, Hyperion’s EssBase, acquired by Oracle, and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition suite or OBIEE. This is all part of Oracle CEO’s Larry Ellison’s push to deliver what he has called “iPods for the data center”–margin-rich, pre-integrated hardware-software for data processing.

Early thinking on  Exalytics’ prospects are mixed. Many observers said SAP’s HANA appliance, available since July,  has the edge. As analyst Scott Tiazkun, director at Pierre Audoin Consultants  wrote in a blog post:

“SAP’s HANA is an analytics appliance, database and an applications platform all in one. Data is stored in columns (not records), and runs queries under standard SQL, so it can fit under any relational database. Specifically, large customers can get exceptionally fast reporting from usage of HANA. This is because HANA is an in-memory appliance, and all of the data sits within the memory of the application itself. So the calculation engine for analytics also sits in-memory and calculates and crunches numbers in-memory.

Oracle’s Big Data Appliance pulls together what appears to be a version of Berkeley DB’s database (acquired by Oracle) as the NoSQL component, as well as open-source distributions of Hadoop and the R statistical language, as well as an  Oracle-branded  data integrator application adapter and loader  for Hadoop.

Oracle OpenWorld attendees said it only makes sense for Oracle to figure out how to integrate and “monetize” its multiple acquisitions, including last year’s $7 billion-plus buyout of Sun Microsystems. “OOW this year was more about getting some return on investment — but in this case not Oracle users’ investment but Oracle’s investment in Sun! No one can blame Oracle in doing this — it’s obvious they want to save the hardware business they bought. (I guess Mark Hurd needs to earn his oats),” Tiazkun said via email.

Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of  Constellation Research, said not to sell Oracle’s integration effort short. “The work required to put out Exalytics and make improvements to Exadata and Exalogic is not an easy feat,”he noted.

Availability is another question. Exalytics was promised for year’s end but it’s unclear when the Big Data appliance. No availability date or price was given.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Oracle_Photos_Screenshots