Ellison launches Exadata X3, takes swipe at SAP

A new 'eighth-rack' version that costs $200,000 is aimed at attracting midsized customers

As expected, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Sunday unveiled a souped-up version of its Exadata database machine that will allow customers to run all of their databases in-memory, providing what Ellison termed blazing performance.

"If you thought the old Exadatas were fast, you ain't seen nothing yet," he said at the OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

Ellison also gave showgoers a rundown of Oracle database version 12c, which had been expected as well.

Exadata X3 incorporates 26TB of memory in total, split among 4TB of DRAM and 22TB of flash cache, in one rack. "This is the hardware version of the Oracle cloud," Ellison said. "Everything is in memory. All of your databases are in-memory. You virtually never use your disk drives. Disk drives are becoming passe. They're good at storing images and a lot of data we don't access very often."

In addition, data compression allows customers to squeeze their data down by a factor of 10, saving on storage costs, Ellison said.

Database writes are 20 times faster than the previous-generation Exadata machine, and X3 also uses 10 to 30 percent less power, according to Oracle.

With the new technology and positioning, Exadata will compete directly with SAP's HANA in-memory database platform, and Ellison didn't shy away from the comparison.

"I know that SAP has an in-memory machine," he said. "It's a little smaller." Later, Ellison called HANA "really small." An SAP spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Exadata X3 has a "smart memory hierarchy," with the DRAM on top, flash cache in the middle, and lots of traditional disk storage on the bottom, he said.

While taking plenty of opportunities to claim how much more powerful X3 is than past versions as well as competing technologies, Ellison sought to portray the feeds-and-speeds angle in a different light.

"The reason we're making these things faster is to improve not just their peak performance but their cost performance," he said. "You can save a lot of money. You will save so much money in storage because of our compression."

Exadata machines are big money-makers for Oracle because they also run a lot of separately licensed database software, which provides steady annual maintenance payments. The combination has meant that a fully-loaded Exadata box tends to require a significant investment from customers.

But Ellison seems keen on getting midsized customers into the Exadata market. He announced a new "eighth-rack" X3 edition that has a list price of $200,000. It is faster than larger Exadata configurations released in 2010 and 2008, according to a slide.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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