“A lot of people said we were going to get out of the hardware business when we bought Sun,” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said on Sunday during the opening keynote at the company’s massive OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. “But I guess we didn’t get the memo.”
The overarching theme for this week’s show is “Hardware and Software: Engineered to Work Together,” and Ellison drove the point home time and again during his keynote, painting his company as a kind of Apple for the enterprise. Last week, Oracle introduced new hardware based on the Sun Sparc T4 processor, and on Sunday night, the boss introduced another hardware contraption: Exalytics, an in-memory analytics appliance that provides heavy parallel processing.
But this wasn’t the first order of business. As it typical of Ellison’s OpenWorld, the night began in what he might call grand style, with representatives from the San Francisco Giants presenting him with an honorary World Series ring. Then came a video of the Oracle World Cup sailing team tearing through rough seas, complete with heavy metal soundtrack. Somehow, this set the mood for the hardware-meets-software pitch.
Ellison equated Oracle’s marriage of hardware and software with the Apple way. “If you design the hardware and software in concert, you do a better job than if one company designs the operating system, another company comes up with the VM, another company comes up with the database,” he said. “Apple, for example, is doing a pretty good job of designing hardware and software and online services that work well together.”
But the analogy was muddled at best, and taking cues from someone else — and a consumer technology company no less — seemed out of character for the normally heading-sure Ellison. Later, he muddled a few baseball jokes as well, and at one point he squinted and admitted he couldn’t read his own slides. Apparently, he was a little worse for wear after his son’s wedding on Saturday.
The presentation was largely a statistics-heavy roundup of Oracle’s Exadata and Exalogic machines and a review of what he and Oracle announced last week with its new SPARC T4 servers. The one consistent message was parallel execution. While favorably comparing his machines to hardware from IBM and HP in terms of both speed and cost, Ellison stressed that the future of computing power lies in parallel hardware and software.
“How do we make this thing go 10 times faster? Parallel everything,” Ellison said. “Lots and lots of parallel network connections moving enormous amounts of data in parallel.”
He argued that even though both hardware and software can break, if each are designed to run in parallel, those failures should only be noticed in terms of speed — not uptime — as the overall system will remain functional.
Ellison provided few details on Exalytics, but he did boast that it operated at the “speed of thought.” The system is designed to rapidly analyze data. It’s essentially an Oracle Sun Fire X4470 M2 server designed to provide parallel execution for the company’s TimesTen relational OLTP database, its Essbase multidimensional OLAP database, and associated analytics tools. For added speed, both of these databases operate in-memory, rather than on flash drives or old-fashioned hard drives.
Over the course of his speech, Ellison rarely mentioned cloud computing. Though much of the enterprise technology world has been quick to associate itself with the buzz word, Oracle has a history of staying at arm’s length from the term, preferring to ride the notion that no matter where you put your data, it has to be stored with some sort of hardware and software.
Ellison and SalesForce.com CEP Marc Benioff had a famous back-and-forth two years ago when Benioff said you couldn’t put a cloud in a box, a shot at Oracle’s Exalogic. During his closing remarks, Ellison fired back. Yet again. “Well, what does Marc think SalesForce runs on, if not a box?” he asked.
Benioff, along with other big names in tech like Michael Dell, are slated to talk at OpenWorld this week.