Oracle Corp. has launched a Database Appliance, a Linux-based server that targets midmarket partners and Microsoft SQL Server customers. The Oracle Database Appliance runs on Intel x86 hardware, but partners should not confuse the appliance with commodity servers that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison loathes. Indeed, Oracle Channel Chief Judson Althoff says the appliance is a highly engineered system that will help to drive Oracle's server hardware revenues higher.

Althoff and Lydia Smyers, VP of worldwide alliances and channels, position the appliance as a reliable, affordable, engineered system from Oracle's enterprise family. Althoff said the appliance is ideal for partners serving customers outside of Oracle's core 2,000 enterprise customer list. The appliance has four processors, each with six cores. The total horsepower is 24 cores of Intel processing power with 12 terabytes of raw storage, all triple mirrored, Althoff said.

The appliance runs the Oracle Database 11g R2, so it will support the entire Oracle 11g application portfolio. Oracle has not announced any plans to ship or offer applications on the appliance. But Althoff mentioned a hypothetical scenario where customers may have extra, unused cores available to run applications. At the same time, Oracle is working with ISVs (independent software vendors) and channel partners to build a partner ecosystem around the appliance. True believers include Avnet Technology Solutions, a major distributor that works closely with Oracle.

The Oracle Database Appliance leverages Oracle Real Application Clusters on a 2-node Sun Fire server cluster running Oracle Linux, according to Oracle. The Sun server is designed around x86 processors.

Ironically, the Oracle Database Appliance arrives the same week that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said he doesn't care if Oracle's x86 server revenues drop to zero dollars. Instead of worrying about commodity server sales, Ellison said he wants Oracle to focus on high-value, high margin Exadata and Exalogic servers.

Beyond the Chip

Althoff is quick to draw a line between commodity x86 servers and the Oracle Database Appliance. "We're not interested in low-margin commodity businesses," said Althoff. "We're not going to rebrand somebody else's R&D and slap our label on it. The Database Appliance is a high value-add, engineered system."

As Oracle's commodity x86 server sales fade away, Oracle still expects its overall server revenues to grow. "We'll see net new growth for our higher margin products, which will lead to net new growth for the total server business over time," Althoff predicted. "There are 300,000 Oracle software customers who are not running Oracle hardware. This product is squarely targeted at that market."

Oh, and just for good measure, Althoff ended the conversation by taking aim at Microsoft's SQL Server database business. "We see an opportunity for our partners to go after Microsoft markets as well. You can consolidate eight or 10 SQL Servers onto Oracle and one Database Appliance box," Althoff asserted. Symers said the Database Appliance is available immediately to the channel.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to march forward with its own database and platform efforts. The forthcoming Windows 8 Server release, for instance, will include at least seven enhancements that may interest database administrators and Microsoft partners, according to SQL Server Magazine.