Oracle Unveils First Hardware Products

SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle CEO Larry Ellison today unveiled the database vendor’s newest foray into the hardware business, and hopefully this one will fare better than Oracle’s Network Computer effort of the late 1990s.

In his keynote speech at Oracle OpenWorld 2008, being held at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, Ellison announced the HP Oracle Exadata Programmable Storage Server and the HP Oracle Database Machine. Both are built by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) on its ProLiant platform and have intelligence next to each disk drive to speed up processing.

“We need much more performance out of our databases than we currently get because information is proliferating at an astonishing rate and the disk storage systems of today cannot move the data off the disks into the database server fast enough,” Ellison told a packed house. “We had to go beyond software to solve the problem.”

The HP Oracle Exadata Programmable Storage Server consists of two quad-core Intel processors, 12 disk drives with up to 12 T-bytes of raw storage capacity and two InfiniBand pipes that transfer data at 1Gbps connecting it to the data grid. It drives the Oracle Parallel Query Database application on Oracle Enterprise Linux. Support for other operating systems is on the way, Ellison said.

Unlike traditional storage servers, which pass disk blocks back to the database server in response to a query, the Exadata Storage Server only passes query results, Ellison said. Its built-in management application stripes queries across each of its disk drives so “we search all the drives in parallel,” he added.

That combination of approaches “gives us very fast processing in the storage grid and reduces the traffic flow between the storage and the database grid,” Ellison said. The InfiniBand pipes can move data off the storage server at 5Gbps, but “the limiting factor is the speed of pulling data off those disk drives, so we can only move data off them at 1 Gbps,” Ellison said.

Ellison said HP and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) worked for three years on developing the “world’s fastest database machine,” the HP Oracle Database Machine. This has eight Oracle Database Servers; 64 Intel processor cores; and runs Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle Real App Clusters.

The HP Oracle Database Machine also incorporates 14 HP Oracle Exadata Programmable Storage Servers, with a data bandwidth of 14 Gbps, 112 x86 processor cores and a total storage capacity of 168 terabytes of data.

Major customers, including Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO). (NASDAQ: AMZN) and BT Group (NYSE: BT), have been beta testing the HP Oracle Database Machine since last October, Ellison said. “We loaned them half a machine each instead of a whole machine because we’re really cheap,” Ellison said, to laughter from the audience.

All the customers who tested their production workloads on the loaners saw tremendous improvements, Ellison said. That’s because “we have intelligent storage servers running parallel queries, and have more data bandwidth, and conventional disk arrays cannot compete with that,” he added.

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