Oracle’s OpenWorld has finally kicked off with the customary keynote from CEO Larry Ellison. Leaving aside the fact that many are saying this was his worst keynote ever, for those in enterprise computing the launch of the Exalytics analytics appliance is the one most will be watching.

No one is really surprised that Oracle would enter the business intelligence fray proper, and release a product that seems to be targeting the traditional stomping grounds of EMC, IBM and SAP’s HANA.

What is of interest here is that this combines Oracle hardware and softwareto analyze and process data in its dynamic random access memory (DRAM), and at high speeds too.

Exalytics, Business Intelligence

In effect, Exalytics is an in-memory machine that provides analysis of unstructured, relational and multidimensional data running on Oracle’s Times Ten and Essbase databases in its main memory , and can analyze business data faster than machines that store data on disk drives.

Everything runs faster if you keep it in DRAM -- if you keep it in main memory. You ask more questions, you get better answers," Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison said.

Ellison also claims that deployment of the new Exalytics is easy and requires no adjusting before it is operational. The impression is of an appliance that you just open up, and it starts working, which should provide competitors with food for thought.

However, unlike launches of previous products, the names of test clients weren’t announced, nor when it will be available, nor was the pricing,which is going to be the factor that makes or breaks it in a market that is already choc-a-block with other products.

And if the usually provocative Ellison played it low-key for once in his speech, it is possibly because he knows just how tough the analytics market actually is.

Exalytics Analytics

The hardware is run by four 10-core Intel Xeon E7 processors, and after data has been compressed the terabyte of DRAM could, in fact, hold up to 10 terabytes of data, with the machine able to scan all data in five seconds.

Whatever you want to analyze, you can compress and analyze in-memory with the Exalytics machine," he said.

The speed element is also underlined by the new interface that comes from the TimesTen buy and enables “instant responses” as the user is typing the query into the machine.

'Parallel Everything'

The launch of Exalytics is part of Oracle’s new concept of "Parallel Everything" architecture that Ellison also outlined in the keynote speech on Sunday.

Learning Opportunities

The basic idea is that Oracle aims in the future, where possible, to design hardware and software in parallel and at the same company, rather than splitting different elements to different tasks, with Exadata and Exalogic providing a good example.

You can't have a great parallel database computer unless you have great parallel storage servers to feed it,"  he said.

There will undoubtedly be more about this over the course of the week, and it is a concept to watch maturing, not just this week but into the future.

Oracle's Competition

And in case anyone thinks Oracle has gone soft, Oracle's President Safra Catz did use her keynote address to poke fun at the competition, including SAP, Microsoft and IBM.

In terms of business intelligence, one of the most noteworthy contributions of her evening was in relation to IBM’s acquisition of Netezza in September 2010.

Of this, Catz said: "If Netezza is the answer, really, I don't know what the question is."

It’s unlikely, though, that IBM will be particularly worried, given that its hold on the business intelligence market and the fact that it has already started the process of releasing products from the Netezza buy.

She also pointed out -- significantly -- that this is the "first time since forever” that HP has not delivered a keynote speech, reflecting the growing rancor between the two companies. More from OpenWorld as the week goes on.