As well as outlining the upside that exists for Oracle in storage, and commenting about its recent analyst event, this blog entry includes video interviews with two Oracle storage execs - Phil Bullinger (ZFS storage) and Jim Cates (tape automation).
Published: May 20, 2013
Late last month Oracle held its annual event for the analyst community. Ensconced with a range of my peers I was immediately struck by how few of the audience I recognized compared to other events of this type that I get to attend. I stopped to think about it and realized that the reason was simple - there was a large preponderance of the attendees that, in one way or another, were focused on software. Now, this might be one of the bigger 'duh' moments of my life and also of your reading experience. So why am I mentioning it here? Because what it demonstrates is actually the importance of other things....err, like hardware in general and storage in particular. As we know from all those Oracle ads telling us that 'x' of the top 'y' companies in any given vertical (where x and y are invariably identical numbers) use its databases, Oracle has largely won that war. The opportunities for Oracle to make significant progress in terms of market share and revenue lie in markets that it does not yet dominate. Well, double-duh eh!? It’s a crucial point for this growing systems house.
So, in one of those crucial areas for potential growth - err, storage...and hardware in general - how does Oracle stack (no pun intended) up? This focus was clearly not lost on the Oracle presenters....and while many of my audience-compadres might not have been as interested as I, there were plenty of comments to endorse that the pugnacious vendor sees this as a battle worth fighting....and more important worth winning. After all hardware is a multi-tens-of-billions dollar business with a vendor oligarchy at the top and many more scrapping. Translation? There's room to play. Sun, for instance, was described more than as "the most strategic acquisition Oracle has made." Specific examples of Oracle's hardware progress were frequent - 7 quarters of double digit growth for ZFS Storage Appliance, 200PB used internally, servers that are moving from ‘so-so’ to ‘wow!’ and over 800 engineered systems (the ‘Exa-family’) sold in the last quarter.
Drilling down more into the storage opportunity, both the impressive progress to date and the enormous remaining opportunity are clear in one of those ‘x of y’ Oracle phrases: over 50% of the Fortune 100 use Oracle storage.
I took the opportunity while I was there to grab a few minutes with two of Oracle's storage execs…and you’re lucky because I had my handy-dandy video with me. Please don’t judge the quality of my cinematography but please do check out the content of these videos. The first is with Phil Bullinger, who leads the ZFS Storage business. I know he gets fed up with being asked whether Oracle is serious about storage so I thought he could talk for himself!
And the second interview was with Jim Cates, who leads the tape side of things. I can’t even tell you what he gets fed up with being asked because using the ‘D’ word (rhymes with fed) is like talking about the ‘Scottish king’ to a stage actor. You just don’t do it! Here’s what Jim had to say on the state of tape automation in the market and at Oracle:
Of course, from all sides there was talk of the future and new products rolling out soon. In order to get invited next year I should stick to my promised confidentiality; suffice to say that Oracle is not known for being bashful, but I’ve seen enough of what’s coming storage-wise to know that it’ll have plenty to shout about in the coming months.
Where the new news is underscored by benchmarking Oracle was keen to point out that it was using what it charmingly referred to as ‘non lunatic’ test beds! Interestingly this was one example of what I saw as a small-but-noteworthy change in tone this year. Yes, there was lots of chest-thumping as ever: but it was often expressed more as “ask yourself who else can do that?” rather than “Ya boo sucks, we can do this.” That may seem like a subtle distinction….it’s more explanation, and less mere assertion.
Oh yeah, and lest I get too semantically hair-splitting and academic here, now I have a new way to determine the health of vendors – check out the on-stage water. I’ve been in countless places where you see a jug of tap water, or maybe no-name/hotel bottled stuff….then there’s the Dasani crowd. But Oracle must be doing OK as there was Fiji water for the speakers! Of course I was a tad surprised they hadn’t dyed it red…
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