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Oracle, Dell may have bundle on the way

Extending a year-old partnership, the two companies are expected to announce a plan to install Oracle's database software on Dell's server hardware.

Oracle and Dell are expected to detail an expansion of an existing partnership in which Dell bundles Oracle's database software on its servers.

Dell CEO Michael Dell and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison plan to host a joint press conference on Tuesday. Industry analysts speculated that Dell and Oracle will create a new bundle that includes Dell's two-processor servers and Oracle's database cluster software.

About a year ago, the two companies announced a deal to install Oracle's 9i database cluster software on Dell's two-processor PowerEdge 2650 servers, which run Linux.

In February of this year, Oracle released another edition of its database, Oracle 10g. The Standard Edition of Oracle 10g comes with Oracle's Real Application Clusters (RAC) software free of charge. The clustering software is designed to combine the processing power of several database servers and create greater reliability, in the event of a database crash.

Representatives of Dell and Oracle declined to comment on the joint announcement.

Dell and Oracle are trying to promote faster database performance by connecting relatively low-cost servers in a cluster configuration, analysts said. Traditionally, companies that needed more processing muscle for their transaction-oriented database systems purchased more expensive single servers, rather than lashing together many cheaper machines.

Dell canceled its plans for a high-end server line built around eight processors last year. Instead, it continues to sell one- and two-processor servers, which are considered commodities, because they are widely available.

For its part, Oracle has touted the clustering and "grid" capabilities in its Oracle 10g database, particularly running the Linux operating system. Oracle 10g builds off the clustering tools in previous versions of the database with the ability to link together several servers in a grid formation, where processing power is distributed across many machines.

Since announcing their partnership last year, the two companies have promoted the use of database clusters on commodity servers. However, many customers still do not have experience in working with clustered database servers, particularly the midsize organizations that Dell and Oracle are targeting, said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at research company Illuminata.

"Dell has transferred some polish and flash to Oracle's clustering approach, but it's more in terms of brand establishment," Eunice said. "The reality is that it's going to be a slow ramp-up, because the infrastructure is new, and the database administrator skill sets are new."

Many customers already use clustered databases with servers that have many processors but typically reserve them for specialized applications that analyze large amounts of data, rather than for processing a high volume of transactions. Oracle claims that RAC and Oracle 10g stand out from competitors, because the clustering software is designed for mainstream transactional systems.