Oracle's Ellison: We Have A New Weapon In Our Arsenal, And It's Price

Larry Ellison unveiled the next generation of Oracle's converged systems at the company's Redwood City, Calif., headquarters Wednesday, claiming the new appliances for powering data centers offer unrivaled performance at the industry's lowest price.

Ellison, Oracle's chairman and CTO, said the X5 line in what Oracle dubs its "engineered systems" takes aim at a market in which Cisco Systems and EMC have enjoyed much success. With the new products, he said, Oracle can offer the highest-performing hardware at much lower costs, all integrated with InfiniBand fabric, software-defined networking and optimized to run the Oracle software stack.

Leading the charge are the new Virtual Compute Appliance (VCA) X5, which can pair with the FS1 Flash Storage System, and the sixth generation of the Exadata line of database machines.

[Related: Oracle Cloud Exec Touts Channel Opportunities With PaaS, SaaS Offerings]

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The new offerings represent a change in strategy, Ellison told partners, customers and Oracle staff.

Previously, Oracle sought to achieve the highest performance and the best cost-performance. The new strategy is to add the industry's lowest list price to those differentiators, Ellison said.

"We've really never aimed at the lowest-possible purchase price with our engineered systems," he said.

Ellison conceded "the idea was invented" by Cisco and EMC of going after that "two-socket core of the data center" with extremely affordable, pre-packaged, pre-engineered systems. Oracle will now "aggressively compete" in that space, he said, adding that with the lowest purchase price, all the other features and performance upgrades are "gravy."

The VCA X5, with newly introduced hardware and software capabilities, can be deployed in a few hours. It's 50 percent cheaper than Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), Ellison said, "and we're really interested in pursuing that business."

"When you pair VCA with FS1, you pay half as much, but you have to be willing to go twice as fast," Ellison told the audience, drawing some snickers.

The general computing system's software and hardware elements were designed and tested to work optimally together, creating a highly available, fully redundant and fault-tolerant environment with no single point of failure.

"We do the integration so you don't have to," Ellison said, adding that by taking advantage of application templates included as part of the software stack, solution providers can deploy applications in minutes.

VCA comes with 27 two-socket servers powered by the latest Intel chips, which accumulates to almost 1,000 cores. It's all internally connected with InfiniBand and controlled by software-defined networking.

While the hardware costs half the price of Cisco's solution, the total system price stacks up even better, Ellison said. That's because the entire software stack comes from one vendor, Oracle, and is free of purchase fees of the kind required to incorporate VMware software.

"Apples to apples, we are less than a third of their purchase price. By the way, it runs much faster," Ellison repeated.

The appliance is designed to run "everything in a data center" and not just Oracle's middleware, database and analytics software, Ellison added.

"You reconfigure and expand by changing settings in a file. The whole network is defined by software so you wire it once and you're done," he told attendees.

Taking a cue from "what Cisco has done very effectively," Oracle engineered all components to work optimally in unison. And patching is far easier since no one has to deal with multiple hardware and software vendors, he said.

"We test all these pieces together before we ship them to you. We know that they work," Ellison said.

NEXT: The Next Exadata

Oracle's workhorse appliance and its first-ever self-engineered system is the Exadata Database Machine. Ellison revealed the sixth-generation Exadata platform for running Oracle's database software.

The X5 is the first in the line to offer multitenancy, virtualized environments and an elastic configuration where single servers can be added instead of pre-fixed rack sizes.

"You can integrate one compute server and one storage server at a time. You can create your own configurations, optimize for different attributes. Can optimize configuration for load," Ellison said.

The X5 throws out the previous version's high-performance disk drive and replaces it with all-flash memory for the same price. The new processors are 50 percent faster, and so is the maximum memory capacity.

Ellison claimed Oracle "can't find anything within a factor of 10 as fast for analytics" on the market.

He also introduced Extreme Flash Storage Server X5-2, a new product offering ultra-fast PCI Express flash drives that can be configured to work with Exadata X5.

Ellison ran through some of the other products in the X5 line.

Oracle has sold thousands of its Database Appliance but wants to sell millions with the new version, which offers improved hardware and software to deliver better reliability, performance and ease of use, he said.

The Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance X5 was engineered to work with Oracle's database, and among other new attributes, eliminates exposure to data loss between backup intervals by transferring database logs to the recovery appliance. That allows the system to be restored to any point in time, Ellison said, adding, "this is about as no-brainer an appliance as we have."

Exalogic X5-2, designed as a private cloud for applications and middleware, offers the same software that runs on Oracle's cloud, allowing seamless application portability.

The Big Data Appliance X5-2 for running Hadoop and NoSQL also comes with new software, including something called BigSQL that allows users to join Hadoop, NoSQL and relational databases.

"You get all this if you're willing to pay less, but only if you're willing to pay less," Ellison quipped.

NEXT: A Data Center Solution

Secure-24, a managed services provider based in Southfield, Mich., recently integrated Oracle's engineered systems into its two data centers -- one in Michigan and another in Las Vegas.

The company now has one fully configured VCA operating in each data center along with a storage array connected to the compute node by InfiniBand, said CEO Mike Jennings.

Secure-24's legacy environments were running Cisco's UCS and EMC VMax with Cisco switching, along with VMware and Red Hat software and a proprietary orchestration layer built using VMware orchestrator, Jennings told CRN.

"Before, we had to go spec and integrate all those things -- rack, stack and cable," Jennings said, a process typically occupying three workers for a month.

The new VCAs were rolled into both data centers and within two hours were running a 12c Oracle database, Jennings told CRN.

"That's the deployment side," Jennings said. "As to the management side, for Oracle workloads especially, now we have an entirely supported stack through the software layer where we can work with Oracle on any problem."

Jennings said Secure-24 has come up with the name "Universes" for the "Vblock-type environments" they build with Cisco, Red Hat and EMC components.

The last time Secure-24 built a Universe from the ground up, the company spent approximately $5 million. The two VCAs provided the equivalent compute and storage, and cost approximately $1.5 million, he told CRN.

"It was great to hear Larry say today, 'Hey, we are going to drive low-cost computing'," Jennings added.

Secure-24 had never before deployed Exadata boxes.

"Today we heard [with Exadata] you're going to get flash for the same cost as spinning disk, virtualization and multitenancy. As a security vendor, we need multitenancy," Jennings said.

Those upgrades will make Exadata a likely future purchase for Secure-24. Jennings said his CTO, watching the webcast of Ellison's speech, "texted me and said this is awesome because it's something we've been wanting to use."

Before leaving the stage, Ellison shared some thoughts on the future of IT, telling attendees clouds will get bigger and more popular, but the data center isn't going anywhere, so it needs to become more compatible with the public cloud.

The "data center of the future" will offer the combination of converged infrastructure with engineered systems with a public cloud component, he said.

"Everybody's talking about the cloud, but people are not doing a terrific job of connecting," Ellison told attendees. "You have to have the ability to move an application from the cloud to the data center and to the cloud again easily and gracefully."

"That is the future. That is what we're working on. That is what we'll continue to work on," Ellison said in closing.