Exadata vs. vBlock: A Case Study

Nathan Biggs (@nathanbiggs), CEO

I have had the privilege this year of working with our partner EMC in providing Oracle-focused technical sessions around the world. The best part of this is not hearing the same presentations over and over (including my own), but in meeting with, and talking to, dedicated professionals in hundreds of the best companies in the entire industry.

My presentation is on understanding the implications of licensing Oracle technology in virtualized and cloud environments. One of the questions that I get most frequently is around the viability of the Exadata platform from Oracle. Oracle is being very aggressive in pushing this platform, and in making tremendous claims as to the cost and performance advantages that it will provide.

In this blog post, I thought that I would share a case study of a customer that EMC introduced House of Brick to who was ready to immediately sign with Oracle for an Exadata.

The Company

The customer is a global leisure services company that is one of the largest, if not the largest, in their industry. They are based in the U.S., with brands worldwide, and serve over 10 million customers annually.

The Challenge

After years of outsourcing, the customer decided to bring the infrastructure for its Oracle E-Business Suite based corporate financial system back in-house. This is a critical application component that supports most of their business lines and comprises fifty separate Oracle workloads. EMC soon found that some members of the customer’s management team had a strong bias towards the Oracle Exadata platform and believed the myths concerning running Oracle on VMware. Oracle had already submitted an Exadata-based proposal to the customer in which they were attempting to disqualify a VMware-based alternative.

It was kind of funny, but Oracle told the customer “don’t bother calling EMC to ask for a proposal, because we will tell you what their proposal will be!” Oracle falsely represented that a similarly scoped EMC/VMware-based solution would have a three-year TCO of $22.4 million. This was nearly two and a half times greater than Oracle’s Exadata-based proposal.

Well, when the customer heard Oracle tell them not to call EMC, you can guess the first thing that they did… call EMC.

The Solution

When EMC got the call, they reached out to House of Brick to help rescue this customer. We teamed with EMC and employed a two-pronged approach to overcome the initial bias toward an Oracle Exadata solution.

First, we focused on the technical flaws in the Oracle proposal by going onsite at the customer to gather hardware utilization statistics in order to truly understand and right-size their environment. The EMC/VMware proposal would support all of the customer’s business lines while helping them scale for growth of 30% year over year. The final result allowed HoB to architect the environment so as to minimize the customer’s Oracle licensing cost.

Next, House of Brick and EMC worked directly with the customer’s DBAs to address and correct the misinformation coming from Oracle about the VMware-based solution. According to Dave Welch, House of Brick’s CTO and lead consultant on this project, “Our greatest challenges were not technical; they were political, organizational and emotional.” House of Brick directly addressed Oracle’s myths and helped the DBAs understand how EMC’s approach addressed the needs of the Oracle DBAs at a fraction of the cost of the Oracle proposal. We also showed them all of the benefits of a VMware-based solution, and the impact it could have on their operations. These efforts established trust and credibility with the customer team.

The Result

House of Brick worked with EMC to develop the proposal that would meet the customer’s needs. The cost of this proposal; including a Vblock, Oracle licenses, and professional services from House of Brick, came in at $3.7M versus a price tag of $9.1M for the Oracle Exadata proposal. The customer knew that the EMC and House of Brick team truly understood their needs and had their best interests in mind.

The director of infrastructure for the customer was quoted as saying, “House of Brick partnered with EMC and really helped us understand how to compare Oracle’s Exadata proposal to the EMC alternative proposal. The consultants at House of Brick took the time to understand our environment and provided details on total cost and overall value to our organization. We ended up going with the EMC solution instead of Oracle because of the quality of their solution, and the help that House of Brick provided in understanding how it would work for us.”

This customer rejected Oracle and purchased the Vblock solution. House of Brick went on to team with EMC to implement the underlying architecture for their corporate financial system.


This case study is typical of what we are seeing with most of our customers. While the promises of performance and cost reduction from Oracle are compelling on the surface, when we dive into the details the real results rarely even come close. We see that converged platforms, like EMC’s Vblock, provide greater flexibility, reduced costs, and comparable (if not superior) performance.

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