BLOG UPDATE: After writing this piece back in December 2006, I found a page on searchdatacenter.com about HP’s promotion to get Sun SPARC customers over to Proliant server. Yes, that would be a no-brainer move, but not painless…enter Transitive. Along the same lines of what I stated in this blog entry, that news about HP included the following bit about Transitive:
In conjunction with the certification announcement, HP publicized a new relationship with Transitive Corp., which ports software across multiple processor and operating system pairs.
Transitive’s QuickTransit for Solaris/SPARC-to-Linux/x86-64 solution enables applications that have been compiled for the Solaris on SPARC to run on certified 64-bit HP ProLiant platforms running Linux without requiring any source code or binary changes, HP reported.
Oracle no longer has to port the database to such a wide array of platforms for the sake of garnering market share. They won that battle—rightly so. Who else had such an optimized RDBMS on so many platforms? Nobody, period. But most of those platforms are dead. So, imagine the reduced cost for Oracle to produce their database—someday in the future—on only one platform. Guess what platform that would be? Linux of course. “Oh boy, he’s fallen off the deep end”, you say. No, really, read on.
Porting Is Expensive—Beyond Labor
It costs Oracle to maintain multiple ports not withstanding that fact that the varying productlines supply engineering resources. Even Sequent had 27 engineers stationed on site at Redwood Shores. All that additional free manpower aside, the very existence of so many ports is a cost that is hard to explain to shareholders and analysts when it is an expense that Microsoft clearly doesn’t have to bear. Remember, the parties that matter the most at this point of the game are the analysts and shareholders.
I’m a huge fan of “real systems”. You know, the sorts of systems where life-and-death applications are running and the people managing them can sleep at night knowing their system isn’t going to kill people because it crashes all the time. I’m glad there are still systems like System z9 mainframes, System p running AIX, Itanium2 Superdomes running HP-UX and so on. These are systems that are tried and true. And, no, they are not open source. These systems belong—period. What does this have to do with Oracle?
OK, if you are still with me, picture this. Oracle stops porting to all instruction sets except x86_64—and only Linux. That reduces the cost of producing the database product (by a very small amount I know) and makes analysts happy. It looks more like what Microsoft does. It looks more like what the open source databases do. It looks young and fresh. By the way, I know you can run MySQL on SPARC. Like I say, “sometimes man bites dog.” I digress.
How Would Oracle Pull This Off?
The same way Apple pulled the PowerPC to Intel switch—Rosetta. Rosetta works, we all know that. What not a lot of people know is that Rosetta is Transitive. I just found that out myself. Transitive works. IBM is already using Transitive to woo customers to run their x86 Linux applications on PowerPC Linux. It all starts to make your head swim.
Introducing the High-End Oracle Server of the Future
OK, so there is only one Oracle distribution—x86_64 Linux. That’s it. Well, the way it could end up is that if you want to run the single Oracle port in maximum performance mode, you run x86_64 hardware. How bad is that? Remember, this is the era of commodity processors delivering more than 50,000 TpmC. And Moore’s Law is on your side. Although the current application of Transitive is mostly to bring non-Intel executables to Intel platforms, it certainly can go both ways. How would the likes of IBM, HP and Sun deliver value in their high end systems? It could wind up that the competitive edge between these high end vendors boils down to nothing more than which platform performs something like Transitive better. If you want the really cool things that high end System p offers? Buy it. Load Oracle over Transitive and away you go. Like the power savings of Sun CoolThreads? Buy it. Want to run Oracle on it? You know the drill—Transitive.
I’ll leave you with a final thought. This sort of thing would make more business sense than technical sense. Which do you think has more weight?