Oracle pushes grid computing in the enterprise

SAN FRANCISCO — They were out in full force outside the Moscone Convention Center, marching in a circle holding placards high in the air. No, not angry PeopleSoft shareholders unhappy over Oracle’s

unsolicited takeover bid. Their signs said, “”Grid is here,”” and they were marketing staff announcing Oracle’s introduction of grid computing capabilties to its flagship database and application server.

The pooling of enterprise computing resources is expected to be the dominant theme of this year’s OracleWorld 2003 conference, which will bring 20,000 customers, partners and executives for a series of product briefings and panel discussions. Oracle Monday said the database upgrade, dubbed 10G, includes self-management capabilities similar to that touted by IBM and HP and a Web-based console called Database Control to help eliminate the complexity that has hindered adoption of grid computing in the enterprise.

Grid computing usually refers to a technique whereby several servers are harnessed to help dynamically provision computing power based on business priorities. Academic and research environments have already deployed early grid computing strategies, but IT managers have shied away at the idea of managing additional servers.

Chuck Philips, Oracle’s executive vice-president, told the Monday keynote audience low-cost blade servers, coupled with the development of industry-standard components, set the stage for database software that makes grid computing viable in the enterprise. Like many other vendors, he said Oracle believes grid computing will allow companies to treat IT more like other utilities such as gas, or electricity.

“”I know we just had a major power failure,”” he said, alluding to the recent blackout that put most of Ontario and the Northeastern United States in darkness August 14. “”But the electrical grid only makes headlines when it goes down once every 40 years. Severs go down every day.””

While Oracle will be spending most of this week trying to convince customers to make the move to 10G, Canadian users back home are being cautious. Craig Reid, president of the Toronto Oracle Users Group, said members agreed at their most recent meeting that widespread grid computing was still several years away.

“”It’s a product that’s looking for a market . . . the tools aren’t there yet,”” he said in a telephone interview. While big banks may test the waters, the complexity of grid environments presents a considerable challenge for many enterprises, Reid said. “”There would be a lot of training involved.””

Oracle said Toronto would be one of 10 North American cities which will host a one-day training session on 10G. The curricula for these courses comes directly from the company’s development team, said Oracle University executive John Hall. An online course on 10G, meanwhile, was launched Monday in conjunction with the conference opening.

Philips said companies could get started on a grid computing strategy by consolidating their server infrastructure and standardizing on components while automating as much of their operation as possible. Michael Dell, who was among the first of several invited guest speakers this week, said the advancement of grid computing will see hardware sales closely linked to the software which intelligently manages it. Since April, Dell and Oracle have been jointly offering Oracle’s Real Application Clusters on Dell’s PowerEdge servers.

“”If there’s a problem, the system won’t bother you, it’ll just handle it,”” he said, describing the transition as a move away from locked-in proprietary systems of old. “”There’s nothing wrong with (proprietary equipment). It just happens to be very expensive.””

Reid was more skeptical. “”(Oracle chief executive) Larry Ellison has said you’ll be able to get rid of your DBA guys, but it’s not going to happen,”” he said. “”(Grid computing) is a long way from making jobs obsolete.””

Other product announcements Monday included middleware to add Web services and workload management in Oracle Application Server 10G and Enterprise Manager 10G, which is designed to monitor service levels and plan for capacity.

OracleWorld 2003 continues through Thursday.

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