Oracle is spearheading an initiative to bypass Windows NT with a new NT cutdown server operating system.
Dubbed Raw Iron, the scheme will see manufacturers ship Intel-based machines with Oracle8i pre-installed, running on a 64-bit micro-kernel developed inhouse at Oracle and using the fastest components of FreeBSD, NetBSD, Linux and Solaris Unixes, and Lucent's Plan9 operating system.
Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Compaq are expected to back the specification.
The move reveals a feeling in the industry that Windows 2000 may not be the answer to every problem.
"We have been encouraging (our partners) to make a more robust operating system and to drive for higher quality," Morton Topfer, vice chairman of Dell, told PC Week. "Eighty five per cent of (the helpdesk) calls we take are operating system or operator errors, not problems with the hardware."
Topfer revealed that Dell has been working with the main operating system vendors, including Microsoft, for up to two years to achieve these ends.
Although almost entirely a Microsoft shop, Dell believes that 32 million lines of code (estimated to be in Windows 2000) are not necessary for all computing environments.
Oracle's micro-kernel architecture will only include basic services such as disk input/output and an IP stack, meaning that Oracle 8i will provide file system functions and application services. Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, explained: "We're not getting into the OS business or trying to compete with Microsoft here, but if you only want to run a database, you don't need an OS."
Ellison argued that the micro-kernel architecture would require less maintenance and be more secure, as there wouldn't be an operating system to hack into. Oracle plans to offer remote support with the machines.
Oracle estimated that an entry-level four-way Dell machine offered under the Raw Iron program would cost about $10,000 (#6,000) when it launches in March 1999, plus a licence fee for the Oracle8i database. The plans call for six-way machines for medium-sized businesses, and 12-way boxes for the high-end market.
"We can't take advantage of (64-bit Merced) if NT comes between us and turns it magically into a 32-bit machine," Ellison said.
- More enterprise news, page 30
Ellison's $1 million Oracle pledge
So confident is he of Oracle's superiority over Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 (launched last week) that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is offering $1 million (#600,000) to anyone who can get SQL 7.0 to run less than 100% slower than Oracle8. The same amount is on offer to anyone who can publish results for SQL Server 7.0 running the TCP-D benchmark of online analytical processing (OLAP). He warned the Comdex audience, however, that publishing the results of an SQL 7.0 benchmark was against the Microsoft licensing agreement.
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