Commodity vs appliance-based cloud has split industry, says BT boss

Whether companies should be looking to commodity-based computing for public cloud offerings or highly engineered systems has caused a split in the IT industry.

This is according to Derek Wilson, managing director for Global Platforms, BT Innovate & Design, who spoke to Computerworld UK at Oracle OpenWorld this week in San Francisco.

Wilson’s comments come shortly after CEO Larry Ellison’s announcement that Oracle will be branching into infrastructure-as-a-service, which will be offered on its highly engineered systems. This approach differs to companies like Amazon Web Services, which run on commodity hardware.

During his keynote Ellison said: "The infrastructure that we're offering isn't conventional. It's not plain old commodity infrastructure."

Oracle's IaaS will include its operating system and virtualisation technologies, and is powered by the company's Exadata, Exalogic and SuperCluster machines.

BT’s Wilson said that this week’s announcements have been met with some interest and provide ‘lots of food for thought’. He revealed that BT, who has a multi-year Oracle enterprise-wide licensing deal, is considering cloud options because of the flexibility it provides. However, he is still weighing up whether or not commodity is less beneficial than appliance based systems.

“I think what will be of interest is the opportunity to stand things up quickly and then if we want to take it into our own data centres, we have got the flexibility to do that. It gives us some options,” said Wilson.

When asked if BT thought Oracle’s systems were a differentiator versus the likes of Amazon, Wilson said: “If I’m candid that’s something we are assessing.”

He added: “The industry is divided on that at the moment, in terms of the benefits of utility-based computing versus appliance-based computing, where software is optimised for certain hardware.

“There has been a very clear message this week about the advantages that Oracle has proposed for that, but we will look hard at it because we have got our own commitment to virtualised data centres, so I’m not sure where it will land commercially.”

However, Wilson did say he could see the argument for certain classes of systems and applications where the optimised appliances would be attractive, such as in data warehousing and web services.

BT currently uses Oracle for many of its core applications, including finance, HR and supply chain. However, it is also in ‘commercial discussions’ to upgrade from applications like PeopleSoft and Siebel to Oracle’s next generation Fusion applications, which have been built from the ground up and are 100% based on open standards.

Wilson said: “We are looking at Fusion applications, particularly around the core ERP area for things such as finance and HR. We want to further consolidate and I think it’s of interest as we do a transformation of those core areas. We are quite a complicated organisation and we are always looking for opportunities to standardise and simplify. Fusion looks promising.”

Wilson said commercial discussions are ongonig and a decision will be made in the next few months.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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