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Oracle users like Exadata idea but balk at price

Oracle Exadata database appliance impresses users with its throughput but users wonder if it's worth a big premium.

LAS VEGAS -- Oracle users are intrigued by the idea of the Exadata-integrated data warehouse appliance, but are not thrilled that it relies on Sun hardware and are unsure that it merits a six-figure price.

For more on Oracle Exadata:
With Exadata, Oracle embraces Sun hardware

Exadata: A first look at Oracle's entry into the appliance market

Last year Oracle Corp. said that it would base its Exadata database appliance on Sun Microsystems hardware rather than Hewlett-Packard Co., its previous hardware product partner. The HP iteration, now dubbed v1, never gained a significant customer base. Though Oracle never disclosed its number of HP Exadata customers, estimates hover at around 20.

Now with Sun aboard, Oracle is full-speed ahead on Exadata sales and promotion and some customers are willing to check it out.

"This looks like a possibility if we can get Sun to bring the prices down," said Ajay Massey, a management reporting specialist with Emerson Network Power, an attendee of the Oracle Collaborate 10 show in Las Vegas this week.

Emerson wants to input Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) into a data warehouse and has considered different modes of storage, he said. But the cost of the database appliance could be prohibitive. Exadata v2 hardware-only prices range from $110,000 up to $1.15 million, according to show attendees. List price for the entire hardware-software bundle starts at $300,000 and can reach up to $1 million , excluding support.

Is Exadata worth the cost?
The question then becomes: Is this premium bundle optimized for database operations, worth the premium charged? And for many Oracle shops, the answer is probably not.

"I can get off-the-shelf hardware from Dell for one-fourth the price," he said. "But I don't know if it will give me the same throughput."

Massey hopes to get Oracle to do a proof of concept, and then eventually take data back to the company's architect group so they can haggle on price with Oracle.

Shyam Varan Nath argued that there is value added in having the hardware, software and applications from the same vendor. Nath is a business intelligence architect at IBM and the founder of the Exadata special-interest group (SIG) of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG). Data warehouses are bound mainly by I/O restrictions, but a better-integrated machine can reduce the I/O loss incurred from using different components from different vendors.

"When we have different systems not tuned to work with each other, whether it's the software architecture, storage and so on, the throughput reduces," he said. "The total system doesn't give you the required throughput."

Nath added that in the long term, Oracle's decision to go with Sun as the Exadata hardware provider is a plus, particularly because of the opportunity for deeper integration. And besides, he said, "the customer base for v1 was not very large. It wasn't at the threshold where it was hard to switch."

For many, an Exadata purchase means a major hardware shift. Steven Coen is a technical project manager at Briggs & Stratton, which runs AIX on two IBM Power 570 servers."We're an IBM shop, so Sun would be a change for us," he said.

The company also uses SAP for its substantial volume of online transaction processing (OLTP). Oracle is trying to tout Exadata v2 as a box built not just for data warehousing but for mixed workloads such as OLTP. That said, Coen is just looking at this point.

"We're a growing warehouse shop, but it's minimal by most standards, measured in gigabytes," Coen said. "The initiative is there, and management is latching onto it. But right now we're just looking for the future. We're not ready for this particular situation yet."

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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