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Oracle Sparc SuperCluster has features of Exadata and Exalogic

Oracle’s new Sparc server has up to 16 of the new eight-core Sparc T4 chips, but analysts wonder whether it will be enough to keep the Sparc install base interested.

Oracle introduced a new server on Monday that combines features of Exadata and Exalogic but runs on the new Sparc T4 processor and the Solaris operating system.

Analysts said the announcement of the Oracle Sparc SuperCluster T4-4 fell in line with Oracle’s desire to push integrated hardware-software appliances, but they’re unsure whether Oracle will be able to maintain its Sparc install base for long.

“They are talking about selling these things in half-rack increments, but I don’t know if that gets them to the place that they need to be to serve all of the market,” said Dan Olds, founder of Beaverton, Ore.-based Gabriel Consulting Group. “They need something that will not only keep the existing customer base in place, but also could help them grow.”

The SuperCluster comes in full- or half-rack formats, with up to 16 eight-core Sparc T4 processors. It also includes Oracle’s Exadata Storage Servers, allowing Sparc/Solaris shops to take advantage of the storage processing features that Oracle has been touting since the Intel-based Exadata V2 came out two years ago. The product also boasts Exalogic Elastic Cloud software that Oracle says improves Java performance exponentially.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said during the announcement that the product is targeted largely for customers currently running older Sparc systems and looking to upgrade. Analyst Rob Enderle isn’t sure how well that’s going to work.

“I think the problem with regard to the Sparc architecture isn’t the technology,” he said. “It’s giving very conservative buyers the sense that Sparc has legs.”

During the presentation, Oracle executive vice president of Systems John Fowler showed a Sparc roadmap stretching out for several years. Still, Enderle thinks that eventually Oracle “will reach the conclusion that they shouldn’t be in the microprocessor business.”

Oracle continued its message that IT shops can get the best price-performance by buying integrated appliances from Oracle. Fowler talked about how Oracle’s systems are engineered from the microprocessor on up to run Oracle workloads faster. Fowler expects the standard application environment on the Sparc SuperCluster T4-4 will be Oracle Database 11g.

“They have finally given the install base of Sparc something to talk about,” Olds added. “They’ve thrown some red meat to them, and I think that’s a positive thing from their standpoint.”

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Essential Guide

Guide to Oracle engineered systems and server appliances

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Regarding the comment "Oracle will reach the conclusion that they shouldn’t be in the microprocessor business" - I think that’s a totally bogus comment and clearly a lack of insight or understanding.

The opposite is what I believe to be true.

If you look at Oracles Public SPARC roadmap, the first point is that its actually public. Public means that Oracles reputation is on the line. On the line to deliver new products as identified in the roadmap and on the line when and if Oracle were ever to not deliver to the roadmap. Surely the press will have a field day should SPARC futures slip out beyond the dates promised on the roadmap, so Oracle must deliver if customers are to believe in Oracle and in SPARC. Since the roadmap was published in mid 2010, Oracle has already delivered on 4 milestones so clearly they are delivering and delivering on schedule. Oracle, including Larry, Mark and John Fowler have said numerous times that for Oracle to be successful, Oracle needs to be able to control/develop/engineer/optimize the entire stack. And that includes designing microprocessors. Surely, Oracle will never FAB a processor as that’s what TSMC is for, but designing the entire stack is where the benefits are for both Oracle and its customers. Who wants to be in the multi-vendor assembly business - whos able to prove that this also reduces TCO? The only way an enterprise is going to reduce TCO is by getting the entire stack from one company. One company to shake hands with and one company to choke throat when something goes wrong. Sure it’s a bit of vendor lock-in, but if it means dramatically lowering TCO, so be it. Its worked for IBM and the mainframe and its clearly working for Oracle with products like Exadata, Exalogic and soon to be SPARC Supercluster. So before making comments like these, do your homework and research!
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