Last Friday I stopped by Oracle for my first conversation since January, 2010, in this case for a chat with Andy Mendelsohn, Mark Townsend, Tim Shetler, and George Lumpkin, covering Exadata and the Oracle DBMS. Key points included:
- Given Oracle’s market penetration and share, it makes sense that Oracle is focused on selling add-on products to its installed base. Oracle’s three top such go-to-market emphases at the moment are:
- Database consolidation, especially on Exadata.
- Data warehousing, presumably on Exadata.
- Database security, especially encryption. This is not Exadata-specific, but does exploit Intel Westmere on-chip encryption, which Oracle says allows encryption with minimal overhead. This seems to be via something called Oracle Advanced Security.
*Oracle asked me to delete a point on pricing they went out of their way to make, because they are in quiet period — even though nobody said it was confidential at the time, we weren’t under NDA, and it looks like public information to me anyway. Frankly, I’m not sure I was right to comply.
Oracle also told me quite a bit about Exadata onsite POCs (Proofs of Concept) and Exadata references, but I’ll save those subjects for future posts. The same goes for workload management.
Oracle’s version names and numbers can get confusing, but it turns out that:
- Oracle 11.203 188.8.131.52 will come out this fall. Oracle 11.204 184.108.40.206 will come out a little more than a year later. After that I imagine it will be time for Oracle 12.
- The current versions of Oracle Exadata are Exadata X2-2 and Exadata X2-8.
- Oracle Exadata 2-2 is evolutionary from prior Exadata versions, and has 8 moderately big servers per rack. It can be sliced into half- or quarter-racks.
- Oracle Exadata 2-8, in lieu of those 8 servers, has 2 bigger SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) systems, each with a terabyte of RAM. You can’t slice Exadata 2-8 below full-rack size, as you’d lose redundancy among the servers.
I didn’t really understand the discussion as to why certain workloads and/or workload consolidations go better on the SMP boxes of Exadata X2-8 than the blades of Exadata X2-2, but Oracle assures me that some do. I also suspect that some Oracle customers prefer large SMP boxes for no good reason other than familiarity.
As for recent-release adoption:
- Oracle estimates that 40-50% of customers have Oracle 11g running somewhere in their shops, mainly Oracle 11g Release 2.
- All major ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) are certified on Oracle 11g, typically Oracle 11g Release 2.
- But Exadata certification is something different from Oracle 11g certification; for example, SAP certification on Exadata is still underway, targeted for some time this year.
Exadata obviously enjoys huge performance gains over existing Oracle installations for certain analytic queries, and therefore for some whole analytic workloads. Oracle has happily trumpeted these. But it turns out that Exadata’s OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing) performance gains are less dramatic. This makes all kinds of sense, given that Oracle’s analytic query performance was in pretty bad shape pre-Exadata, while OLTP has been just fine. The range Oracle used was 2-3X OLTP performance gains vs. existing Oracle installations on several-year-old hardware. Oracle says somewhere over 50% of Exadata physical I/O* goes against flash cache in uses cases such as running Oracle’s application suite.
*Note that physical I/O may be only a small fraction of logical; e.g., SAP long ago said that >99% of SAP transactions never hit disk.
Finally, we talked about a variety of options or other related products. Highlights included:
- One piece of the Oracle security story is a new product called Oracle Database Firewall, released in January, based on an acquisition of a small startup last year. Targeted primarily at internal hackers, Oracle Database Firewall sniffs your SQL traffic for a week or so, observes what kinds of SQL statements can be expected, builds a white list accordingly, and casts a jaundiced eye on any other kind of SQL statements that come through.
- Edit: I have no idea why I was told the following, in view of a subsequent email. Oracle Active Data Guard, first introduced in the Oracle 11g code line, is the preferred way to do active-active Oracle replication. That said:
- Not a lot of customers use Oracle Active Data Guard yet …
- … but a considerable fraction of Exadata users are at least interested in it.
- Some number of Oracle customers have other kinds of active-active implementation. One option is via GoldenGate.
- Oracle Cloud File Management System is an Oracle 11g feature/option that lets you managed non-Oracle data. It is related to ASM (Automatic Storage Management), which seems to have been the most popular Oracle 10g feature, and which is essential to Exadata. Oracle Cloud File Management Systems seems to be popular for consolidation uses. But it is not technically well suited to, for example, play the role of HDFS in a MapReduce implementation.
- For DBAs who care, Exadata now supports Solaris on the database server tier as well as Linux. (That would be Solaris on Intel, of course; Exadata doesn’t use Sparc.) The storage tier still runs only on a kind of embedded Linux.
- Oracle 11g Express Edition (free crippleware) just went into beta test.
- And finally, Oracle SQL Developer 3.0 features, among other things, a GUI for Oracle Data Mining, and migration tools. Sybase migration is in there now, and was enhanced for SQL Developer 3.0. Teradata migration is slated for the next release.