Jun 4, 2012

Ellison Debuts “Oracle XII,” Vatican Demands Apology

Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp, received flack from the Vatican as he announced the company's new strategy meant to leverage their Sun Microsystems purchase made back in 2010 that will introduce considerable changes to their Oracle, Solaris, and SPARC product lines, dubbed “Oracle XII” The Vatican has demanded an apology for some imagery Ellison used during the announcement.

Despite subsequent comments denying his intent to offend, Ellison remains the center of scandal as the Church wages a public campaign to disassociate itself from the database giant. Cardinals in the Vatican's office of public affairs have also suggested a censure for Ellison.

Despite the controversy, Oracle has something hot on its hands. It may have taken a couple of years, but a pervasive, top-to-bottom platform for Oracle database products has emerged and it looks like it might have a chance of unseating IBM's Power7-based offerings from being the top database platform out there. The announcement came in three parts, discussing hardware and software improvements all focused on making Oracle's database products more powerful.

What remains to be seen is when exactly Oracle Corp's new platform will debut, and whether it will be hotter than the heat Catholic officials are turning up against Ellison.

Ellison said that 2012 was a fortuitous year because he was able to finally talk about “Oracle XII,” the comprehensive platform that will set the pace for Oracle offerings for years to come. Focusing on three areas, Oracle XII would put database performance and availability at the forefront of “serious new ideas about supercomputing.” Ellison elaborated before delving into details, saying, “Modeling genetics or nuclear reactions is interesting, but databases will be where it's at.”

First, Oracle announced the new SPARC T4+, a bump to the existing impressive SPARC T4 offerings. Where the T4 offers eight SPARC V9 cores with 16K/16K L1 caches and 128K L2 cache per core and 4 MB shared L3 cache, the T4+ will offer the same eight SPARC V9 cores with 32K/32K L1 caches and 256K L2 cache per core and 8 MB shared L3 cache.

Oracle will also manufacture the SPARC T4+ at a greater variety of clock speeds, offering 2.4, 2.8, 3.0, and 3.2 GHz parts. Overall the upgraded processor is not something totally new or game-changing like the Rock project had promised before Ellison killed it, but it does show a serious commitment to SPARC and overall system performance by Oracle.

Second, Solaris 11 will gain further optimizations for x64, SPARC V9, and more-pervasive multi-threading throughout the operating system. Solaris 12, set for an unspecified but “near-term” (but otherwise unspecified) release date, will drop support for 32-bit platforms altogether and feature a deeply multi-threaded kernel meant to “take all eight threads of the T4 core for a wild ride and more.”

Ellison didn't comment on massively parallel super-computing, an area where Sun Microsystems generally competed with the likes of IBM, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, and instead kept his announcements focused on relational database products. “You'll wonder how you ever ran a database fast enough once you've used Solaris 12.”

Third, and perhaps more important to Oracle's product lines, is development and release of Oracle 12g. The new version of Oracle's flagship RDBMS will only support 64-bit x64 and SPARC V9 architectures, furthering Oracle Corp's trend in the last decade of supporting fewer hardware platforms.

If that sounds shocking, consider the other shoe that Ellison dropped: Oracle 12g will only support Solaris 12. The two will be released in tandem, Ellison said, “each built to capitalize on the other and the amazing latest SPARC technology available by then.” So it seems that Ellison, like his buddy Jobs, is moving toward a one-platform-fits-all approach for his company.

With such sweeping and dramatic changes, it's easy to see why some folks would be upset. Oracle and Solaris users on 32-bit platforms will have to remain content with updates to Oracle 11g and Solaris 11 or migrate to newer, more powerful hardware. In the database industry, where customers typically make deep investments in long-term purchases, this forced march of upgrades will upset many long-time Oracle buyers.

And then there is that one particular group of folks mentioned above who are extra upset now: the Vatican. Let there be no doubts, the Vatican assuredly uses high-end database technology, but they are less concerned with upgrades and more concerned with the bombast Ellison used during his keynote to describe Oracle XII.

The quote in question, from the Oracle press conference on May 31, 2012:

Oracle is excited to announce a new initiative to bring together our three greatest assets in a product that represents the next step in the evolution of relational databases. We're finally bringing hardware and software together vertically in a holy trinity that makes sense for our customers. You can forget the father, son, and holy spirit. We're talking the processor, host, and management system.

The Catholic Church's issue is two-fold: first that Ellison suggests that people “forget” the holy trinity, which the Catholic faith professes to be a divine truth about the nature of God; and second, that the “processor, host, and management system” are somehow comparable to the object(s) of their creed.

“Mr. Ellison has shown his arrogance in casually offending the faith of almost two billion souls,” a Catholic official said. He declined to be identified in this story, citing the sensitive nature of the issue and the fact that it is still under consideration by the Church. “We expect a complete retraction by Mr. Ellison of his statements about the holy trinity immediately.”

Ellison has commented publicly on two occasions that he regrets making the comparison between Oracle Corp products and the Catholic Church's holy trinity publicly, but so far has refused to admit that the two are not comparable.

“I understand the disbelief of Catholics worldwide, and the Catholic Church in particular, that Oracle XII is nothing more than a vertically-integrated hardware/software platform totally unlike their idea of divinity,” Ellison said yesterday during an MCNBC interview. “But they should give [Oracle XII] its time to market, then pass judgement.”

Officials from neither the Catholic Church nor Oracle Corp were available for comment at the time this story went to press, but the Church did issue a public announcement about its side-grade to SAP AG database products.

Ellison was quoted in response to the announcement as saying, “If the Catholic Church doesn't want Oracle, they can go to Hell.”