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Simplify, simplify

Oracle’s plan to take over the world is all about simplicity.

BY  Paul Furber , 3 January 20120 comments

Larry Ellison, Oracle, was famously sceptical about cloud just a few years ago, but that may change soon.Larry Ellison, Oracle, was famously sceptical about cloud just a few years ago, but that may change soon.


There were no visionary statements by Larry Ellison at Oracle OpenWorld this year, no announcement of grand plans for his company, no advice to CIOs or CEOs, no look at the IT industry as a whole. Instead it was all about product. Oracle announced a few new products at its annual San Francisco OpenWorld function and Ellison waxed lyrical about some of the speeds and feeds for nearly an hour.

New compression techniques and better integration give Oracle’s solutions performance bumps of up to 50 times, he said. Parallelism of both its hardware and software architectures can increase performance by up to 100 times.

“If you compress the data, magic things happen. You only have to buy one-tenth the disk when everything is compressed. You also only have to move one-tenth of the data. And because we move data ten times faster, those tens multiply into 100 times faster than everyone else in this business. But you can take that advantage in either performance or cost savings.”

It helps now that Oracle is a hardware company.

“If we design the software and hardware in concert, you can do a better job than if one company designs the operating system, another does the VM, and another does the database. Apple is doing a pretty good job designing hardware, software and online services to work together. If that works for consumers, who are very demanding because it’s their own money they’re spending, then we thought it could work for us to build better performance at a lower cost if we engineered things to work together.”

But at the bottom of everything, he said, was parallelism.

“To reduce cost and increase performance, we started with a fundamental architecture of ‘parallel everything’,” he said. “There are limits in physics to how fast a single processor can go. Disk drives can go only so fast and we all buy essentially the same disk drives. We all use the same flash drives and it’s available to all of us who build computer hardware. So we have to have lots of separate servers and we have to have lots of separate storage servers.”

Oracle is certainly not unaware of the challenges faced by CIOs, Ellison’s silence notwithstanding. Most of the guest speakers at OpenWorld, including EMC CEO Joseph Tucci and Dell CEO Michael Dell, mentioned the deluge of unstructured data that’s coming down the line as well the possibility for cloud technologies to mitigate some of the challenges.

“A study from IDC called the ‘Digital Universe’ has predicted that between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019, information generated will grow 44 times,” said Tucci. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a study measured in zettabytes: that’s a one followed by 21 zeros. The study also said that 90 percent of that will be unstructured. This data will come from video rendering, video surveillance, geophysical sequencing, tax data, smart grids, and mobile devices. We’re talking about zettabyte scales moving around in petabyte chunks.”

Less complexity

But Oracle’s primary vision is about simplicity. You need business intelligence for your global enterprise? Here it is as an appliance. You need analytics? Here’s an appliance. You need more capacity? Plug in another server or storage component into a massively parallel system. Loïc le Guisquet, Oracle’s VP for the EMEA region, says less complexity enables greater innovation.

“So we’re trying to pre-integrate more and more components in the stack so that they’re ready to go. That’s a big difference from what happens currently where people choose database, operating system, middleware and analytics and stitch them together.”

There are three major reasons that companies need to innovate.

“First is the cloud. A major factor that’s driving change is what our customers do and how they deploy systems. Second is social networking at large. There are Generation Y people arriving in the enterprise and all the analysts say that by 2020, roughly half the workforce will be from this generation. Those people are hitting the workforce and they have a totally different expectation about how IT systems should behave and what work environments should be. Also, their work and private lives are very blurred and IT systems need to be able to cope with that. The final driver is big data. The quantity of data collected is growing exponentially. If we were to put all of the data we had now in the world in paper, it would go to Pluto and back ten times. By 2020, we guess there will be 35 exabytes on hard drives. We need to manage that and find value in it.”

And the cloud? Ellison was famously sceptical about the concept just a few years ago. But that’s changed. Oracle had not yet announced any firm plans for the cloud at the time of going to print, but it does indicate that there are plans and they’re comprehensive. And it doesn’t take a huge leap to guess that they will involve some ground-up engineered parallel solution that large enterprises can just plug in and go. Perhaps that’s why Ellison doesn’t need to waste time with visions of the industry.


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