EU Haunts Oracle-Sun, Oracle Taunts IBM
September 14, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
While The Four Hundred was on summer hiatus, the European Union’s antitrust regulators threw a spanner into the works of Oracle‘s $7.4 billion proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems. And even though Sun has stopped talking to the press about anything, Oracle is starting to taunt IBM about how the future Sparc product line is gonna whip Power Systems iron on the TPC-C benchmark test and how Oracle is committed to the Sparc platform.
Back in July, Sun’s shareholders voted to approve the Oracle acquisition of Sun, which should cost the company a little more than $5 billion (netting out Sun’s small debts and cash pile). On August 20, the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust people gave the Oracle acquisition the A-OK, but then on September 3, antitrust officials in Europe said they were going to do a full probe on the Oracle-Sun deal because they were concerned about the impact that it would have on the database market once Oracle gained control of the open source MySQL database. (Funny how no one worried about that when Oracle was eating up other databases or ERP suppliers or middleware makers, eh?) It is not clear what the European Union wants or how long it will take to make up its mind, but I think at this point if Oracle wants the rest of Sun to live, it should say that it is willing to sell off MySQL. The truth is, MySQL’s original founders are thinking of forking the project and creating a new distro anyway. And if Oracle does “sell off” the MySQL business, it is tiny in terms of revenues–we’re talking $313 million in billings for MySQL in Sun’s fiscal 2009 ended in June. Every few months that goes by with this Oracle deal undone costs Sun that much in server sales.
Oracle, which wanted this deal closed before the end of June when it announced it in April, is clearly realizing that, and has taken its server battle to the PR front lines by taking out some ads in the trade and general business press that suggest it can and will whip IBM’s performance numbers on the TPC-C online benchmark test when it announces some results on October 14 at Oracle’s OpenWorld customer event in San Francisco. I happen to think that Oracle is going to show off some performance numbers for a cluster of Sparc T5440 servers, which sport Sun’s four-core, 32-thread Sparc T2+ chips running at 1.6 GHz these days. I reckon that one of these servers could do as much as 1.6 million transactions per minute (TPM), and that with clustering overhead taken into account, maybe a rack of these would do something like 12 million to 13 million TPM.
IBM’s 64-core Power 595 machine, using 5 GHz chips and a ridiculous amount of tuning to get data flying into caches from partitioned database slices, can do about 6 million TPM, and I reckon that an more honestly tuned box running the i/OS platform could do about half that, or about 3 million TPM. The i/OS platform tops out at 32 cores in terms of single image scalability, by the way, so that is with two logical partitions. IBM does supply 64-core support if you need it, but it won’t deliver the same oomph on OLTP workloads unless you do some of the data steering that IBM does on the AIX versions of the Power Systems to get that 6 million TPM number.
Perhaps more importantly for those who doubt Oracle’s intentions when it comes to server iron–and I am one of them–the company said in ads last week aimed at Sun customers that it would spend more money developing Sparc chips and systems than Sun currently does, that it would spend more dough on Solaris development than Sun currently does, that it would more than double the number of hardware people selling and servicing Sparc/Solaris boxes than Sun currently does, and that it would integrate Oracle databases with Solaris and Sparc iron to dramatically improve Sun’s performance.
“We’re in it to win it,” the ad quotes Oracle chief executive officer, Larry Ellison, as saying. “IBM, we’re looking forward to competing with you in the hardware business.”
What about Hewlett-Packard and Dell, and Sun partner Fujitsu? Or how about Cisco Systems, which gets software-class margins out of its networking business? And will Oracle use the same tricks IBM does on AIX boxes to goose its performance by a factor of two? Seems likely on that last front.