Goodbye portability – hello tin

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Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
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Thirty years ago, if you wanted to license software you bought proprietary software running on a proprietary database or file system that ran on a proprietary operating system running on proprietary hardware. Then along came UNIX, which promised portability at the operating system level, and along came Oracle and Ingres, which promised portability at the database level. Both companies championed the principles of openness and portability.

Now consider the world today: Ingres is an open source vendor, which is about as close as you can get to remaining true to its origins. Oracle, on the other hand, first introduced Exadata and now Exadata V2.

Exadata V2 is great technology. It will significantly boost performance for both transactional and warehousing environments based on the latest version of Oracle Database 11g.

However, is it open and portable?

I completely agree that Oracle Database 11g is. If you are an SME that doesn’t need anything very powerful or with lots of capacity then Oracle Database 11g is as open and portable as it ever was. But if you are a major enterprise user then, to all intents and purposes, I don’t think it is. Clearly, Exadata V2 gives a significant boost to performance, whether in OLTP or warehousing environments, compared to Oracle Database 11g running on other platforms.

Let’s go back a bit. Why did Oracle introduce Exadata in the first place? Oracle’s position is that “customers were asking for end to end solutions where some intelligent software is optimising the capabilities of commodity hardware to deliver high performance, scalability, and reliability – at the lowest possible cost”.

In my view, what that amounts to is that Oracle was under competitive pressure from the likes of Netezza. But, whatever the reason, the question was how to meet these customer requirements/competition? Oracle’s position is that “the data warehousing problem wasn’t in the database software – it was the inability of the storage systems to deliver high data throughput to the database.” While Teradata and Netezza might go along with that, the likes of Sybase and Vertica probably wouldn’t. In any case, Oracle developed Exadata and now Exadata V2.  

What this does is to combine smart storage software from Oracle and industry-standard hardware from Sun. To overcome the limitations of conventional storage, Oracle Exadata Storage Servers use a massively parallel architecture to increase data bandwidth between the database server and storage. In addition, smart storage software offloads data-intensive query processing from Oracle Database 11g servers and does the query processing closer to the data. The result is faster parallel data processing and less data movement through higher bandwidth connections.

So, to return to the original question. Why would you not implement Exadata V2? In my view you’d have to be a lunatic not to. And since there’s only one platform for Exadata V2 (and that will shortly – probably – be owned by Oracle) then you are effectively turning your back on openness. Now, of course, Oracle makes the point that you are perfectly at liberty to port Oracle Database 11g to any platform you want to. And that’s absolutely true and you can do that. But if you did, then right now you would have to classed as certifiable: why on earth would you want to implement something that is inferior and doesn’t give you as good performance? You’d have to be nuts.

Oracle’s perspective is that Oracle Database 11g is as open and portable as it ever was. Mine is that Exadata V2 means that this is no longer true at the high end. As Nietzsche put it: “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster”. Oracle doesn’t think that quote is apposite. You make your own mind up.