In hopes of reviving its hardware business, Oracle is refreshing its mid-range and high-end Sparc server product lines. The new T5 mid-range and M5 high-end Sparc servers, based around powerful new Sparc processors, are intended to reverse the slump that led to a 23 percent decline in hardware-related revenue for the most recent quarter.
Industries being targeted by the new servers include telecommunications, manufacturing and banking. The new T5-2, T5-4 and T5-8 replace the previous T4 servers, and the M5-16 and M5-32 replace the M9000 series.
John Fowler, executive vice president of Systems at Oracle, said in a statement that the new servers "leapfrog the competition with up to 10 times the performance of the previous generation."
The company said the new Sparc processors are the fastest on the planet.
'Sparc Was a Laggard'
CEO Larry Ellison has told news media that, "when Oracle bought Sun, a lot of people said, 'Gee, the Sparc was a laggard" and would never catch up. Oracle bought Sun in 2009 for $7.4 billion, but its hardware revenue has fallen every quarter since then.
Ellison noted that the company has doubled the performance of every new Sparc chip since the acquisition, and added that the T5-8 holds 17 world records, such as being the fastest single server for the company's flagship database program.
Now, Ellison said, the processor has caught up with and has passed competitors. Ellison said that the M5s and the T5s are more powerful than more expensive IBM Power servers, even though the Oracle machines use less and occupy less space.
But IBM Technical Strategist Elisabeth Stahl, writing Tuesday on her personal blog, contended that "most of the claims are Oracle's own benchmarks that are not published or audited."
The new Oracle machines are optimized to work with Oracle's products, and are part of the company's overall vision of becoming an end-to-end provider of software and hardware for computing and other uses.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said that if the new product lines fail to turn around Oracle's hardware fortunes, "it isn't because of the technology." She noted that Ellison got "great technology in the Sparc chips" when he bought Sun.
Instead, she said, there are a variety of issues that could block Oracle's hardware success. For instance, DiDio said, there is now a longer time between major hardware upgrades at many companies, in part because the machines are -- as customers have requested -- lasting longer.
But she also said that, if Oracle is "going to turn it around, they have to change their attitudes toward customers." She said "they're in this situation," at least in part, "because they haven't been treating their customers right," such as getting into legal fights with them over whether licensing compliances are being followed, changing warranty and maintenance agreements after they took over Sun, and generally "bullying customers."