Oracle’s Juan Loaiza and Tim Shetler Drill Down on Advances in New Exadata Database Machine X5

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Oracle unveiled the sixth-generation Oracle Exadata Database Machine during a launch event led by Oracle executive chairman of the board and CTO Larry Ellison. In a recent interview, Tim Shetler, vice president of Exadata Product Management at Oracle, and Juan R. Loaiza, senior vice president, Systems Technologies, discussed the hardware and software improvements, as well as the innovations to reduce costs, that make it one of the most important releases in the history of Exadata. 

COLLABORATE 15 - IOUG Forum will present Exadata-focused sessions as part of the  Engineered Systems track.


Hardware Innovations in Exadata X5

1-The ability to “right-size” with elastic configurations

The announcement was significant for a few reasons, said Shetler. “This is the first generation of Exadata where we have allowed what we refer to as elastic configurations,” said Shetler. With the new release, storage and compute can now be configured and expanded one server at a time to provide granular on-demand expansion at a lower cost. Elastic configurations allow customers to configure Oracle Database In-Memory optimized systems as well as all-flash OLTP systems. Prior to this release, said Shetler, there were fixed size configurations of Exadata in various sizes. However, he said, with the fixed size configurations, sometimes customers’ workloads would fall somewhere in in between and have to buy a larger size.

In line with Oracle’s new emphasis on low cost emphasized by Larry Ellison during the launch event for the new engineered systems, the new elastic configurations allow customers to choose exactly the right hardware configuration for the workload that they want to run on it. “If they happen to be between a quarter and a half, they can exactly buy the number of servers that they need for that workload. And, more importantly if the configuration is not an average one, and they for example want to run a database in-memory option, which requires them to have more memory, more database servers, more compute power, but perhaps less on the storage side, they can build a configuration that is exactly identical to that requirement.”

2-Extreme flash storage server

“The other thing that was a big deal was the advent of a new storage server,” said Shetler. A newly introduced all-flash storage server uses ultra-fast PCIe flash drives, the latest Non-Volatile Memory Express  (NVMe) flash protocol, and InfiniBand scale-out to achieve breakthrough performance and price per I/O.

In Exadata, there have historically been two choices of storage servers – a high performance storage server which had faster disks, and a high capacity storage server which had the bigger disks which run a bit more slowly. However, since the second generation of Exadata, Oracle has been adding a flash cache into the storage layer, and in the last several generations the company has doubled or quadrupled the amount of flash in storage, which means that almost all of the I/Os are going to flash, making the performance of the disk almost irrelevant, Shetler said.

“And so, with this generation,  the X5, we have gotten rid of the high performance disk and replaced it with the all flash storage array which we call ‘extreme flash storage,’ so you still have two choices - the high capacity disk which gives you the ability to hold very large databases very economically and you still have the flash cache layer so your I/O is really coming out of flash; and then if you have really extreme performance requirements, you can choose the extreme flash storage array, in which case all your I/Os will be consistently fast because they are all coming out of flash, and you will get high performance rates in terms of the I/Os per second.”

NVMe is a new generation of flash, noted Loaiza. “This is actually a new industry standard and we are very early adopters of this standard because we see a lot of promise in it. You are going to start hearing about it from everybody else in the industry.” The idea, he said, is to give up on the old disk protocols. Flash, to date, has been accessed as if it were a disk drive. NVMe is a new industry standard for talking to flash drives directly from the PCIe bus, with connectivity that comes out of the chip and goes straight to the flash drive, so there are no disk controllers or anything else in the middle. “It is a bit of a technical point but it is important in that it helps us achieve much higher performance,” Loaiza explained.

Software Innovations in Exadata X5

1-Oracle VM support

“For the first time, we are supporting virtualization on the database machine through Oracle’s VM,” said Shetler. This is important for applications that need more isolation between the databases, more security, such as customers in the in the public and financial sector.

In addition, Oracle is offering Oracle VM in a trusting partitions mode which allows it to limit the software licensing just to the products that are running in a virtual machine - so for example, if a customer has  a full rack of Exadata and is running many databases, and  only one is a financial database and therefore needs the data to be encrypted with the advanced security option,  with the Oracle VM support and trusted partitions licensing the customer can license the security option just for the cores that are covered by that virtual machine that holds that finance database, explained Shetler. Previously, the customers would have had to license that option for all the cores on the server. “This is a way again to reduce the cost by tailoring the configuration more precisely to your needs,” he noted.

2-Capacity on Demand

Oracle has also announced a way to help customers reduce software license costs through capacity on demand licensing. With the x5 generation of Exadata, the processor that is used from Intel - the Haswell - has 18 compute cores versus 12 cores on the X4 generation, for a 50% increase in the cores. “Without the ability to limit the impact it has on your software licensing the customer that would go from X4 to X5 would see a 50% increase in their software licenses - so with the new capacity on demand we are able to allow the customers to turn off some of the additional cores and thus reduce or maybe have no impact on those software licensing costs.”

3-Exabus Connectivity

The new Oracle Exadata X5-2 supports native Exabus connectivity to the updated Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud X5-2.

“We use Infiniband internally inside Exadata, and we use it both computer to computer – for regular networking - and also as a storage network for something called the unified network,” explained Loaiza. When customers connect to an Exadata from external sources, generally they use Ethernet. But Wwith the special protocol called “Exabus” that is used over Infiniband, an Exalogic application server can be connected to an Exadata, making the connectivity between the application tier and the database tier much faster.

For the full Oracle announcement, go here