Oracle took the next step in its grid computing and database clustering strategy Tuesday by forming an exclusive agreement that will see its software pre-installed on Dell servers.


Standard Edition One database will be bundled with Dell’s 2600 or 2650 PowerEdge servers and CDs worldwide. Dell will also factory install the product with Red Hat Linux and Microsoft Windows. The two companies have also agreed to encourage adoption of the grid computing capabilities that Oracle introduced in its 10g database. Grid computing usually refers to the harnessing of several servers to help dynamically provision computing power based on business priorities.

The alliance with Dell is an extension of a relationship Oracle forged last year that saw its database cluster software put on Dell PowerEdge 260 servers running Linux. Oracle’s Real Application Clustering is in some ways a precursor to grid computing, but using only a few servers, whereas grid computing could link many more.

“”This is not a scaled-down version of Oracle, this is the full version of Oracle running on the world’s fastest processors,”” Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison said in a conference call. “”Clearly, a customer could go out and buy Oracle and install it on an HP server (but) . . . Dell does a wonderful job of pre-loading on their servers. We just think it makes sense, because Dell is so good at this.””

Michael Dell said the bundle would be particularly attractive to the small and medium enterprise market, offering a solution that would take only 15 minutes to install, as opposed to the usual six hours. Though its base of Linux customers has grown substantially, Dell said he did not see the company standardizing on a particular platform.

“”We’ll continue to sell Microsoft products also,”” he said. “”None of us are going to try and sell to one type of user on one type of system . . . I think you’ll find the price points here are quite competitive.””

IDC Canada infrastructure analyst Alan Freedman said Oracle and Dell are approaching the SME market at a time when low-cost clustering software offers an interesting alternative to buying more expensive single server solutions.

“”We’re seeing a lot of companies, whether it’s through fiscal restraint or even speed or time to market, who are looking at scaling out instead of scaling up,”” he said. “”They’re putting smaller, more versatile, flexible infrastructure solutions at lower price points.””

Ellison said Oracle’s Automated Storage Management (ASM) and Grid Control tools will help avoid some of the training issues that may have hampered the adoption of database clustering up until now.

“”We’ve actually automated a way — probably the most tedious and difficult task of database administration, which is mapping the data out onto the disk drive,”” he said. ASM will stripe the data onto the disks, constantly move the data around and keep the data I/O optimized. “”That is a manual process with virtually every other database.””

That automation will be critical for SMEs, Freedman said.

“”Without a solid system management software or application, the management of this prolific number of servers could get out of hand,”” he said. “”It could end up driving your total cost much higher, in fact, than if you would have gotten a mid-range computer in the first place.””

Dell will be turning its attention from the SME to the enterprise as it makes a series of announcements at a conference at its Round Rock, Tex. headquarters later this week.


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