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With new Sparc systems, Oracle begins shift to single chip architecture

James Niccolai | March 27, 2013
Oracle has announced a batch of servers based on new Sparc processors

Despite the release of the M-series server on Tuesday, Choy would not confirm whether Oracle plans to move all or most of its SMP systems over to its own Sparc chip. "We're focused on the systems we're announcing on Tuesday," he said.

But analysts say it's been Oracle's plan for a long time. "They've been saying they would do this for years," Brookwood said.

It fits with Oracle's strategy of designing entire systems, from the chips to the operating system, database and applications, in-house. Oracle argues it can build higher-performance systems this way, though it also ties customers to an all-Oracle stack of hardware and software.

"I think it's the right strategy for them; what they're really selling is integration," said analyst Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics.

But he also wondered how much longer it will be economically viable for Oracle to keep developing its own microprocessors. Sales of its Unix hardware have been declining, and last quarter were at about half the level they were when Oracle bought Sun Microsystems three years ago.

"They just came off a bad quarter, how much longer can they keep investing in this?" Clabby asked.

Brookwood said the cost savings from moving to a single chip design will enable Oracle to invest in future Sparc generations. "Don't forget too that Oracle still sells a lot of software wrapped around these systems, the same as HP does around Itanium systems," he said.

The new systems announced Tuesday will start to be rolled out this month, Marshall said. Pricing wasn't immediately available.

The servers are all general-purpose machines, and Oracle isn't saying yet when the T5 will find its way into its pre-integrated systems, such as the Exadata Database machine and Sparc SuperCluster.

For now at least, Oracle continues to resell Fujitsu's SMP servers, but the question is whether it will introduce new models in the future or design its own, as it did with the M5-32.

Oracle also continues to sell servers based on x86 processors, though CEO Larry Ellison has made it clear he's not interested in the high-volume server business.

Ellison is due to announce the new servers along with John Fowler, the head of Oracle's systems business, during an event at Oracle's headquarters Tuesday afternoon.

 

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