Oracle picks HP over Sun for partnership

Oracle Corp. snubbed longtime partner Sun Microsystems Inc. this week by forging a hardware agreement with Hewlett-Packard Co., the New York Times reports.

Oracle, best known for its database software and related applications, showed off a pair of new server systems that should make its database run faster than ever before and give the company a leg up in the growing field for systems known as data warehouses.

"That's right, Oracle is going into the hardware business. But we're not going alone," said Oracle's chief executive, Larry Ellison, speaking at the company's user conference in San Francisco.

Oracle, in fact, is not entering the hardware business in any traditional sense. Salespeople working for the software company can take orders for the new systems, but HP will make, deliver and service the gear ? just as it has always done.

The major difference with this partnership involves Oracle's decision to champion HP over its other close hardware partners like Sun and Dell Inc. In the past, Oracle may very well have struck a deal like this with Sun, as Ellison has long counted Sun's chairman, Scott McNealy, as both a personal friend and strong business ally.

Times have changed, however, with HP's server business growing while Sun's declines. In addition, Sun acquired MySQL, a maker of open source database software that competes with Oracle.

As far as the hardware goes, Oracle will plant its database on an HP server that has vast amounts of storage. By placing lots of storage close to the processors inside the server, Oracle can bolster the performance of its database software, since requests for information no longer have to travel out to external storage systems over a network.

HP is then combining a number of these base systems with more of its regular servers to form something Oracle is calling a Database Machine.

Rather than having anything to do with music, the Database Machine is aimed at data warehousing jobs. This technology helps customers such as retailers and manufactures keep track all of their inventory, sales and other business data, and it lets them search and sort this data in sophisticated ways with the hopes of learning more about the state of a company's business.

A number of start-ups, along with Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp., also compete in the data warehouse market.

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