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Oracle storage strategy: Make our apps run better

Oracle executives say their storage strategy is to sell storage systems that run their databases and other apps faster and more efficiently.

Oracle Corp. executives spent an hour discussing their storage strategy Thursday, and made it clear the Oracle storage strategy is really a database strategy. The plan is to sell storage systems that run Oracle database software and its other applications faster and to store it more efficiently.

“The strategy of our storage business is -- first and foremost -- to deliver storage products that run Oracle software better,” said Phil Bullinger, senior vice president of disk storage, during an event that was webcast from Oracle’s Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters.

The session didn’t include any new product launches, although Oracle officially welcomed Pillar Data’s Axiom to the family. Axiom will become one of four key Oracle storage platforms, along with the Exadata Database Machine, the Sun ZFS OpenStorage Appliance for NAS, and StorageTek tape libraries for archiving and backup.

Bullinger said Pillar Axiom is the “perfect platform for the SAN side of our business” because of features such as quality of service, application awareness and high utilization rates.

“We now have a SAN product that serves the largest segment of the external storage market that’s uniquely suited to the strategy and direction that we’re taking our business,” he said.

John Fowler, executive vice president for systems, said Oracle would continue to support multiple protocols on the Axiom and ZFS systems. However, he added that the way they lay out data makes Axiom a better fit for block and ZFS a better fit for file storage.

Mark Hurd, Oracle's president, said one goal is to run applications 10 times faster while using one-tenth as much storage. “We want to tighten the integration between the dataset and storage itself,” he said.

John Webster, an analyst at Evaluator Group, said it was the first time he heard a major storage vendor say it was chasing only one specific piece of the market.

“For everybody wondering how Oracle is going to be a hardware and a software company, the answer is the hardware is subservient to the main business,” Webster said. “If the hardware can accelerate Oracle’s core database and application business, great. Oracle is saying ‘We are not going to be driven by what our competition sees as requirements in the marketplace. We're driven by requirements dictated by the application end of our business.’”

The Oracle execs do consider other storage vendors competition, though. They made head-to-head comparisons of Exadata to EMC Symmetrix, Axiom to EMC Clariion, ZFS to NetApp FAS, and StorageTek to IBM tape. Any success Oracle has selling storage will come at others’ expense.

“Oracle will go after Oracle customers who use NetApp with ZFS, and will go after all those Oracle customers who use EMC with Pillar, or bundle in an Exadata, but it’s going to be focused on Oracle customers, Oracle applications and the Oracle business model,” Webster said.

The Oracle executives didn’t say much about the firm's incumbent Fibre Channel SAN (FC SAN) system, the Sun Storage 6000 family that comes from an OEM deal with NetApp (formerly LSI’s Engenio). That product was only discussed when someone in the audience asked about it during the Q&A session.

Oracle's Fowler pointed out that Oracle recently brought out a low-end version (the 2500-M2) of the 6000 platform and said the vendor would support its 20,000 customers “for the foreseeable future.” However, Oracle will clearly push the Pillar Axiom as its FC SAN platform of choice.

Oracle already had Pillar ties

One Pillar customer who doesn’t run Oracle said he’s looking forward to the tech titan putting its engineering and marketing muscle behind Pillar.

“I thought Pillar was owned by Oracle to begin with,” said Ian Steele, IT director at Tampa Bay Lightning, referring to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s funding of Pillar.

The NHL team bought an Axiom a year ago and has 40 TB of capacity. Steele said the team uses the Axiom for Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, all its file servers and its VMware cluster.

Steele said his Pillar sales rep contacted him Thursday and said it would be "business as usual. They're keeping their support team intact, from what I understand. They're letting Pillar run as it is with no major changes."

He said he expects any changes to be positive. "Having thousands of engineers will only make the product better,” Steele said. “Not only the technology but the support, the financial backing to keep the company solvent and the marketing so more people will buy the Axiom. That can help expand the number of users, so I'll have more people to go to and ask questions. I think it will be a win/win for everybody."

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