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Oracle releases new Intel x86 servers against market headwinds

Oracle launches new x86 servers based on latest Intel Xeon chip a month after its release. Some analysts doubt Oracle can win HP and IBM customers.

Oracle has finally delivered x86 servers based on the latest Intel chips, but the company’s support reputation and the price tag on its three new models have some wondering why they should consider Oracle boxes.

In a webcast this week, Oracle Corp. officials admitted pricing for Sun Fire x86 servers is higher than both Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM. Pricing starts at about $10,000 for the new 1U Sun Fire X4170 M3, roughly double the price for HP and Dell’s models, according to a chart in an Oracle white paper released along with the new products.

By comparison, the HP website prices the DL360p at $4,949, and the x3550 tops out at just more than $5,000 on IBM’s website.

Oracle claims a built-in software stack consisting of its operating system (Oracle Linux or Solaris), virtual machine (Oracle VM) and server management software (Oracle Enterprise Manager) costs less in the long run than a combination of an HP commodity server with Windows, VMware Inc. virtualization software and HP integrated Lights Out (iLO).

But Oracle’s attempt to use software to sell hardware probably won’t help the company’s cause.

 “The experience my clients and I have had with Oracle software support has greatly reduced the likelihood of considering Oracle as a hardware vendor,” said Jay Weinshenker, owner of Austin, Texas-based Weinshenker Consulting, in an email. “Support is frequently slow and incompetent. Support requests need to be frequently … forwarded to managers to get any sort of resolution.

“If Oracle were to improve their software support, I imagine it would lead to more software and hardware sales,” he added.

Though on paper Oracle’s virtualization software, Oracle VM, costs less than competitor VMware’s software, customers get what they pay for with Oracle VM, said David Welch, CTO at House of Brick, an IT consultancy in Omaha, Neb.

One of Welch’s customers that had been “persuaded by Oracle for pricing and support reasons to install PeopleSoft on Oracle VM” experienced problems  with Oracle VM 2.2, 3.01, 3.02 and 3.03 — even with  on-site support from Oracle.

“They had either hosts or VMs across all four versions disappearing without any explanations,” Welch said.  “Oracle’s pricing on this stuff can look attractive, but we see a human cost to it, with significant operational overhead.”

It also doesn’t help that Oracle has gone through several adjustments to its product strategies since acquiring Sun Microsystems Inc. in 2010, said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.

“Customers don’t just buy products. They buy a series of products over time,” he said.

Oracle’s vacillations have made it “a harder company to buy from. The belief system and investment patterns aren’t as clear for Oracle as for some other vendors.”

Oracle did not comment by press time.

Oracle’s x86 servers
For Oracle shops interested in what the company has to offer, the new server models now shipping include the Sun Fire X4170 M3, the Sun Fire X4270 M3 and the Sun Blade X6270 M3.

All are two-socket models based on the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 processor. The X4170 M3, a 1U box, supports up to 16 low-voltage DIMMs for up to 512 GB of memory (as compared to competitors’ maxed-out 24 DIMMs and 768 GB of memory supported with Sandy Bridge).

The 4270 M3, a 2U enclosure, supports the same memory profile but can pack in 8, 12 or 24 2.5-inch hot-swappable disk drive bays and up to four 10 GbE network ports.

The Sun Blade supports up to 384 GB of memory and up to four 2.5-inch disk drives and two 10 GbE network ports. 

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for and Write to her at

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