GRID DOMINATES FLOOR AT ORACLE OpenWorld

By By Derrick Harris

December 13, 2004

If I could take only one thing from Oracle OpenWorld this year, it would have to be that enterprise Grid computing is here to stay. While Grid was only a sidenote to last year's conference (10g, after all, had been released only a few months prior), it was definitely the focal point of this year's event.

The role of Grids in the enterprise was made crystal clear as I walked on to the show floor for the first time. Booth's from some of IT's biggest players dominated the scenery, and almost all of them left no doubt as to where they stand on the idea of Grid computing. While it was no surprise to see Grid stalwarts like Sun and IBM espousing Grid's benefits, it was a little shocking to see companies like NetApp, Dell and EMC (even though two of the three are members of Project MegaGrid) making such a strong case.

Speaking of Project MegaGrid, that also made some waves at the show. Four HUGE vendors (Oracle, Intel, Dell, EMC) joined forces to promote a unified Grid offering, and it definitely drew attention. However, all that glitters is not necessarily gold. See “DELL, EMC, INTEL, ORACLE LAUNCH 'PROJECT MegaGrid'” (article 104384) in this week's issue for complete project details, as well as the one question that begs to be asked in the wake of such an announcement.

However, the Grid motif did not end in the exhibition hall. There were numerous sessions and tracks on Grid, and executives at many booths were more than happy to discuss it. Most noticeable to me however, were the three keynote speakers I was able to see, who spoke at length about how business stand to benefit from not only Oracle 10g, but from enterprise Grids in general.

Chuck Rozwat, Oracle's executive vice president of server technologies, used his time on stage to discuss not only Oracle 10g Release 2, but also some of the things that led to enterprise Grid making such great leaps in 2004. There was a shared industry vision over the last year, he said, that included the mass production of blade servers, standards for Java and XML (among others), the release of Linux 3.0, and the formation of the EGA. These all played a role in the current state of enterprise Grid computing.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy also gave a keynote, and he made a point to say “Grid” as much as possible. In fact, McNealy asked his management team (a magic 8-ball), “Will Larry Ellison invite me back if I don't say the word 'Grid' every seventh word in my speech?”

The 8-ball, by the way, eventually said “yes.”

And, in between pot shots at Intel, Dell, HP, Microsoft and even Oracle, to name a few, McNealy talked about the levels of IT enlightenment, in which utility computing is the fifth, and highest, level. This led into discussion of Sun's $1/CPU/Hour program which was announced a few months back, and is an integral part of Sun's Grid strategy.

Before he ended, though, McNealy made one final attempt to please Ellison. When touting Sun's new SPARC processor (code-named Niagara), which he called a “Grid on a chip,” McNealy mentioned that it you string a few together, you have “Grids Gridded.”

“How's that, Larry,” he asked.

But what about Ellison?

Well, he did not disappoint those who expected a lot of Grid talk. Ellison talked at length about the necessary migration from hundreds or thousands of separate databases to one unified, Grid-based data hub. The only way to consolidate reliably, which means it never breaks, is Grid, he said.

Ellison spoke quite a bit about the worldwide credit data hub, which allows all credit issuers around the world to instantly know what someone's credit history looks like. However, this is obviously not the only area where this type of Grid-based data hub would be beneficial. Logistics companies, like UPS, FedEx, etc., could use this technology, as could police departments and the federal government in fighting terrorism.

Grid computing is dramatically faster than old-fashioned mainframe computing, he said, and IBM mainframes are just that — old-fashioned.

“Mainframes have been the gold standard for performance for 40 years,” Ellison said, “but no longer.”

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