Oracle prices its SAP HANA rival Exalytics, signaling imminent release

Both systems incorporate in-memory computing engines

Oracle made a splash on Tuesday when it announced the general availability of its Big Data Appliance, but the company also quietly released pricing information for Exalytics, another new member in its family of specialized hardware-software appliances and a likely competitor to SAP's HANA product, suggesting that a general-availability announcement for that product is imminent.

Both Exalytics and HANA incorporate in-memory databases, providing a performance boost over systems that read and write data from disks. HANA was released in June.

Oracle's Engineered System price list, which was updated Tuesday, states that the Exalytics In-Memory Machine X2-4 costs US$135,000, along with an additional $29,700 for annual support and other fees.

The machine consists of a single server with 1TB of RAM and four Intel Xeon E7-4800 processors, each with 10 cores, according to an Oracle whitepaper. Exalytics machines can also be clustered together.

But the machine pricing doesn't account for the software that runs on it, which includes the TimesTen in-memory database and Oracle's Business Intelligence Foundation Suite, the latter of which is a licensing prerequisite for TimesTen, according to the price list.

Oracle is charging $34,500 per processor license for TimesTen on Exalytics, along with another 22 percent of that sum for annual maintenance. In contrast, TimesTen processor licenses are priced at $23,000, plus 22 percent maintenance on Oracle's current Technology Global Price List, which was last updated Oct. 20.

However, TimesTen on Exalytics costs $300 per Named User Plus if customers decide to use that purchasing model, with a minimum of 100 users, compared to $460 per Named User Plus on the global technology list.

BI Foundation Suite, meanwhile, is priced at $450,000 per processor license, or $3,675 per Named User Plus. The number of BI Foundation Suite licenses must be the same as the number of TimesTen for Exalytics licenses, according to Oracle.

Oracle has done some engineering to make TimesTen and BI Foundation work better together on Exalytics, according to the whitepaper.

Exalytics also "supports the broad portfolio of Oracle BI and EPM applications right out of the box," and customers who have existing applications built with Oracle BI Enterprise Edition and Essbase can migrate them to Exalytics without changes, according to the whitepaper.

"They're charging more than I thought they would for the hardware," said Eric Guyer, an independent consultant who advises Oracle customers on purchasing strategies with the vendor. Guyer, who also writes the blog, had previously estimated that Oracle would list price the hardware at about $95,000.

"Obviously, there's a lot less margin for the hardware than software," Guyer said. "I haven't seen a discount further than 25 percent on hardware from Oracle, not on x86 gear." By that measure, an Exalytics system could end up costing a customer about $101,250 for the hardware. "They've given themselves headroom for negotiation."

As far as the software goes, customers should base their decisions on the type of deployment they have in mind, according to Guyer. Those looking to deploy Exalytics-powered reports and applications to a small subset of workers in their organization would find the named user licensing model more economical, whereas the processor model would make sense if the goal is to deliver such features to "uncountable" numbers of users.

Going by list price, the processor model would result in a machine with a price tag approaching $10 million. But customers can expect significant discounts from Oracle on the software, perhaps greater than 70 percent, bringing the average price down to about $3 million, he said.

"Oracle didn't have a good Q2," Guyer noted. "Going into Q3 and Q4, for someone that really wants this Exalytics machine, I think they could really negotiate this down."

Indeed, Oracle's second-quarter results, which showed a 14 percent drop in hardware systems product revenue, may have accelerated the release schedule for both Exalytics and the Big Data appliance. Oracle is under pressure from investors to boost the hardware business and its leadership is no doubt looking to give sales teams as many products as possible to push as its fiscal year draws to a close.

Meanwhile, Oracle shares many customers with SAP and some of those may be evaluating HANA.

While SAP plans to position HANA over time for transactional as well as analytic workloads, the rivalry between the two companies' products is difficult to deny.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, for one, has previously mocked SAP's plans for HANA. And Ellison's keynote at last year's OpenWorld introducing Exalytics prompted senior SAP executive Sanjay Poonen to write a scathing essay, arguing that Exalytics was based on old technology.

It was not immediately clear how Oracle's pricing for Exalytics directly compares to HANA.

Pricing for HANA depends on the use case and SAP hasn't disclosed a uniform price list, said spokesman James Dever. "Each deployment can be different so at this phase we haven't disclosed standardized pricing."

Another wrinkle is the fact that Exalytics and Oracle's other appliances are built only with Sun hardware, while SAP is working with a range of hardware vendors that are creating HANA systems, adding more potential variability on pricing.

In any case, Exalytics' cost may not be a major barrier for Oracle, depending on the circumstances.

"When BI is too slow, executives may yell at IT," said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. "This can make IT urgently want a solution, with price-effectiveness not being the chief buying criterion."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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