4 Questions with Steve Zivanic, Vice President, Storage Hardware Systems Business Group, Oracle

In an interview, Oracle’s Steve Zivanic answers questions about Oracle’s storage portfolio strategy and the concept of application-aware storage versus general-purpose storage systems. In the future, customers can expect deeper co-engineering between Oracle’s storage and Oracle Database and applications, he notes. 

Oracle recently introduced “Application Engineered Storage” as an umbrella strategy for its storage portfolio. Can you provide us with some background on it?

SV: As you know, Oracle’s tag line is “Hardware and Software Engineered to Work Together.” With Application Engineered Storage, we are reinforcing the fact that Oracle’s storage systems are co-engineered with Oracle Database and applications leading to unique innovations available only on Oracle storage systems. In essence, this means that the Oracle Database and applications are storage-aware and storage systems are database and application-aware. This mutual knowledge ensures the storage system is aware of the application requirements and assigns resources in advance of an I/O request actually coming to the storage controller. In contrast, products from third-party vendors are general-purpose storage systems without application-awareness. They have not evolved to match application workloads dynamically. We’re also making a clear statement versus competitive storage vendors who claim to be integrated or optimized with Oracle Database and applications. While anyone can download an SDK and write to the APIs, this leads only to a superficial level of integration, not the co-engineered from the start approach that only Oracle can take with its own products.

What is the main advantage of Application Engineered Storage and the Oracle software stack versus build-it-yourself? Couldn’t customers get the same result by buying best-of-breed components from different vendors and integrating them?

SV: With the increased prevalence of confusing buzzwords in the industry today—everything-as-a-service, do-it-yourself storage, cloud, BYOD—many companies are talking about whether it makes sense to buy or build their IT infrastructure. Clearly, customers can buy servers from one company, operating systems from another company, storage from a third company, applications from a fourth company and then have to integrate everything together, test and validate it, deal with multiple support and service organizations, not to mention the obvious finger pointing that results during a failure of some sort.

In contrast, at Oracle hardware and software are developed together to maximize customer value. When it comes to deploying mission-critical business applications, the clear choice is leveraging storage systems that were specifically architected in conjunction with those applications. By attempting to build your own system, the DIY model, the degrees of separation between the application and the storage significantly increase, requiring companies to spend more time on integration and manual storage management. In fact, approximately two thirds of all enterprise storage costs are related to management. So when it comes to upgrading, maintaining, tuning, or trouble shooting, for example, storage management costs could triple if customers actually took storage vendor responsibilities upon themselves. So the trade-off customers need to consider is whether to spend valuable time, resources, and money building and integrating storage into their application environment or spend their time generating business value from storage pre-engineered with critical business applications to obtain maximum performance and efficiency from the application.

How do customers benefit from Oracle’s Application Engineered Storage and the Oracle stack?

SV: Customers clearly benefit from the Oracle stack comprised of applications, middleware, databases, virtualization software, operating systems and hardware. Customers can rest assured that everything is engineered, tested, certified, deployed, upgraded, managed, and supported together. With co-engineering between Oracle Database and Oracle storage systems, unique capabilities such as the Hybrid Columnar Compression, which compresses data up to 50x and accelerates query times, means that customers need less storage capacity and use up less data center footprint, power, and cooling, reducing costs while improving performance.

In addition, as a software company, Oracle designs storage systems to consume less storage, whereas competitors intentionally design systems to consume more, resulting in data center issues such as massive filer sprawl. Other vendors build boxes intended to be consumed very quickly so they can sell you more storage—with complete disregard for efficiencies. The key is that customers spend their time focusing on strategic business initiatives that add value to the company by knowing that their storage and applications are pre-tested and co-engineered by Oracle which optimizes overall performance and efficiency, reduces TCO and maximizes software ROI.

What future developments can customers expect from the co-engineering efforts between the development teams for Oracle storage and software?

SV: Customers can expect deeper co-engineering between Oracle’s storage and Oracle Database and applications. For example, the recent Oracle Database 12c general availability announcement included two important features that will be very beneficial to customers and are available only on Oracle storage:

  • Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol (OISP) will enable the database to communicate directly with the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance and will dynamically auto-tune critical storage parameters to optimize database performance with Oracle storage systems, virtually eliminating manual processes and reducing administration and provisioning time by more than 65 percent. For example, this means that 6 of 10 storage administrators can be repurposed, potentially saving $1M annually.
  • Oracle’s new Automatic Data Optimization feature, available with Oracle Advanced Compression, automatically balances and optimizes performance with maximum storage footprint reduction using Oracle’s Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) which typically compresses historical data by 12x, and improves query performance an average of 5x.

These two features of Oracle Database lower storage TCO by reducing the amount of storage capacity required and making storage administrators more productive, so that they can spend more time on strategic or revenue-generating projects. For example, a recent TCO study by Wikibon, a next-generation analyst firm, found that a competitive NAS storage system cost 307% more to own and operate than the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance. Going forward, we are on track to continue co-development of Oracle storage and Oracle applications, bringing additional value for customers and further evolving Oracle’s “hardware and software engineered to work together” philosophy. We believe customers will be better served by storage, database, and applications that are Engineered, Tested, Certified, Deployed, Upgraded, Managed, and Supported Together – by one vendor, Oracle.