Oracle has launched a high-end database and storage system, co-developed with Sun Microsystems, the companies' first joint product since Oracle's proposed acquisition of Sun was announced.

The Exadata Database Machine Version 2, it combines Intel-based servers and other Sun hardware with Oracle's database and storage management software in a rack-based system optimised for enterprise data warehousing and high-speed online transaction processing (OLTP).

The system uses an unusually large amount of flash memory - up to 5TB in a fully loaded rack - to achieve high levels of OLTP performance, said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. The system uses Linux, rather than Sun Solaris, and Intel-type processors, rather than Sun's Ultrasparc T2 chips, as some had expected. But Oracle has pledged to support Sun's Sparc platform in the future.

The new product is a follow-on to a similar Exadata system that Oracle developed last year with HP. Both systems combine database servers, storage servers and networking in a rack-based system preconfigured with Oracle's software.

The first Exadata system was for data warehousing only, Ellison said, while Exadata 2 is for both data warehousing and online transaction processing. "Exadata Version 1 was the world's fastest machine for data warehousing applications," he said. "Exadata Version 2 is twice as fast as Exadata Version 1 for data warehousing, and it's the only database machine that runs OLTP applications."

The first version was based on HP's Intel-based ProLiant G5 servers, while the new machine uses Sun Fire X4275 servers with Intel's quad-core Nehalem processors. It also uses a faster memory type, DDR3, and faster disk and InfiniBand components, Ellison said, explaining the performance boost over the first Exadata.

But the main advance is a new flash-based memory system from Sun that is used in the storage servers. Called FlashFire, it packs four flash accelerator cards into each storage server, each with a capacity of 96GB. A fully loaded rack with eight storage servers has 5TB of flash memory, as well as 100TB of SAS disk capacity or 336TB of SATA disk capacity, Ellison said.

"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 (£700,000) 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.