So Oracle announced Exalytics yesterday and I’ve spent much of today thinking about it in the back of my mind whilst I did my day job. It’s about the most interesting announcement of the tech world this year and it’s worth discussing why.
What is Oracle Exalytics?
Well it’s a bit like SAP HANA. It’s a big (relatively) commodity piece of hardware with 40 Intel cores and 1TB of main memory. It can store a claimed 5-10TB of compressed analytics data, but beware of false compression claims. On this, you can perform high-speed analytics on medium-size datasets.
Exalytics is a technology mashup of its TimesTen in-memory database technology, BI stack and Essbase OLAP engine. This means that it’s not anything new, but rather existing technology repackaged into an appliance. Not necessarily a bad thing, because it means it should just work.
How does it compare to SAP HANA?
Compared to SAP HANA 1.0 SP02, Oracle Exalytics is almost exactly the same. It is a combination of Hardware and Software packaged into an appliance. The major difference is that Oracle build the whole stack so you can buy an Exalytics appliance directly from Oracle.
However it is only available in one size: 1TB, which is a strength and a weakness. First, SAP can sell anything from a 64GB license (with a minimum 128GB appliance), which at list price is less than €200,000 – all the way up to a monster 4TB appliance in partnership with IBM (and probably other hardware partners, later in the year).
Oracle validate SAP’s in-memory strategy
That’s what’s interesting here: Oracle is validating that SAP has got it right. Larry Ellison usually goes his own way and it is a very interesting concession to SAP’s strategy that Oracle are following suit.
Does SAP have first mover advantage?
In the analytics game – not really. SAP HANA and Oracle Exalytics are likely to be roughly as mature as each other and Oracle has a simpler sales-cycle because it is a one-stop-shop. This means that the 6 months early mover advantage that SAP has is not that relevant in terms of analytics.
However that’s not the point, because SAP HANA may be an analytics appliance today in its SAP HANA 1.0 SP02 guise – but it becomes so much more when SAP release SAP HANA 1.0 SP03 to market, which is purported to be in early November 2011. When this happens, HANA is no longer just a bolt-on analytics appliance, but also a full RDBMS for SAP NetWeaver BW systems.
For my money, Oracle Exalytics is just the second move of a chess game. Black Pawn to 2.d5. What comes next is what will be really interesting. Because SAP HANA has a fantastic roadmap that could position it as the RDBMS of choice for Enterprise IT – for SAP’s Business Suite software but also for so much more.
The question is, what does Oracle have up its sleeve to turn its RDBMS strategy into something that can compete with SAP? A collection of technologies will not be enough in years to come – it will have to be put into a cohesive strategy for both on-premise and cloud solutions. Currently SAP appears to have the upper hand in terms of long-term strategy, but Oracle should not be underestimated.
I’ve been reading some more and it looks nebulously like Exalytics can do both failover and scale-out – but the details in the solution brief are nebulous. Oracle also talks about Apps, which suggests it is trying to compete with SAP, perhaps with a future range of Oracle Exalytics Apps.
It’s also worth noting that Exadata and Exalytics appliances use an Infiniband 40GB/sec connection to connect each other, which may resolve some of the problems SAP is having around performance of scale-out solutions.