Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance for SAN Storage

When Oracle acquired Sun years ago, much of the server, storage, and software assets of Sun took on a lower profile, with some elements quietly surviving at the backend of other Oracle systems and offerings.

Such is the case for Oracle SAN storage. It’s actually difficult to find it among the myriad other Oracle offerings. However, Oracle has combined the best of its SAN, ZFS, and Network Attached Storage (NAS) technology (the bulk of it inherited from Sun) into the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance.

The company promotes this unit as being well suited to virtualized cloud workloads. The ZFS Storage Appliance is cloud-architected, based on Hybrid Storage Pool technology and supports OpenStack and the Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control management framework. It also can interoperate with Oracle Public Cloud resources, with integrated cloud snapshot backup features available.

ZFS Storage Appliance Features

The Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance is a unified storage system that can consolidate file, block, and object storage in one box. It achieves this courtesy of high-end flash. One design goal was to be able to run any and all workloads at peak speed.

The key elements are software, storage, and controllers. On the software side, the multithreading SMP storage OS provides data services, data protection, and management of dynamic caching via Hybrid Storage Pool technology.

The storage controller is based on enterprise-grade x86 servers from Oracle that contain a whole lot of CPUs and a large amount of memory. If desired, dual-controller configurations can be included for high availability and rapid failover. Users can choose between the Oracle ZFS Storage ZS7-2 mid-range controller and the Oracle ZFS Storage ZS7-2 high-end controller.

Storage can be all flash, all hard disk drive (HDD), or mixed HDD and SSD. Enterprise-grade storage enclosures are also available with mix and match HDD and flash configurations. Customers can specify more flash, or more HDD depending on the performance and capacity needs of applications.

Being an Oracle product, it includes built-in integration to Oracle databases, cloud solutions, and platforms. As such, it can automatically prioritize database IOs or other workloads as desired.

The core capabilities of the appliance include:

  • Up to 3 TB of DRAM caches to eliminate storage IOs. This eliminates up to 90% of read requests from permanent storage and can sustain over 18 GB/sec of throughput for data-intensive applications.
  • Up to 8 PB of flash for high-throughput and latency-sensitive applications.
  • Or up to 16 PB of high-capacity disk storage with up to 3 TB of DRAM cache and 1.4 PB of flash cache to reduce costs while offering high performance to priority traffic.
  • Up to 96 Intel Xeon processor cores to support thousands of concurrent IO requests.
  • A parallel operating system that can process more IO requests at the same time, eliminating IO bottlenecks. Oracle claims the unit can support thousands of virtual machines.

Key Enhancements

The ZFS Storage Appliance includes plenty of additional bells and whistles. Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol (OISP), for example, enables the unit to automate storage setup and tuning based on database-specific information.

This is said to reduce storage administrator workloads by up to 70% and boost database workloads by up to 19%. OISP also assists cache management in accelerating database backups. Automatic management of storage caches using OISP-provided information is said to enable ZFS Storage Appliance to reduce backup windows for customer databases by up to 33%.

Database compression, too, is harnessed to increase capacity and throughput. Oracle Database Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) reduces storage capacity and load times in data warehouses more than 90%, according to Oracle. Further, the unit integrates the same object storage format as Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). This makes it easy for storage administrators to create snapshots in the cloud.

The appliance rolls in built-in backup and restore capabilities, further optimized by all the hardware and software inside. For instance, the system can recognize data protection workloads and reduce data movement. IT teams working on data protection tasks are afforded up to 30 TB/hour of backup throughput and 37 TB/hour of restore throughput. That’s plenty for even the most demanding backup windows.

Management Enhancements

Oracle may no longer give much glory to storage boxes or the long heritage of the storage software it inherited. But its strength lies in integrating everything into one plug-and-play box. The company has been working on these integrated and specialized storage and compute units for many years.

As such, the boxes it turns out typically come with easy-to-use interfaces to increase productivity. Point-and-click management helps inexperienced storage administrators to rapidly provision, manage, and troubleshoot systems without being certified experts in a raft of different storage and compute disciplines.

In addition, built-in monitoring accelerates administration – integrated with everything else, of course. The real-time monitoring and visualization capabilities of this appliance allow administrators to resolve storage issues and improve performance. Replication of data is also automated either to another ZFS Storage Appliance or to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. For anything that isn’t fully integrated, Oracle Enterprise Manager and available APIs help IT to link up with a variety of data center management frameworks.


In terms of connectivity, the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance takes advantage of network file protocols, including NFS, SMB, and FTP. This means that a great many diverse applications can easily connect and store data on the appliance. Additionally, Swift, S3, and OCI object storage services can be used to transfer or migrate data between on-premises and cloud object storage.

Similarly, on the block storage side, the unit supports ISCSI, Fibre Channel, and RDMA over InfiniBand to provide access to high-performance block storage. And NDMP and ZFS NDMP backup protocols simplify the process of connecting to backup devices.

The bottom line is that a lot of time and effort has gone into making this appliance connect easily with just about any platform, application or database. As well as those noted about, integrated network directory services, including NIS, LDAP, 100Gb Ethernet, 16/32 Gb Fibre Channel, 40 Gb InfiniBand and Active Directory, and other Microsoft services and servers.

Drew Robb
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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