New Oracle database appliance aims at SMBs

Oracle Corp.’s new Database Appliance product, unveiled last week, should appeal to small and mid-size businesses that run both transactional and analytic applications, analysts said.

The tightly integrated hardware, software and storage bundle features Oracle Database11g Release 2 and Real Application Clusters software running on a 2-node, 24-processor core, Sun Fire server cluster hardware.

The pre-configured, pre-installed appliance should appeal to small and mid-size businesses because it can be used virtually right out of the box, analysts said. Sweetening the deal is Oracle’s offer of a pay-as-you-grow database software licensing model for the new platform, they added.

The company said the hardware component of the appliance will be sold separately. A configuration that includes two Sun Fire servers, 192GB of main memory, 24 processor cores, 12TB of raw disk storage and 292GB of solid-state disk is priced at US$50,000. The company didn’t disclose software pricing by press time.

The full Database Appliance’s starting price tag is expected to fall below Oracle’s popular Exadata integrated database appliance that’s targeted at large enterprises.

Like Exadata, Oracle’s new product is also an optimized platform for running OLTP and data warehousing applications. However, it would be a mistake to call it a scaled down version of Exadata, said James Kobielus, an analyst with Forrester Research.

“Lacking the branding, or the optimized storage layer that Oracle built their Exadata product family around, this is in no way an ‘Exadata’ product,’ as some have been calling it, Kobielus said in an email to Computerworld. “Oracle needed a low-end DB appliance to serve as an entry ramp for customers in the [small to mid-size business] segment that need a [high-performance] DBMS acceleration platform,” Kobielus said.

“Oracle realized it needed a database appliance for the broad business market, and it’s targeting this new one at existing Oracle shops that would like to migrate their DBMS licenses to a more optimized platform at an affordable price,” he said.

The product is also likely to appeal to those who are involved in enterprise database consolidation projects and need an easy-to-implement system to consolidate to, Kobielus said.

“It’s not Exadata at all,” added David Menninger, an analyst at Ventana Research. “It’s a packaging of the Oracle database on Oracle hardware with the advantages that it is pre-installed, preconfigured and supported as a single bill of materials.”

The primary competition for the product would likely be Microsoft’s SQL Server technology which is extremely popular among small and mid-size businesses, Menninger said.

“To a lesser extent it may also compete with cloud-based database offerings,” Menninger said. “If you look at Oracle’s advertising campaigns, it’s not surprising to see new combined offerings of hardware and software. The market now seems to be very receptive to appliance-based solutions.”

The new offering will likely see some competition from other Oracle products as well, Kobielus added.

Oracle needs to be careful how it prices, positions and markets its Database Appliance product if it wants to avoid cannibalizing sales of lower-end Exadata boxes, he cautioned.

Beyond that, other rival products in the same category Teradata’s 2600-series appliances, the IBM Netezza TwinFin and EMC Greenplum’s Modular Data Computing Appliance. “Among them, Oracle has the most OLTP-optimized appliance that is also a strong data warehouse appliance,” Kobielus said.

Curt Monash, a principal at Monash Research said he doubts that the new product will boost Oracle’s place in the small to mid-size business market.

In a blog post , Monash said that Oracle has long had problems selling to small and mid-size firms because its products have been too difficult and costly to administer.

While the appliance will help, “it’s not any kind of game-changer, because the issues relate to the antique design of the Oracle DBMS,” Monash said.

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