Much Seen but Little Hurd at Oracle’s OpenWorld

As spectators crowded in to see keynote speeches Monday at Oracle’s OpenWorld 2010, the question on everyone’s lips was: What’s Mark Hurd going to say?

The recently ousted HP CEO was hired by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison shortly after Hurd left HP amid a scandal involving a female contractor and fudged expense reports. Hurd’s now a president at the database giant, and his name appeared on the list of Monday’s speakers.

However, his appearance was brief.

Monday’s keynotes by various Oracle executives boil down to this: Oracle loves everything Sun, Oracle has lots of new technology, and Oracle may just chop off Red Hat Linux at the knees.

Hurd Still on the Grapevine

Mark Hurd popped up briefly to kick off the keynotes, greet the audience and introduce Fujitsu Senior Vice President Noriyuki Toyoki. Then Hurd took off, promising to return.

He was brought on stage again briefly by Edward Screvener, Oracle’s chief corporate architect, during the latter’s keynote speech, to introduce the next generation of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine, the X2-8. CEO Larry Ellison was to have announced the box but decided Hurd should do it, Screvener said.

“I’m sure you waited for me to come back for this,” Hurd remarked when he walked on the stage again. After speaking briefly about the device, he once again exited the stage.

“Not a bad two weeks on the job, huh?” Screvener remarked.

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here We Come

“Oracle and Sun have a tremendous history of inventing individual technologies that change the architecture of what you deployed,” John Fowler, Oracle’s executive VP of systems, said during his keynote speech Monday. The two are collaborating to build systems for the future data center, he added.

Data centers today consist of “classic siloed applications using virtualization technology like hypervisors,” Fowler pointed out. They will move to “optimizing applications that understand how you manage applications, then move to true cloud computing.”

Oracle handles infrastructure maintenance, driving application performance and availability and security, and Sun brings “all the underlying technologies, from Java, hardware, microprocessing” and so on, Fowler said.

The two will focus on continuously iterating in four areas — performance, availability, security and management.

Fowler also announced Solaris 11, which is “faster and easier to deploy and maintain” than its predecessors, he said. Oracle rearchitectured the update process to eliminate “a large number of restarts” for the environment; integrated virtualization for physical to virtual and virtualization for networking so users can run middle-tier and collocated back-end apps on one machine; and integrated “much deeper in-band telemetry,” Fowler remarked.

Solaris 11 will have a virtual memory subsystem that lets it handle thousands of threads instead of the hundreds operating systems can handle today, Fowler said. It will also be able to handle systems with thousands of terabytes of memory rather than just hundreds of terabytes. In addition, it will be able to tackle network speeds of hundreds of gigabits per second, instead of the tens of gigabits OSes handle today.

“Solaris is a very serious project to Oracle,” Fowler told his audience.

Oracle is delivering Solaris 11 now as part of its storage product and will include it in its ExaLogic and ExaData products later this year. Next year, it will deliver Solaris 11 for the x86 and Sparc platforms.

Other New Oracle Technologies

Fowler also announced the next generation of the Sun (now Oracle) Sparc T3 volume microprocessor. This is the world’s first 16-core volume processor, he said, describing it as “a complete system on a chip for mission-critical performance.”

In addition to integration with 10 Gbps Ethernet, the T3 processors include cryptographic security and are designed for volume serves through the mid-range.

Oracle has also launched a number of Sparc T3 systems that run Solaris and Oracle VM for Sparc and are tightly integrated with Oracle Database, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Applications. They can run up to 128 virtual machines on a single physical server.

“Anchoring these systems is Solaris,” Fowler said. “Solaris has key features available in no other operating system today.”

Another new Oracle product is the next generation of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine, the X2-8. This integrates 5.3 T-bytes of Exadata Smart Flash Cache and is fully encrypted.

“Database security is a big issue, and we offer full database encryption for security,” Mark Hurd said in announcing the product.

The Exadata X2-8 is a full rack system consisting of two database servers and 14 Exadata Storage servers. Each database server comes with 64 Intel CPU cores and 1 T-byte of memory.

“We’re now consolidating more of your workloads in one integrated system,” Hurd said. Oracle can deliver the X2-8 now and will begin selling it in the next 30 to 45 days, he added.

Blowing Away Red Hat?

Oracle, which is known for taking on and crushing the competition, appears to now have its sights set on Red Hat.

“We’ve been in Linux for a while now,” Screvener said. Oracle formed a Linux engineering team in 2000 because “we wanted to make it a better operating system for customers; we wanted to make it a lot more like Solaris.”

When Oracle launched Linux on Solaris two years ago, it made its version of the OS “completely Red Hat compatible,” Screvener said.

Screvener then lowered the boom on Red Hat, saying that Oracle has to wait for Red Hat’s community innovations before it can upgrade its own Linux kernel to ensure compatibility.

“That’s bad for the customer because you don’t get community innovations very quickly or our innovations very quickly,” Screvener said, announcing Oracle’s solution — the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux.

Oracle Linux now ships with both the Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel and the Red Hat compatibility kernel “so you’ll always have the Red Hat compatibility but you’ll also be able to choose another path — to run Linux faster,” Screvener said.

Oracle with Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel has “much better reliability” than Red Hat Linux, and has built-in data integrity, Screvener said.

Screvener contended that unveiling the Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel is “not a fundamental strategy shift,” but said that’s the only version of Linux Oracle is now running in its testing and development environment.

“We recommend you use it on all of our software, but we’ll continue to certify Red Hat Linux,” Screvener added.

Whither Java?

Much has been made about whether Oracle will continue to support Java now that it has its hands on the operating system.

There’s suspicion in the Java community that Oracle is gradually shifting away from Java. Perhaps telling is Oracle’s decision to set the JavaOne conference at the Hilton Hotel, about a mile from the San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center. Could it signal a downgrading of Java’s importance?

Stuff and nonsense, contended Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC.

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve heard,” Hilwa told LinuxInsider. “Oracle isn’t killing off Java; it does a lot for open source as it is, and Java will continue to be available under the Gnu Public License.”

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