Oracle released its new in-memory analytics engine, Exalytics, at Oracle Open World 2011 this week. Media has been in a frenzy for the last 4 days and there are already over 1/4 million Google hits for Exalytics. It’s actually interesting though, as to why Oracle would release such a product.
First, Oracle’s Ellison publicly dismissed in-memory computing just 6 months ago. He claimed SAP were on drugs, building out an in-memory database, as referenced in this PC World article:
“Get me the name of their pharmacist,” Ellison said at the time. “I mean, I know a lot about in-memory databases. In fact, we have the leading in-memory database, TimesTen. This is nonsense. There is no in-memory technology anywhere near ready to take the place of a relational database. It’s a complete fantasy on their part.”
Second, Oracle has its Exadata database appliance – which is designed to serve the needs of both online transactional processing, and analytics. With Exadata, you are supposed to have all the appliance you need. Here’s what Ellison said when he unveiled Exadata:
“It is the first database machine that does online transaction processing. All the other machines: Teradata, Netezza etc. are designed just for data warehousing. Oracle Exadata version 1 was designed just for data warehousing. This is the first time a database machine has been able to do both data warehousing and online transaction processing.”
What does an Exalytics appliance look like?
The reason why Oracle were able to produce the Exalytics appliance so quickly is because it’s mostly off-the shelf hardware and software for them:
- Sun Fire X4470M2 server with 40 cores, 1TB RAM, 6x 600GB SAS drives
- TimesTen columnar database store (columnar feature is new)
- Essbase OLAP database (optimised for in-memory)
- Oracle BI Suite
So Exalytics is nothing new?Not really. It is a bunch of existing Oracle tech, optimised for in-memory, although they don’t say how, apart from the columnar TimesTen database, which will have 5-10x compression compared to the row TimesTen store.However it is neatly packaged up into an appliance which is easily purchased, and one which will probably provide good performance benefits compared to even a regular Exadata appliance.
Why is Oracle afraid of SAP?
Oracle have no need to build this appliance. It’s architecturally complex and they would make more money out of selling the premium Exadata appliance. So why did they? For my money, because Larry wanted to show SAP that he could also build an in-memory analytics appliance in a short period of time.
And this shows for the first time – in the wider market context – that Oracle might be afraid that SAP’s strategy of in-memory computing with its HANA appliance, is the right strategy. Unfortunately Oracle have missed the point.
What is the point and why does Exalytics miss it?
Oracle Exalytics and SAP HANA solve the same high-level business problem today – poorly performing reports. I’d bet if you loaded the same data into them, they are probably quite similar and would provide the same value to the customer. The problem for Oracle is: that’s not the point of SAP HANA.
SAP HANA is a simple and elegant solution that – whilst not quite there today – will, in its roadmap of future versions provide the following:
- Excellent performance for transactional and reporting systems on the fly
- Integrated planning engine with no separate store like Essbase
- Elegantly architected with row and column stores and the benefits of both
- Generic RDBMS capabilities for all business applications and platforms