By Siobhan Kennedy Oracle Corp will use a cut-down version of Sun Microsystem Inc’s Solaris as the operating system (OS) at the heart of its new database server appliance, the two companies announced yesterday. Addressing reporters and analysts during a press conference yesterday, Larry Ellison, chairman of the database giant said the announcement was the […]
By Siobhan Kennedy
Oracle Corp will use a cut-down version of Sun Microsystem Inc’s Solaris as the operating system (OS) at the heart of its new database server appliance, the two companies announced yesterday. Addressing reporters and analysts during a press conference yesterday, Larry Ellison, chairman of the database giant said the announcement was the next step in Oracle’s Raw Iron strategy, unveiled last month (CI No 3,540). At that time, Oracle said it was evaluating a number of different operating systems including FreeBSD, NetBSD, Plan9, a version of Solaris and Linux, and that it would pick the one that developers ask for in the final packaged product. But yesterday, Ellison made no mention of other operating systems. Rather, he said Oracle had chosen Solaris because it was the only OS to currently offer the high level of reliability and scalability the system requires. When pushed on the subject, Ellison said the agreement with Sun wasn’t exclusive and that Oracle was still considering similar arrangments with other partners, including Hewlett-Packard Co with its HP-UX, to be announced some time in the future. Under the Raw Iron initiative, Oracle said it will use hardware vendors, such as Dell, HP and Compaq, to sell its 8i database pre-bundled on servers with a slimmed down version of the Solaris OS. Servers will be customized to cater for different applications, so there could be one for file sharing, one for email and so on. The devices will be available in March 1999 and will be aimed at service providers and ISPS, the companies said. While Ellison insisted that lower total cost of ownership is the prime motivation for the alliance, it’s clear that the Sun-Oracle partnership is another way of trying to curb demand for rival Microsoft’s Windows NT platform. Unfortunately Windows NT 5.0 isn’t available till the year 2000, Ellison said sarcastically during the conference, but even then it will turn Intel’s 64-bit platform into 32-bit, and we don’t have time to wait for Windows 3000. Both Ellison and Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy stressed the announcement wasn’t about Sun getting into databases and Oracle getting into operating systems. This is a conspicuous example of how two different companies can work together to tightly couple their products and still offer choice, Ellison said, you don’t have to buy Solaris every time you want an Oracle database or vice versa. Oracle will offer 8i on top of a completely invisible cut-down version of Solaris; a version that only uses the services of the OS directly relevant to running and managing databases. There will be versions for both Intel and Sun Sparc platforms. By offering the Intel version, Oracle hopes it will eliminate any cost argument for buying its database software. Although you can run the software on Intel platforms today, they’re typically sold on high-end Unix boxes, which are much more expensive to implement. And as a further incentive, it will offer to set up and manage the servers via its recently-announced Business OnLine outsourcing arm. For Sun’s part, McNealy said the partnership would allow the company to leverage 8i’s integrated services to make better use of the advanced features within the enterprise edition of Solaris. He also sees the alliance as a potential source of additional revenues since users will be able to pay to upgrade to the full- blown version of Solaris, if they wish, to run other applications alongside 8i. Both companies will market and sell the bundle separately, using existing salesforces. Ellison said it would offer the software for the same price as for a vanilla version of 8i and he predicted it would be a huge proportion of our business going forward. Carl Olofson, research director with analyst group IDC said the product was ideal for companies wanting to set up an Oracle database without having to go through the hassle of installing a separate OS at the same time. Maintaining NT is not trivial. You need a fair amount of familiarity and it can be difficult because the software contain
s a lot of services that are irrelevant to database management. By contrast, he said the Raw Iron architecture would allow companies to devote more of the hardware to the problem of managing the database.