In a move aimed at taking away a slice of Microsoft's SQL Server business, Oracle will soon announce plans to sell its database software installed on pre-configured "server appliances" that use a lightweight operating system developed in part by Oracle.
The goal of the initiative is to lower the cost of owning Oracle's databases with a view to making it a more competitive product with Microsoft's SQL Server, Larry Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle, said.
"The only way we can compete with Microsoft is to deliver a product that has a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO)," Ellison said.
Late last week, Oracle was finalising deals with Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, all of which are expected to begin selling the appliance servers by the end of the first calendar quarter next year, Ellison said.
Easy to manage
The servers will run a lightweight, easy-to-manage operating system developed in part by Oracle, which has only the minimum features needed to run an Oracle database. Ellison said the operating system will be easier and less costly for corporations to maintain than Windows NT, which he called "enormously expensive and complex."
"If the only thing you're running on the server is (Oracle8i), you don't need much of an operating system; you certainly don't need an operating system like Windows NT or any other full-blown complex OS," he said.
So small is the new operating system that the server appliance initiative has been dubbed "Raw Iron" inside Oracle, because the databases virtually run directly on Intel's microprocessor hardware, Ellison said.
Oracle's manufacturing partners will offer three types of server - "small, medium and large" - that have been pre-configured for specific tasks like e-mail and IFS (Internet file system), Ellison said.
"We're trying to get you out of the habit of rolling your own servers," he said. "With small, medium and large, we can roll servers that will do the job for you maybe 80 per cent of the time . . . You just plug it into the wall and plug it into the Net, assign some IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and you're off."
A "small" appliance server pre-configured with the forthcoming Oracle8i database will be priced at around $US10,000, Ellison said, adding that pricing for the systems was still being negotiated with the hardware partners late last week.
Oracle can't compete with SQL Server on purchase price, but selling server appliances that are cheaper to own will make Oracle's databases more competitive, Ellison said. "The deal is not the money you save by buying the operating system. . . . We are competing with Microsoft for total cost of ownership," he said.
To drive down ownership costs further, Oracle will offer customers a remote management service option along with the servers. For customers who need an additional database administrator (DBA) to maintain their server, Oracle will provide a remote service at less than the cost of hiring an extra IS worker, he said.
The servers are targeted at users who would otherwise buy an NT-based server, and use it only to run an Oracle database. And Ellison said he recognises that many customers will want to maintain Windows NT for servers used to host other applications also.
"We're not saying that we're better than NT, we're saying that in some cases you don't need an operating system," Ellison said.