"We have a huge, fast flash cache built into our storage servers," Ellison said. "These are not flash disks -- make no mistake, these are not flash disks. This is a smart memory hierarchy made up of DRAM in our database servers and flash in our storage servers, with very sophisticated algorithms. This is a very smart memory hierarchy where the Oracle software manages that memory extremely efficiently, much faster than flash disk."
The use of flash memory and InfiniBand allows the system to perform 1 million I/O operations per second, according to Ellison. "We can move data much more rapidly than any other computer in the world," he claimed.
All that speed comes at a price. A full rack configuration, with eight database servers and 14 storage servers, starts at US$1.15 million for the database hardware alone, according to a price list. The Oracle database software and Exadata Storage Software are extra, as are the storage hardware and installation fees.
The system is also offered in half-rack, quarter-rack and single-server configurations, however. The entry product starts at $115,000 for the database server hardware.
"I think it's incredible the amount of flash they're using," said Dan Olds, principal analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group. "It's not quite an in-memory database, but it's not far off it. Couple that with the Nehalem processors and the InfiniBand, and that's where the OLTP performance is coming from."
Customers also can't run any other software on the machines, he noted. "They didn't really talk about whether you can do OLTP and data warehousing at the same time," Olds said. "As these machines get bigger and bigger, there are fewer and fewer customers that can use them for just one workload."
In some ways the event was notable for what Ellison did not say. With Sun customers facing uncertainty about the future of their platforms, rivals HP and IBM have been courting Sun customers away with aggressive migration programs. Oracle has been trying to contain the damage with newspaper ads saying it will invest more in Sun's Sparc than Sun does.
But Ellison said nothing about his plans for Sun on Tuesday. He and Fowler both stressed that the Exadata 2 was developed under the companies' long-standing partnership. The webcast ended abruptly with no time for questions.
Oracle has won approval for its Sun acquisition from U.S. regulators, but the European Commission has held up the deal, possibly until January. The Commission says it's concerned that Oracle's ownership of Sun's MySQL database could harm competition in the open-source software market.
While most analysts expect the deal to go through, the uncertainty has been hammering Sun's server business. Its server revenue plunged 37 percent in the second quarter, a much greater decline than for any of its main rivals, according to IDC.