Oracle Sun ZFS Storage Appliance Buyer’s Guide

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison likes to think inside the box these days. Following on from the success of the company’s Exadata and Exalogic releases, he rolled out several more Oracle/Sun big box solutions–Exalytics for analytics/Business Intelligence (BI), the Oracle Big Data Appliance and a new line of Sun ZFS Storage Appliances.

Aimed at the NAS market, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) claims its ZFS 7420 Appliance delivers twice the performance for less than half the price of NetApp’s FAS 3270A according to the SPC-1 benchmark.

“Oracle has done a good job of leveraging the acquired Sun servers and ZFS software as storage systems for a variety of different markets in addition to utilizing some of the technology in their Exadata, Exalogic and Exalytic application-focused solution bundles,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group.

Sun Heritage

ZFS, of course, came into the Oracle fold courtesy of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. ZFS gained kudos for providing a high level of data integrity and scalability, which has the potential to serve well as the basis for huge data repositories. Prior to the Oracle purchase, ZFS was gaining ground in combination with OpenSolaris as an inexpensive and effective way to mirror data across disks, thereby enabling redundancy and reliability on JBODs (Just a Bunch of Disks).

In addition, ZFS offers copy-on-write (so there is no need to buy additional snapshot features), block checksums to detect corruption, an integrated file system/volume manager, write bundling and dynamic striping.

These new ZFS boxes incorporate the rich feature set of traditional ZFS software. However, they also include several enhancements that highlight Oracle’s promise to continue investing in its many Sun storage assets.

For example, ZFS now comes with upgrades to its Hybrid Storage Pool technology, which accelerates IOPS performance under heavy use. This enables automatic management of multiple storage tiers, including 12 TB to 120 TB of raw disk capacity, 96 GB of flash-based write cache and 24 GB of memory.

Hybrid Columnar Compression support is good news for those using in-database archiving for OLTP databases and data warehouses, as it allows them to compress data by a factor of roughly 10 times.

“Hybrid Columnar Compression support means these NAS solutions can significantly reduce the storage footprint, CAPEX and OPEX,” said Mark Peters, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.

As another aspect of the Oracle “engineered systems” mantra, this NAS product is fully integrated with the various Oracle applications, middleware and database products. Also thrown in is InfiniBand connectivity and 15,000 RPM SAS-2 drives (300GB and 600GB capacity). These drives accelerate non-cached reads and high-volume synchronous writes.

Oracle Storage Line Model Specifics

The Oracle storage line consists of three models.

Sun ZFS Storage 7120

Like all the ZFS boxes, the ZFS Storage 7120 provides thin provisioning, replication, snapshots and cloning. The company has taken great pains to make it browser based and easy to use. DTrace storage analytics add visibility and help storage admins isolate performance and capacity bottlenecks. With up to 120 TB of raw capacity, Oracle targets this unit at file serving and home directories for Windows, Unix and Linux; fixed content serving for the web; and NAS-based archiving or data warehousing. As with all units, inline deduplication, 40 Gbit InfiniBand and 10 Gbit Ethernet are thrown in.

According to Oracle Executive Vice President of Systems John Fowler, this combines to make a ZFS unit 31 percent to 41 percent faster than NetApp in administration, provisioning and troubleshooting.

Sun ZFS Storage 7320

The ZFS Storage 7320 is similar to the 7120 but scales up to 192 GB capacity. Fowler said it is best-fitted for NAS-based Oracle database and application environments, storage consolidation of departments, application-specific NAS-based data warehouses, virtualized storage environments, cloud computing and file sharing.

Sun ZFS Storage 7420

The ZFS Storage 7420 is the largest of Oracle’s appliances, with up to 1.15 PB of raw capacity. The company is touting its showing in the SPC-1 benchmark. The 7420’s result of 137,066 SPC-1 input/output operations per second (IOPS) is more than double that of the NetApp 3270A’s 68,035 SPC-1 IOPS, Fowler said.

In addition to the use cases covered for the other ZFS units, this one is being promoted as a good home for business-critical, high-performance NAS consolidation, high-availability data center NAS installations, and multi-application, multi-vendor file serving.

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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Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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