Arik Hesseldahl

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Oracle OpenWorld Starts With Faster Databases and New Hardware

larry_ellison_openworld2013Software giant Oracle kicked off its annual OpenWorld conference in San Francisco tonight with a big keynote speech by CEO Larry Ellison, during which he said the company has significantly boosted the speed at which its databases can run.

In a roughly 90-minute presentation, Ellison went on at length about how Oracle has shifted to so-called in-memory technology to speed up by as much as 100 times the databases that are the foundation of the company’s business. “Things that used to take hours can now be done in seconds,” he said.

Ellison also announced several new Oracle hardware products, including an appliance for backing up databases, and new systems based on a new generation of the SPARC processor known as the M6. The systems can support up to 32 terabytes of DRAM memory, allowing them to run entire applications in memory, the company said.

Ellison appeared in especially good spirits, given that Oracle Team USA won its two America’s Cup races today, forcing a 13th day of competition. More racing is scheduled for Monday.

Usually quick to slam his competition, Ellison did little of that tonight, though he did tweak IBM a few times. However, that didn’t prevent Oracle’s competitors, specifically SAP, from having rebuttal statements at the ready.

“It’s great to hear Larry singing from Hasso Plattner’s playbook, but Oracle is still missing the mark,” SAP spokesman Jim Dever said in an emailed statement, referring to SAP’s co-founder. “They are still trying to make queries run faster but missed the chance to simplify the data management at the same time.” SAP competes with Oracle in the area of business software and has recently also added in-memory products known as HANA.

Ellison then went on to criticize the conventional wisdom of building datacenters around commodity hardware. “If you look at where datacenters are going, everyone seems to want to buy Intel-based servers running virtualized Linux and core Ethernet. The conventional wisdom says that it’s cheap and good for anything. … It is cheap but it is not good for everything,” he said.

He argued that specialized hardware like Oracle’s Exa line can be combined with the commodity stuff for running specific applications, and doing so would, he said, yield some advantages.

“We think by designing the hardware and software together you get extreme performance and therefore you need fewer of them, and you spend less buying them. You use less floor space and less electricity running it. And you use less labor maintaining them,” he said.

Oracle has generally struggled with the hardware business it acquired from Sun Microsystems in 2010. Its commodity hardware business has been on the decline, while its new engineered systems lines — that would be the Exa family of products — haven’t grown fast enough to replace the slowing sales of the other.

(Image from Oracle’s PR Flickr stream.)


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