Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Oracle Launches Exalytics Machine, Probably Ending Spat With Autonomy

In a way, you could sort of see how the mishegas that has gone on between Oracle and Autonomy over the last few days was leading up to some larger purpose. For Oracle, that is. It’s not every day that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison deliberately provokes a very public fight with another company that results in back-and-forth press releases, leaked emails, publication of previously confidential PowerPoint slides and so on.

But apparently it all did lead up to something. For those just tuning in, here’s how it went down.

About two weeks ago, on Oracle’s quarterly earnings conference call, Ellison was asked by an analyst about Oracle’s position in the market for analyzing and pulling useful intelligence from unstructured data — transcripts of videos and contents of emails, and scores of other things that aren’t neatly arranged in databases. It’s kind of a big deal, as companies grapple with the so-called “big data” problem, and the question was a natural jumping-off point to discussing Hewlett-Packard’s $11.7 billion acquisition of Autonomy. Ellison, by way of an answer, portrayed unstructured data as a feature of the existing Oracle database software, called it “nothing new,” and then slammed HP for paying too much for Autonomy, the British software firm whose specialty happens to be — you guessed it — unstructured data. And, oh, by the way, Ellison said he took a pass on Autonomy when it had been shopped to Oracle because he thought the price was too high.

Much drama then ensued. Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch said his company had never been shopped to Oracle. Not so, said Oracle — and oh, by the way, you left your PowerPoint slides behind. “Those slides?” Lynch countered. “Never seen ’em before in my life. Maybe you need some help with your unstructured data, because you seem confused at the sequence of events.”

You see, the spat occurred just a few days before Oracle OpenWorld, and got Oracle in stories containing the phrase “unstructured data” numerous times.

And what did Ellison talk about in his keynote address Sunday night? Lots of things. One of them was an appliance called the Exalytics Intelligence Machine that does — guess what? — unstructured data. It’s designed, Ellison said, to do all its analysis while the data is loaded into the machine’s main memory, while four 10-core Intel Xeon chips make it scream on the processor side. “Databases run faster, everything runs faster if you keep it in DRAM, if you keep it in main memory,” he said, describing it as data analysis at the “speed of thought.” Structured data, relational data, unstructured data — it does it all, Ellison said. Now all that mishegas makes sense. It’s all about having the last word.

Ellison’s keynote — an hour and change long — is below. If you want to skip forward to the Exalytics stuff, it starts at about the 57-minute mark.


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