Oracle Plans Minimal, If Any, Response To 64-Bit SQL Server

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Microsoft may be pulling out all the stops for its 64-bit database Thursday, but if you ask Oracle, this is a non-event.

While Microsoft is scaling its database up for use on bigger iron--SMP boxes running the latest-generation 64-bit Itanium chips--Oracle appears to be heading in the opposite direction, placing more emphasis and resources on Linux running on standard two- and four-processor servers, parlaying its Real Application Clustering (RAC) on commodity hardware.

In a series of interviews with CRN Tuesday, one executive after another repeated that the company plans no direct response to Microsoft's 64-bit SQL challenge. Microsoft has positioned that database as proof that SQL Server is ready for the enterprise.

Oracle, along with virtually every other ISV, will announce support for Microsoft's new 64-bit Windows 2003 Server operating system, but as just one of its premier platforms. And over the past year, it has turned up the heat on its Linux efforts, forging joint support alliances with vendors Red Hat and UnitedLinux and touting the ability of its Linux database to satisfy even enterprise computing needs. Oracle on Linux is also a way for Oracle to better compete in midsize companies without a ton of IT resources because of Linux's apparent low cost of ownership.

"Windows 2003 is not a revolutionary operating system. It's incremental improvements. It's good to have 64-bit support for better performance and scalability--there's value in that--but this is not a market mover in any way," said Robert Shimp, vice president of database marketing at Oracle, based here.

Shimp and other Oracle executives said Microsoft has flip-flopped on its scalability message, now touting "scale-up" rather than "scale-out" improvements. "If you look at what Microsoft said in 1997 at its Scalability Day [event] it was to scale out. They said, 'Don't use SMP--applications will hit a knee in the curve, and you have to pay more to scale up.'

"Now they're back to SMP. Get out your disco ball and leisure suit--Microsoft has taken you back to 1985," Shimp quipped.

Oracle, with its roots in Unix databases, has offered 64-bit support for years.

Oracle's emphasis is providing small and large enterprises the option of using its database on an inexpensive operating system on inexpensive hardware.

"People will come up with more and more esoteric ways to scale up to 128 or more processors but ultimately more will move to smaller systems clustered together. The advent of [server] blades, Linux [and] InfiniBand are converging to create a hardware architecture for virtualization," Shimp said.

Even as Oracle stresses the importance of commodity hardware, its own engineers are helping build up Linux to scale to more processors. "Most production systems are four and eight way. ... They handle large loads but are not super high-end. You'll see us push Linux onto large-memory 32-way NUMA type systems. ... Today we know Linux can scale to more than eight [CPUs] but we have to prove it. We have to go and fix large memory support and large disk support on higher-end platforms," said Wim Coekaerts, director of Linux engineering at Oracle.

While Oracle has seen increased competition from Microsoft and IBM in databases, the company still leads the field in market share, according to IDC.

Oracle executives also maintain that the company leads the field in technological advances, including the integration of OLAP into the core database engine. "With Oracle 9i, the OLAP and database engines are the same thing," said Ray Roccaforte, vice president of server development for business intelligence information retrieval and bioinformatics at Oracle.

Customers may not have gotten that message fully yet, but more of that integral OLAP functionality will come to the fore when Oracle ships its upcoming Enterprise Planning and Budgeting application, Roccaforte said. That software, due later this year, will be the replacement version for the current Sales Analyzer and Financial Analyzer application. "This is our foray into Corporate Performance Management--a new buzzword built around the notion of key performance indicators and the need for an application to model the business and do planning," he said.

Such applications will enable a business to figure out allocations according to different conditions. "I've got X dollars to spend, here's how I spend them to get this return," he said.

That application will be a "showcase" for Oracle 9i's integral OLAP capabilities, Roccaforte said.

As to whether Oracle needs to explicitly respond to the new 64-bit SQL Server, he added: "No. In fact, I think they're reacting to us."

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