For years the IT industry has been extolling the virtues of “best of breed.” Build your IT environment using the best servers, networking gear, apps, storage–all from the best vendors within their own particular space. Now it appears to be doing an about-face with the multiple introductions of pre-integrated computing “stacks.” Soon, all of the major IT vendors will either be partner to or the outright owners of an end-to-end, application-to-bits-on-spinning-disk, stack. And now comes Larry Ellison with the Oracle apps-to-storage stack. Bye-bye best of breed?
Remember when Sun’s former CEO Scott McNealy told us that the network was the computer? What he didn’t say was, that in the world of network-as-computer, IT administrators become computer engineers, whether that’s what they want to be or not. The integrated stack now says to IT administrators that they no longer have to be computer engineers. And that I think is at least one of the essential statements made by the Oracle stack.
Wednesday’s announcement ended some debates within the IT industry. SPARC-based servers are far from dead. In fact they will be optimized to run Oracle applications faster. Sun’s former ZFS-based storage systems will likewise be Oracle-optimized. Even the former StorageTek tape product line gets to play a role. (Wow. If Oracle likes tape then tape is NOT dead!)
The Oracle stack will most certainly send tsunami-like shock waves through the storage industry. In true best-of-breed fashion, EMC has positioned itself as the vendor of choice for block storage supporting Oracle database. Similarly, NetApp claims that upward of 40 percent of its NAS filers out there in user land are feeding Oracle databases. Oracle now wants that segment of the market which generates billions of storage dollars. For sure, some of the 2,000 new salespeople Oracle wants to hire will be commissioned on kicking out EMC, NetApp, and any other non-Oracle storage brand.
Is the stack model a blueprint for the future? Only if the user community agrees so. The Oracle stack says that applications are king and that all of the underlying infrastructure is there to serve the application environment. Therefore, optimize the infrastructure underneath and make it easier to buy and manage. Forget the best-of-breed mentality that turns IT administrators into computer engineers. If that message resonates within the glass houses of the corporate world, then we’re looking at the fabled paradigm shift.
That message will be difficult for some competing vendors to argue with. EMC has an exclusive stack partnership with Cisco. NetApp has just announced one. Can they now explain why best of breed is good for Oracle environments, but not for virtualized server environments? We can only wait and see.