Even as the European Union continues to investigate the legalities of Oracle's proposed $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison showed off the first product jointly developed by the two companies.
In a web cast at the company's Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters late yesterday, Ellison, along with John Fowler, executive vice president in charge of Sun's systems business, showed off the Exadata Database Machine Version 2, which combines Oracle's database software with Sun's FlashFire technology.
Unlike the first version of Exadata, which was dedicated largely to data warehousing, Exadata 2 is being positioned for both online transaction processing (OTLP) as well as data warehousing applications. Ellison said the new system is twice as fast as Exadata Version 1.
"I believe we are the fastest in the world for data warehousing and the fastest for online transaction processing, because we have optimized random I/O. We can do over 1 million random I/O instructions per second, which is significantly faster than anything IBM has," Ellison said.
Ellison used yesterday's announcement to jab early and often at IBM. Over the past few months, IBM has mounted aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns hoping to steal away Sun customers while the Oracle-Sun deal awaits final approval.
According to IBM, those campaigns have had some success. The company last week claimed it has won more than 250 Sun customers in the first half of this year, most of those since Oracle announced its intention to buy Sun on April 20.
Based on recent data from analysts, the protracted approval of the deal seems to be taking a toll on Sun's server business. IDC said the company's server revenues plummeted some 37% in the second quarter, far outpacing declines of its hardware competitors.
Neither Ellison nor Fowler mentioned Oracle's pending acquisition, nor did they shed any more light on which Sun hardware or software products Oracle was going to consider central to its strategies moving forward.
"It would have been nice to hear something from them about how this [Exadata 2] might shape their stack computing strategies for hardware and software going forward. This sounds like an impressive machine, but I need to know more about solutions than raw processing speed at this point," said Eugene Lee, a database administrator with a large bank in Charlotte, N.C.
Part of Exadata 2's increased speed has to do with generous amounts of flash memory from Sun that is used in the system's storage. The company has crammed four flash accelerator cards into a single storage server, each capable of holding 96 GB of data. A fully loaded rack holding eight servers can hold up to five terabytes of flash memory. It can also hold 100 TB of SAS disk capacity, Ellison said.
"We have a large smart flash cache built into our storage servers. These are not flash disks, but a memory hierarchy made up of DRAM along with flash in our storage servers and sophisticated algorithms," Ellison said.
Exadata Version 1 was powered by Hewlett-Packard's Intel-based Proliant G5 servers. Exadata 2 is fueled by the SunFire X4275 Server with Intel's quad-core Nehalem processors. The memory used in Exadata 2 is DDR3, which is three times faster than the memory used in Exadata 1, and Exadata 2 also uses faster disk drives and Infiniband networking components, Ellison said in explaining the system's improved performance.
Two other advantages of Exadata 2 are that all of its basic components are fault tolerant and that large IT shops can scale its capabilities in cloud computing environments, Ellison said.
"People talk about cloud computing where, if you need capacity, you can just allocate it. Well that's a nice concept if your database systems can add capacity in that environment. Our system is the only one today that can do that," Ellison said.
Exadata Version 2 comes in four models including a full rack consisting of eight database servers and 14 storage servers, a half-rack with four database servers and seven storage servers, a quarter-rack with two database servers and three storage servers and a basic system with one database server and one storage server.
All of that increased horsepower and storage capacity doesn't come cheap. Pricing for the full rack version of the system starts at a little over $1.1 million just for the hardware, according to the company's price list.
All four configurations are available immediately.