By David Dorf on Oct 27, 2010
What would carpentry be like if there was only one type of saw? I would venture to guess that jobs would still get done, but it would take much longer. There's a reason the industry created the rip saw, hack saw, coping saw, jigsaw and a host of other types of saws. Each is optimized to perform specific tasks, in their own unique way. Then I must ask, why are most computer servers pretty much alike? Yeah, you can order them with different types of CPUs and varying amounts of memory, but in the end they are all general-purpose servers. That is to say, they do a good job on a multitude of applications, but excel at none.
In many situations, it makes sense to optimize a server for its specific usage. The first approach is to tune the hardware and operating system for the particular demands of the applications running. At the next layer up on the stack the middleware and database can be tuned for peak performance. And finally you can use specific compilers or JVMs that help applications run faster on particular CPUs.
That's all fine and good, but Oracle takes it a step further by optimizing EVERYTHING at the same time. Its almost like building a specialized saw for left-handed carpenters that only cut crown molding made of oak. if that saw provided performance gains of 2x and up, I bet most carpenters would buy one for their toolboxes. That's what's meant by engineered systems.
Exadata was built to serve up huge amounts of data, and Exalogic is optimized for running Java applications. Both offer extreme performance that general-purpose servers can't touch. In fact, Oracle is the only vendor able to squeeze out so much performance because its the only vendor that owns the entire stack. If you thought Oracle's acquisitions of applications, middleware, and hardware were disjoint, I hope you can now see the greater strategy. General purpose hardware and software aren't going away, but being able to offer engineered systems can really help customers run their businesses better.
For more insight on this topic, I recommend reading Oracle Gets Systems Design, and Starts Proving It.