The other day I run across someone in the parking lot of the local Home Depot. This person is a DBA for a local telecom company. To the customary “hi, how are you” he quickly replied “I am getting on an airplane to go to Oracle OpenWorld”. Oracle OpenWorld is big well attended conference where you spend more time finding your way around than actually attending sessions. The downfall of all big conferences. The entertainment is always top-notch. It is also a place where Oracle makes a lot of product announcements. This year, NoSQL and Big Data are on the menu shrouded in the fog of cloud computing.

NoSQL the Oracle way

What exactly did Oracle announce? Oracle proclaimed that they will offer a NoSQL database a key-value data store that will scale across a large number of “storage nodes”. The rest of the industry would say a “cluster” … not Oracle. The next thing on the menu perhaps provides an explanation. It is Oracle Big Data Appliance. Where the rest of the world is looking to scale NoSQL across very large clusters of commodity hardware, Oracle wants to see big expensive machines or as they call them “Engineered Systems”. It makes perfect sense for Oracle as they need to return value to their shareholders from the acquisition of SUN. Not sure it makes as much sense for the rest of us. The details on the Oracle NoSQL are scant at this point in time. There is a web page with very little information on it. The download site advises us to come back in mid-October. I guess we will have to entertain ourselves with the news of the iPhone 5 for now. Matthew Aslett from the The 451 Group has penned a blog post in which he suggests that with the NoSQL announcement Oracle may have moved away from their strategy of subsuming any new development that threatens its database franchise. I disagree. The messages coming out of Oracle very clearly pointing to NoSQL and Hadoop positioned as feeder systems for getting data in to Oracle 11R2 database. I firmly believe that Oracle’s new-found interest in NoSQL is purely a defensive play meant to protect Oracle database and hardware business which continues to bleed market share.

Is that Hadoop in your pocket or do you see an opportunity to sell a big machine?

Oracle co-president and CFO Safra Catz announced that: “We are big data. And we’re also the cloud.” and Thomas Kurian proceeded to talk about the Oracle’s entry in to the world of Big Data. As expected, this entry is another big honking piece of hardware called Oracle Big Data Appliance. This will raise more than a few eyebrows in the Hadoop community. Apache Hadoop is one of the cornerstone technologies of the Big Data. I have never met anyone who said “I want to put Hadoop on the largest machine I can find”. Hadoop, by its definition is a distributed data processing system that is designed to take advantage of very large clusters of very inexpensive machines. What is Oracle Big Data Appliance if not an antithesis of Hadoop. Sure it makes sense to an Oracle sales force, but I very much doubt that the rest of us are going to be drinking Oracle “Engineered System” cool-aid when it comes to Hadoop. Don’t take me wrong. I do think that carefully designed, preassembled, pretested and instrumented systems are a good way to deliver complex environments. I just think Oracle appliance is off when it comes to Hadoop. To add insult to injury, Oracle is clearly positioning Hadoop as some sort of data collection and feed system for the Oracle database. An ETL for unstructured data so to speak. After all, in Oracle’s world, all data invariably ends up in Oracle database. Oracle Big Data Appliance looks like another blatant attempt to lock customers in to Oracle database.

A lot of smoke does not make a cloud

So, what about that pronouncement by Safra Catz about “And we’re also the cloud.”? Sounds like more smoke and I don’t mean the “when there is smoke there is fire”. I mean more like a military technique called “smoke screen”. No announcements were made on Hadoop as a service or NoSQL services. If this is a rehash of the old play of “our appliances are cloud in a box” then I am not impressed. I think Rob Thomas did a good job describing Oracle’s tactics in his post.

As usual, these are just my opinions. I’d love to hear yours. Please use the comment box below.