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Dell adds weight to Oracle's grid pitch

OracleWorld attendees were introduced to the company's new line of grid products and heard from grid supporters such as Michael Dell during opening day of the database giant's annual user event in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Opening day at OracleWorld 2003 was made for guys like Ben Friedman.

Friedman, vice president of information services at Burlington, N.J.-based Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., is planning a move from Unix to the open-source operating platform Linux. His company currently runs about 1,500 Dell workstations. And Friedman is excited about grid computing.

That combination of interests -- Linux, Dell and grid computing -- made Friedman the ideal OracleWorld attendee yesterday. OracleWorld 2003 kicked off Monday with consecutive keynote speeches from the company's executive vice president, Charles Phillips, and Dell Inc.'s chairman and CEO, Michael Dell.

"I like the optimism I see out of Oracle and out of Dell," said Friedman, following Dell's appearance. "It really seems like they see a real emerging market for grid technology."

This year, OracleWorld is all about the grid. Today, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will take the tens of thousands of OracleWorld attendees on a "journey to the center of the grid," with a keynote speech with that title.

Forming the grid

On Monday, Oracle unveiled the products that will make up the new Oracle grid. They include the newest database release, 10g and Oracle Application Server 10g. Also at the five-day event, users will be introduced to two other new products, the Oracle JDeveloper 10g and Oracle Grid Control.

While every OracleWorld is considered important by the company, Phillips told a packed auditorium that this year's user event is a "milestone" because of the importance of grid technology.

Phillips offered attendees a typical retailer scenario, where the server running a company Web site has a near meltdown during the holiday season, as the server running the company's data warehouse sits idle. Come January, the situation, and the server workloads, are reversed. Grid computing, in its simplest terms, can rebalance the workloads. That means a more manageable, shared infrastructure, and a less expensive option than buying bigger servers, Phillips promised.

"Grid computing would load balance between the two, based on capacity standards that you set," Phillips said. He acknowledged that many people think about grid computing as a concept, not a concrete technology.

"It's easy to get skeptical and say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's for tomorrow,'" Phillips said.

A lot of things had to happen before grid computing could get the green light, he said. There needed to be widespread availability of inexpensive blade servers, as well as a popular low-cost platform such as Linux, he said. Also, the market needed storage disk technology that was not tied to servers.

"Now what you need is a software layer to tie all these things together, and that's what Oracle is bringing to the market this week," Phillips said. Oracle is telling customers they can get started on grid computing by consolidating servers and standardizing on a single platform.

Dell high on grid manageability

Dell, who spoke with reporters in a question-and-answer session following his keynote, said he believes demand for grid computing will grow quickly.

"I think companies are going to want grid because it's all about creating a set of dynamically allocated resources, and this is going to be more and more common," Dell said.

Grid computing will help customers build large-scale computing capacity from inexpensive, standardized components such as clusters of server blades and rack-mounted storage, he said.

What Oracle's 10g database brings to the mix is manageability, Dell said. Instead of adding nodes to the existing cluster as the workload increases, he said, the grid database will allocate system resources based on need.

Ken Ewald, a senior DBA at Lincoln, Neb.-based Gallup Organization, said the polling company is currently migrating to Linux and Oracle 9i.

Ewald said he is interested in how 10g deploys and manages database clusters as an enterprise grid. In the past, running Oracle Real Application Clusters on platforms such as Linux and Windows required detailed and technical knowledge of cluster operations for each platform, he said.

"We weren't going to attend this conference this year, but with all the focus on 10g, we wanted to see what it was all about."


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