Dell preaches Oracle

Dell Computer Corp. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell on Tuesday stressed Linux and his company's Intel boxes as the new wave of computing. He also hailed Dell's partnership with Oracle Corp. and panned another longtime Oracle partner, Sun Microsystems Inc.

Speaking during a keynote presentation at OracleWorld, Dell touted the partnership between Dell and Oracle.

"Dell and Oracle are leaders in their respected fields. Dell is the number 1 computer systems company in the world and the number 1 provider of servers in the U.S., and Oracle is the number 1 provider of enterprise software in the world and the number 1 [vendor] of relational databases in the U.S. as well," Dell said.

Dell is using Oracle9i Real Application Clusters software internally for processing orders, according to Dell.

The combination of Dell's Intel boxes, Oracle software, and Linux provides customers an alternative to high costs, he said. Dell recited industry figures showing Unix has lost market share, but 55 percent of enterprise revenue still goes to Unix systems.

"We think customers are paying too much for those systems and our job is to drive those costs down," said Dell. "In Linux, we have found a Unix that really is a better answer. We think Linux is the new Unix," Dell said.

Sun was a particular target of Dell's comments. In 1996, Dell shipped only 68 percent of the volume of servers that Sun did, but shipped nearly three times more, 275 percent, than Sun's volumes by 2001, he said. "However, we do that at 40 percent less cost than Sun. We're saving customers a lot of money as we move to standards," said Dell.

A clustered computing scheme and modular-based architecture are able to keep up with the needs of a growing business, Dell said.

"The days of proprietary Unix, we think, are rapidly ending," as far as this being the only platform for running mission-critical applications, said Dell.

"At Dell, we're driving this migration through a commitment to open standards" and modular computing, Dell added.

Linux, however, still is in a "gestation period," in which it is gaining industry support from key systems providers, said Dell. The next wave is more packaged applications for Linux, Dell said.

Still, legacy platforms will remain in existence in five years, Dell said. "But I think we're going to continue to see a very active migration of customers away from the proprietary legacy platforms onto more flexible, modular, standards-based solutions," he said.

Dell had dire words for some unnamed vendors. "Sometimes, I'm asked when spending is going to come back in our industry. Well, for some companies, it's never going to come back," because customers have moved onto less expensive platforms, Dell said.

An audience member, Hal Coon, systems implementation specialist for tax software vendor Federal Liaison Services of Dallas, said he agreed with Dell about Sun losing out to Dell's systems. "I buy that because Sun came out with their LX50, which is a Linux server," Coon said. The box also runs Intel processors, a departure from Sun's staple Sparc CPU platform.

Dell also cited fabric-based computing, in which systems such as storage and networking are linked, as a growing trend. Dell said the company was not planning large-scale acquisitions but may make some small ones. "It's pretty clear that you don't just make success by buying things," he said.

The company wants to develop an ecosystem for Oracle and other platforms that features professional services, software tools, and architecture and components such as SAN capabilities, Dell said.

Dell said outsourcing of systems is not for everyone. "I'm not convinced that every customer is going to do that. Certainly, we have many customers who are doing that and there will probably be many more but it's not [necessarily] the right answer for all customers," Dell said.

Some customers can benefit from sharing best practices and outsourcing, but for other customers, outsourcing means handing off a problem to somebody else, and ending up "with a totally different problem," said Dell.

A Sun official said customers have been coming to Sun asking it to take on Linux development, and that Dell is still largely a Windows systems vendor.

"Where the money is for them still tends to be in that Windows camp," said Peter Ulander, director of marketing in Sun's volume systems products group, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Sun, he said, has the "fastest-selling single-processor box on the market" right now with its low-end SunFire systems. Sun's Solaris market share has been increasing, Ulander said.

Dell on Tuesday detailed product-related announcements pertaining to Oracle:

* The company expanded its offerings on Dell PowerEdge servers to include PowerEdge 2650 servers with a Dell-EMC CX400 storage array as well as a high-end configuration of clustered eight-way PowerEdge 8450 servers with the Dell-EMC CX600 storage array. The new Dell-EMC storage solutions are scheduled to ship in December.

* To boost solutions for Oracle9i database with Real Application Clusters on Red Hat Linux, Dell configurations will support the Oracle Cluster File System and EMC PowerPath high-availability software in early-2003.

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