Oracle Remains Committed To Building Intel-Based Servers, Hardware Chief Says

In a keynote session at Oracle OpenWorld Tuesday, John Fowler, executive vice president of systems, sought to clarify comments Ellison made in an earnings call about Oracle's x86-based server business. The comments generated some controversy given that a number of Oracle Sun servers are based on Intel technology -- including the recently unveiled Oracle Database Appliance that's designed for the channel.

"You'll see us continue to build server technology using all the latest Intel processors," Fowler promised.

In a conference call with financial analysts Sept. 20 to discuss Oracle's fiscal first-quarter results, Ellison and President Mark Hurd emphasized Oracle's focus on selling what the company calls "engineered systems," which combine Sun hardware with Oracle software, and high-performance servers such as the recently announced SPARC SuperCluster. Oracle is exiting the commodity x86-based server business dominated by Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

"I don't care if our commodity x86 [server] business goes to zero," Ellison said on the call. "We don't make any money selling those things. Sun sold that stuff and we are phasing out that business."

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"And that, of course, generated a lot of calls to my office," Fowler said Tuesday, referencing what he described as "some rather interesting comments [from Ellison] about Intel that he doesn't care as much about the Intel server business."

The earnings call came the same day Oracle unveiled its Oracle Database Appliance, which is based on the Intel-based Sun Fire server. Oracle's Exadata database server, perhaps the company's most visible hardware product, is based on Intel Xeon processors.

Fowler, in his keynote, sought to make clear that Oracle will continue to develop Intel-based systems and that Ellison was referring only to the company's plans to phase out sales of commodity servers.

"As you can probably see, we have an enormous amount of activities here with Intel in the software stack," Fowler said, referring to the Oracle software products -- from operating systems and database software to middleware and applications -- the company is loading onto hardware servers. "I just want to be clear [about] what we are doing with Intel. We see Intel as a key building block for building a full family of systems as we build these engineered systems, as well as standalone products today.

"What we aren't focused on is the large-scale, commodity x86 server business running, for example, the Windows operating system, in places where we can't add value," he said. "Our value is enterprise computing [built] around a higher-level software stack, mission-critical reliability and scale. And so you'll see us continue to build server technologies using all the latest Intel processors with whatever scale we need," he continued.

"You'll see a constant focus on Intel. Don't think of us as just a commodity play. You want to think of us as adding value with the software stack, in the hardware engineering, with engineered systems to create better end results as we've done with Exadata, as we've done with the Oracle Database Appliance, as we've done with all [Intel-based] systems and servers," he concluded.