Oracle becomes one-stop-shop with Sun storage, servers

By Kevin Komiega

-- One day after officially closing its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle has outlined its new strategy as a complete systems vendor by providing pre-packaged hardware and software systems with operating system, virtual machine (VM), server and storage technology from Sun.

The Exadata Database Machine Version 2, one of the first complete hardware and software systems made by Sun and Oracle, is based on industry standard hardware components with FlashFire solid-state technology from Sun, Oracle Database 11g Release 2 and Oracle Exadata Storage Server Software Release 11.2.

The system features Sun's FlashFire memory cards, Intel Xeon processors, 600GB, 6Gbps SAS drives with 40Gbps InfiniBand connectivity, and a raw disk capacity of 100TB (SAS) or 336TB (SATA) per rack.

Exadata Version 2 is available in four models, ranging from a basic system configuration with one database server and one storage server to a full rack with 8 database servers and 14 storage servers.

The storage for the system is provided by Oracle's Exadata Storage Servers, which combine Oracle software with Sun hardware. The software offloads data-intensive query processing from Oracle Database 11g servers and does the query processing closer to the data. According to Oracle, the result is faster parallel data processing and less data movement through higher bandwidth connections.

The Oracle Exadata Storage Servers support Exadata Smart Flash Cache technology, which moves frequently accessed data to Sun FlashFire cards for faster I/O response times using fewer disks.

The Storage Servers also include Oracle Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression which, on average, reduces the size of data warehousing tables by 10x and archive tables by 50x, according to Sun officials.

Sun executive vice president, John Fowler, says Sun's 7000 ZFS Storage Appliance is at the core of the Sun-Oracle storage strategy as the company continues to invest in unified storage systems.

"The 7000 ZFS will become Oracle's platform for all storage applications for [all tiers from archive to primary storage]," says Fowler.

The combined Sun-Oracle also plans to beef up its family of StorageTek archive systems and continue to invest heavily in flash-based solid-state storage technology.

"Flash is going to turn the whole storage industry upside down because everything has been designed to work with hard disk drives. With ZFS and Solaris we can innovate with Flash," Fowler says.

Pricing for individual Exadata Storage Server hardware with SAS or SATA drives is listed as $60,000. Sun Oracle Database Machine Hardware ranges from $110,000 for a basic system to $1.5 million for a full rack, according to pricing information found on Oracle's website. The Oracle Exadata Storage Server software license is listed at $10,000.

Now that Oracle has the entire IT stack in its arsenal – applications, middleware, virtual machine technology, servers, storage, database and operating system software – the company is a force to be reckoned with.

Oracle's president, Charles Phillips, says the company is out to change the way IT is engineered, integrated and delivered to the customer.

"This industry has a long history of building systems in a very labor-intensive, manual way. They are very unpredictable, very unreliable and expensive to maintain and implement," says Phillips. "Why don't we do all that up front at the factory?"

Phillips says it's time to get back to the ways of IBM in the 1960's by building complete compute environments. "We are going to recreate that reliable environment from years ago, but we are going to do it with an open systems platform," he says.

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This article was originally published on January 27, 2010