Oracle Launches ‘Big Honkin’ Cloud’, Ellison Outlines Cloud Future
If anyone was still in doubt as to what Larry Ellison thinks of the cloud, or what Oracle (news, site) is going to do with Sun Microsystems, the launch on Sunday of the Exalogic Elastic Cloud should put an end to all the speculation.

While many were hoping that the talking point of the evening would be a public spat between HP (news, site) executive vice-president Ann Livermore and Ellison over Oracle recruiting former HP CEO Mark Hurd, they were disappointed.

The star of yesterday’s keynote address was the “cloud in a box”, while Livermore was at pains to stress how close HP and Oracle remain at a product level, mentioning nothing about Michael Hurd.

But Exalogic was not the only point of interest in Ellison’s contribution during which he took time to distinguish Oracle’s vision of the cloud from Salesforce’s (news, site) vision, which has potential for some interesting observations from Marc Bennioff when he gives his address on Wednesday.

Exalogic and the Elastic Cloud

But first let’s look at Exalogic. Exalogic is interesting for more than one reason, not least of which is that it will provide enterprises with the ability to build both private and public elastic clouds using a combination of Sun hardware and Oracle software.

The new box, described by Ellison as the world’s first middleware machine and which is about the size of a refrigerator, contains 30 servers and 360 cores as well as networking and storage abilities that can be scaled from a quarter rack up to eight racks as a cloud. The result, Ellison said, is “ . . .one big honkin’ cloud.”

If you haven’t heard a cloud “honkin’” not to worry, but you can take it that this is a powerful new product and one that carries both the Sun and Oracle logos.

It also comes with Oracle’s virtualization technology along with two operating systems -- Solaris and Linux -- as well as Oracle’s JRockit and HotSpot, and WebLogic.

Exalogic Performance

At the heart of it is Oracle’s Coherence software. “The Coherence software synchronizes the logic to create the illusion that there is one central memory system.” Ellison said.

Exalogic will also perform better than anything currently available -- Ellison says -- with the fastest Java performance currently available using Java Virtual Machines that will speed up Java applications.

In this respect he cited some performance test results that showed Exalogic resulted in internet applications performing 12 times faster and able to support 1 million HTTP requests per second.

The bottom line with this, Ellison said, is that two racks could “. . . handle Facebook’s traffic..” as well as a 4.5 times improvement in messaging times. And the cost? It seems Exalogic will cost a quarter of IBM’s best server.

While that really is “one big honkin’ cloud”, put it in perspective before taking the company cheque book out. Annual conferences are what they are and it seems no one outside Oracle has seen this operating yet, so let’s wait and see.

Oracle and the Cloud

Speaking of Larry Ellison and the cloud, this keynote address also put to rest any questions anyone might have had regarding Oracle and the cloud.

You may recall that in his keynote address at Open World in 2008, Ellison outlined what he saw as cloud computing as it was understood then, and it wasn’t complimentary.

The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do . . .but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop? he asked.

However, in keynote 2010, while outlining the landscape into which Exalogic would be launched, he compared Oracle’s vision of the cloud and Salesforce’s vision.

It seems Oracle is looking to get cosy with Amazon. He asked whether cloud computing meant the 10-year-old SaaS as envisioned by Salesforce, or Amazon Web Services version.

And he came down hard on the side of Amazon EC2. Cloud computing, he said, is “. . . a platform – a standards-based application development and execution platform. It includes hardware and software. It is virtual and elastic and it runs a variety of apps.”

There is one significant difference though. Ellison’s vision is of private rather than public clouds.

That hardware is becoming increasingly important to Oracle was underlined last week at the earnings call for its Q1 figures. Apart from revenues and net income, the balance sheet shows that it sales for Q1 should total US$ 8.4 billion with US$ 1.7 billion coming from hardware.

The week has only started and already there’s a lot to mull over. The cloud and Oracle’s cloud strategy is going to be a real two-cup-of-coffee discussion that should last long after Open World. Especially that Marc Benioff is on his way on Wednesday. Lot’s to look forward to here!