Ellison champions grid

Championing what he called the IT industry's first new architecture in 40 years, Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison at OracleWorld on Tuesday formally introduced the company's grid-enabled database and application server.

The 10g releases of Oracle Database and Application Server enable customers to add computing capacity simply by adding two-processor, US$5,000 Intel - and Linux-based servers to a grid of linked systems, Ellison stressed. This is a departure from the traditional race that has had system vendors always trying to build bigger, faster computers as the way to boost computing power, he said.

"There's no place to go if you have a single-machine architecture," Ellison said. "Applications in the information age are beginning to outgrow even the largest computer. There isn't enough capacity."

"For the last 40 years it's been a quest to build bigger and bigger mainframe computers," Ellison said. Even PC leader Microsoft Corp. has gotten into the game recently by producing a benchmark for its SQL Server database running on a 64-processor Windows system. He joked that Microsoft, in deciding to run the benchmark must have sent a team to IBM Corp.'s museum instead of IBM's research group.

With Oracle's grid approach, enterprises can add capacity cheaply and have fault tolerance, identity management, patch distribution and centralized monitoring of multiple systems in a grid. Automatic load-balancing and provisioning also are featured.

"After 40 years, Oracle is introducing an alternative to the one-big-server approach to running your large, mission critical applications, in fact, running all your applications," Ellison said.

Oracle's grid approach features four central components. A storage grid is attached to an array of database computers, which is connected to a collection of application servers. The fourth component, management, is provided by Oracle's Grid Control software, Ellison said.

"It's all perfectly interconnected and all managed as if it were one computer. That was a massive software engineering feat," he said. Existing Oracle applications run faster and more reliably on the grid, with no code changes necessary. Software such as SAP applications can coexist on the grid, said Ellison.

"It is a completely fault-tolerant grid made up of inexpensive PC components with almost unlimited performance and capacity at an incredibly low price," Ellison exclaimed.

He stressed the adequacy of low-cost Intel boxes.

"One of the things that's just shocking to most people is that the Intel processors are the fastest processors in the world. If you want to go faster, you have to be willing to pay less. You have no choice. Get used to it," Ellison said.

Oracle is running its demonstration applications, training courses and hosted e-business suite on grids. Game maker Electronic Arts runs an online game on an Oracle 10g-based grid, according to Ellison.

An OracleWorld attendee, however, was not bowled over by Ellison's grid sermon.

"It's an old idea," said Kevin Lange, IT developer at ChevronTexaco, in Sam Ramon, Calif. "I don't think that it's applicable to most shops."

The concept may work in larger IT shops, Lange said following Ellison's speech.

Oracle plans to publish pricing of its 10g products next week, Ellison said. The 10g versions of the database and application server are expected to ship later this year.

Oracle's grid efforts stemmed from Oracle's parallel server and Real Application Clusters (RAC) technologies, Ellison said.

Other vendors are pitching computing paradigms somewhat similar to Oracle's grid plan. IBM, which was criticized by Ellison as being too expensive during his speech, is hailing its on demand strategy, intended to help customers transform business processes while leveraging existing IT infrastructure, including hardware, software and services.

Sun Microsystems's N1 architecture is a virtualizing and provisioning technology intended to provide for unified management of data center resources.

Also during his presentation, Ellison said the government is examining the company's proposed acquisition of applications vendor PeopleSoft

"The government is reviewing the acquisition and we expect to hear in October, and I tend to be optimistic," Ellison said. PeopleSoft has opposed being acquired.

Ellison, in response to a question from an audience member, would not publicly provide a list of other potential acquisition targets.

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