Server Room Management in a Post-Sun Oracle World
February 19, 2010
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What a pleasure it is to bring you a Sun/Oracle snapshot after such a long period of uncertainty. And what a relief it is to learn that Oracle isn't planning to mess with Sun's extensive server lineup.
Currently, there are more or less the same number of servers compared to our previous Sun snapshot in May 2008. Faster processors and more memory are to be expected over such a period, but little else is new (as the table that follows this article illustrates). While normally this would be a bone of contention, it is reassuring to see Sun hardware products in the real world that will continue as before at least for now.
The first big change, though, is the Web site location. Oracle has ported all the Sun links over to its own domain. But the Sun name remains a smart move on Oracle's part.
What is likely to happen over time, though, is a relegation of servers into mere building blocks as part of larger solution sets targeted at specific verticals and packaged with Oracle databases and applications.
"It's been about building complete systems at Oracle," said Charles Phillips, president of Oracle. "Customers are looking for complete integrated and engineered systems."
Oracle's vision is to take much of the manual grind out of IT. By providing pre-packaged modules that can easily be slotted into the data center, it aims to own far more real-estate than before.
Phillips pointed out that the most significant breakthroughs in recent times have concerned the various interactions between the layers of the IT stack. Oracle's logic, therefore, is that instead of having separate companies at each layer that then somehow have to cobble things together, why not have one company that spans the layers?
"Instead of finger pointing, we will take care of the product and can resolve issues quickly," said Phillips.
Oracle now has a big presence in five layers application, middleware, database, the OS and virtualization. Much of its engineering effort is going into making those layers work well together. Look out, therefore, for packages that certify all layers together for a specific market.
Another aspect of this is continuous monitoring from the vendor to verify everything is running as it should. Customers will be alerted on potential issues.
More on server room management
The company plans to spend billions of R&D dollars in realizing this goal. A big part of this is earmarked for Sun.
"We will make Sun the gold standard for computing servers underneath our product for servers and storage," said Phillips.
If this all goes to plan, expect to see plenty of announcements from Oracle about new performance and transactional records on the various benchmarks. The Sun hardware influence is already coming through Oracle is incorporating technologies such as InfiniBand and SSD to reduce database latency.
Sun's Netra servers, which appeared to be a low priority item in the past, are being given fresh gusto under Oracle. Netra is aimed at the telecom sector, a market in which Oracle is also strong. Thus, immediate synergies in that market are being worked on to own that market.
Otherwise, Oracle appears to be giving more focus to SPARC than its x64 line. It likes the basic UltraSPARC/Solaris package, and it said it plans to invest a good share of its R&D dollars into that area.
According to Pund-IT Research Analyst Charles King, Ellison's enthusiasm for Sun hardware should be considered in the context of client management.
"Oracle is the database of choice in a large majority of Sun-populated data centers," he said. "The last thing Oracle wants is for Sun customers to believe that UltraSPARC is on a short road to nowhere."
As for its Intel/AMD x64 solutions, Oracle appears to be reversing the trend of recent Sun strategy. In the past few years, Sun has steadily expanded its x64 line and even began calling it "industry standard," inadvertently implying that its SPARC products did not meet industry standards.
Oracle may well be scaling back x64 and plans to focus on clustered offerings in this category, according to recent announcements. Thus, Oracle/Sun may not be taking on HP, Dell and IBM with lower-end x86 boxes and blades for much longer.
What's to Come?
It's been nice to take another look at Sun's hardware. However, right now there is little more than a holding action by Oracle to demonstrate it cares about Sun servers. The next time we look at hardware form Oracle/Sun it will be really interesting. Big changes are no doubt coming, and they will likely happen sooner rather than later.
Oracle-Sun Server Line Up, as of February 2010
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).