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Top 10 Takeaways from Oracle OpenWorld

Now a full-fledged member of the storage community, Oracle made a splash at this week’s OpenWorld conference with a slew of new hardware and software products that quelled any doomsday projections about the fate of the Sun storage portfolio. Oracle is traveling headlong towards domination on as many fronts as possible – and that includes storage.

Here are the top ten takeaways from the week’s event:

Exadata is Gaining Traction

The Sun/Oracle concept of one box optimized to run large databases appears to be working. Oracle’s (NASDAQ: ORCL) new President, Mark Hurd, called Exadata the most successful product Oracle has ever launched with rapid adoption rates in all geographies and industries. Exadata, Hurd said, solves the common problem of traditional systems disintegrating under the demands of four forces: the expansion of data in a huge data warehouse, a high volume of users accessing it, those users ask hard questions about that data, and users wanting answers really fast.

“When all four come together, systems fall apart and querying takes a long time,” said Hurd. “Exadata changed the game by putting intelligence in the storage so users didn’t have to spend time looking for the data.”

While the first release of Exadata focused on the data warehouse, this week’s release has broader appeal. Known as Exadata X2-8, it includes beefier processors, more memory (2TB), enhanced security, Flash-based cache and a choice of Solaris or Oracle Unbreakable Linux. That adds up to 1 million I/Os per second (IOPS).

“It is the best in class for all database or OLTP workloads,” said Hurd. “It will be out within 30 or 40 days and is being sold now.”

Exalogic Will Be Bigger Than Exadata

Oracle announced the Exalogic Elastic Cloud this week, which is labeled as the world’s first integrated middleware machine. This integrated hardware and software system provides a complete cloud application infrastructure. It combines Intel multi-core processors, an InfiniBand-based I/O fabric and solid-state storage with the Oracle WebLogic middleware server and other enterprise Java Oracle middleware products, as well as a choice of Oracle Solaris or Oracle Linux.

“Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud is a complete system of servers, network, storage, virtual machines (VMs), operating system and middleware, all engineered to work together,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “This delivers stunning results, including the fastest Java performance, elastic capacity on demand and a completely fault tolerant system.”

Oracle Likes ZFS

Oracle has thrown its support behind the Sun developed ZFS file system in the form of a new line of Sun ZFS Storage Appliances. It has adopted a hybrid storage pool architecture that has been integrated with Oracle apps, Fusion Middleware and other Oracle products. It comes with three data protection solutions: Oracle RMAN backup optimizes backup with Sun ZFS Storage Appliances, Oracle Database Cloning increases database performance by integrating Sun ZFS Storage Appliances with Oracle Data Guard, and Oracle Fusion Middleware simplifies disaster recovery. This is further enhanced by the Flash Hybrid Storage Pool architecture for file and block workloads and DTrace Analytics for storage and web-based management/analytics.

It comes in several flavors. The 7720 appliance contains up to 720TB raw capacity, 1TB RAM, 4TB Flash-based read-cache and 432GB Flash-based write-cache. Three other boxes have gradually lower capacities – the 7420, 7320 and 7120.

“Oracle ZFS storage appliances are engineered to work with Oracle business apps,” said Jason Schaffer, senior director of storage at Oracle.

Until recently, the Sun-developed ZFS technology had been at the center of a three-year legal battle between Sun and NetApp. The two companies quietly brought an end to the legal wrangling with a private deal, clearing the way for this week’s debut of the ZFS appliance family.

T3 Mega Servers

Oracle has given Sun SPARC servers a new lease of life with the 16-core processor-based SPARC T3 systems. The highest end version is a 4-socket model with 64 cores in a 5RU space. Like everything else, the T3 servers have been optimized to run Oracle software – another example of the company’s application-to-disk strategy. They also feature integrated on-chip cryptographic accelerators.

“Oracle’s SPARC product line is the cornerstone of our strategy to deliver customers a complete, open and integrated apps-to-disk solution,” said John Fowler, executive vice president, Server and Storage Systems, Oracle. “These new SPARC T3 systems deliver on our commitment to provide customers with a 2x increase in performance every two years and deliver massive scalability for high compute environments like cloud computing.”

Boxing Match

For years, Oracle has focused on owning the enterprise software landscape. But with the T3, Exadata and Exalogic in its arsenal – and more such products to come – it looks like it is aiming to supplant HP, EMC, IBM and NetApp as the hardware platform of choice for Oracle applications as evidenced by the constant comparisons made between Oracle’s hardware and competitive offerings. Ellison panned the IBM Power 750, while Schaffer targeted NetApp.

“DTrace Analytics is the best analytic tool to troubleshoot what is happening with storage and apps,” he said. “Administrators can troubleshoot 50% faster on a ZFS Storage Appliance 7420 than on a NetApp 3160.”

Oracle Could be Preparing to Take on VMware

Oracle is putting a lot of R&D dollars, marketing muscle and PR hype into Oracle VM as a viable candidate to oust VMware as the de facto standard for virtualization. And if Exalogic and its new line up of Fusion applications gain widespread acceptance, it may gain enough momentum to take on VMware as the VM of choice.

Oracle is Gunning for salesforce.com

Ellison took half a dozen potshots at salesforce.com at OpenWorld. Once Oracle Fusion applications get released later this year, look for Oracle to launch a heavy attack on salesforce.com market share. “Saleforce.com is a limited platform which is really only one or two apps running over the internet,” said Ellison.

Oracle Could Become the Big Fish in the Linux Pond

Oracle announced the release of the Unbreakable Linux Kernel this week, but called the management of Red Hat Linux incompetent. Could it be that Oracle is making a play to dominate Linux?

“SSD runs 2X faster on our Unbreakable Linux Kernel,” said Edward Screven, chief corporate architect at Oracle. “We have also addressed data integrity issues in Red Hat Linux to prevent writing of corrupt data.”

StorageTek Beware?

The word “tape” was mentioned positively only once throughout a dozen keynotes during Oracle Open World and JavaOne. Fowler said the “T” word just once in the midst of a whole lot of presentation time spent on Exadata, T3, ZFS, and more. Despite its protestations to the contrary, tape seems to be taking a back seat as the one major element of the Sun portfolio that is not getting love from Oracle.

“…tape …,” said Fowler.

Oracle and HP Play Nice

Oracle and HP had a spat recently when Oracle hired Mark Hurd as president after he resigned from HP. That led to HP suing, and Oracle blustering in response. Now all is fine and dandy. Larry Ellison shared the opening keynote spotlight with Ann Livermore and Dave Donatelli from HP, as well as Hurd. It seems their quarrel is behind them – at least for now.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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