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New IT Strategies Rock at Oracle

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like other corporations, enterprise software giant Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) is struggling to make its IT operations more flexible and responsive to business needs while simultaneously coping with ever-increasing demand for physical infrastructure and the pressure to cut costs.

Its solution has been to consolidate and virtualize its infrastructure and install commodity hardware which can be replaced cheaply and easily.

"We face the same challenges as anyone else -- an explosion in the amount of data, the growth in power consumption, the lack of skilled people to manage IT to match the growth in compute demand, and the density of computing," Oracle's Chief Information Officer, Mark Sunday, said in his keynote speech here at the Next Generation Data Center (NGDC) Wednesday. "Which means we'll run out of power long before we run out of floor space in our data centers."

Sunday cited IDC statistics that said storage demand is growing by 60 percent a year. He also cited statistics showing that annual datacenter energy usage in U.S. datacenters grew from 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006, to 80 billion kWh this year, "which is 1.5 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S." Datacenter energy demands will exceed 110 billion kWh in 2010, Sunday said.

"We need to do something about our ability to meet the needs of IT or we'll be crippled in infrastructure," Sunday added. And, with increasing power consumption, "we're approaching the airline industry in terms of our impact on environment. Energy has become the second biggest component of cost within our datacenters after labor."

Oracle's IT infrastructure is stupendous. Sunday said its internal business systems support 84,000 employees worldwide; it has acquired more than 50 companies over the past four years; it supports about 20,000 developers developing 900 products; it has 32,000 servers, 6 petabytes of storage, a 13 terabyte database for code management, and every week 2,000 machines run 52,000 hours of regression tests.

An always-available IT infrastructure

Supporting them requires an always-available IT infrastructure. Oracle uses commodity hardware consisting of x86s running Linux, and virtualization software, and "we invest about one percent of our equipment in spares so we can hot swap when a server fails," Sunday said.

That's just part of the equation; another segment of Oracle's business, Oracle University, offers 3,000 course titles, delivered to 145 training centers worldwide. This requires Oracle to configure 1,200 to 1,400 virtual environments spanning all its applications every week, Sunday said, adding that "the only way you can handle this is to highly automate the process."

The courses are run for Oracle's business partners and customers. They generated revenues of $500 million in Oracle's 2008 fiscal year, Sunday said.

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