Looking back over the last 2 years or so, we can start to see an emerging pattern of acquisitions and general IT industry manouevering that would suggest customer demand and technological capability packaging for specific workloads are more in alignment than ever.
I wanted to to write a couple of blogs to capture this in the context of the datacenter and in wider Oracle engineered systems penetration.
I will start with the Storage Layer has that seems to have garnered tremendous changes in the last 6 months alone although the pattern was already carved out in the early Oracle Exadata release in April 2010 (nice blog on this from Kerry Osborne - Fun with Exadata v2) in its innovative bundling of commodity hardware with specialized software capabilities.
Questioning "Datacenter Wisdom"
As you may know Oracle's Exadata v2 represent a sophisticated blend of balanced components for the tasks undertaken by the Oracle Database whether it being used as a high-transaction OLTP or long running query intensive Datawarehouse. Technologies include:
- Commodity x86 servers with large memory footprints or high core counts for database nodes
- x86 servers / Oracle Enterprise Linux for Exadata storage servers
- Combining simple server based storage in clusters to give enterprise storage array capabilities
- QDR (40Gbps) Infiniband private networking
- 10GbE Public networking
- SAS or SATA interfaced disks for high performance or high capacity
- PCIe Flash cards
- Database workload stacking as a more effective means than simple hypervisor based virtualization for datacenter estate consolidation at multiple levels (storage, server, network and licensed core levels)
Binding this together is the Oracle 11gR2 enteprise database platform, Oracle RAC database cluster technology allowing multiple servers to work in parallel on the same database and the Exadata Storage Server (ESS) software supporting the enhancements to facilitate intelligent caching of SQL result sets, offloading of queries and storage indices. There is a great blog from Kevin Closson - Seven Fundamentals Everyone Should Know about Exadata that cover this in more detail.
Looking at the IT industry we see:
- EMC/Isilon acquisition that marries multiple NAS server nodes to an Infiniband fabric for scale-out NAS - indicating that Infiniband has a significant role to play in binding loosely connected servers for massive scalability.
- EMC/Data Domain+Spectralogic showing that tape is not in fact dead as many are predicting and that it remains an extremely low cost media for Petabyte storage.
- Embed flash storage (SSD or PCIe based) into servers closer to the workload than simply going across the SAN/LAN wires to an enterprise storage array showing that local storage with flash across a distributed storage node fabric is infinitely more effective than SAN storage for enteprise workloads.
- EMC/NetApp with intelligent flash usage rather than as replacement for spinning disk significantly enhances certain workloads as we see in EMC's VFCache implementation and NetApp's Intelligent Caching.
- Monolithic SAN attached arrays moving towards modular scalable arrays supporting the approach taken by Oracle's Pillar Axiom which scales I/O, storage capacity and performance independently using smaller intelligent nodes. EMC is using VMAX engines, NetApp with its GX (Spinnaker) architecture, and even IBM is going that way.
All these trends, and it is not so important really in what chronological order they happened or that I took some examples from leaders in their fields, clearly indicate convergence of technological threads.
I often hear from clients that Exadata is too new, uses strange Infiniband bits and has no link to a SAN array. Well clearly the entire industry is moving that way. Customers are indicating with their voices what they would like to have - capability and simplicity for the workloads that drive their revenue.
Why is this important for the CIO?
CIOs are typically confronted with a range of technologies to solve a limited array of challenges. They are constantly asked by the business and more recently CFOs to make sure that they are:
- using future proofed technologies,
- simpler vendor management,
- focus investment on those activities that support revenue streams,
- align IT with the business!
Well Engineered Systems are exactly all that. Oracle literally went back to the drawing board and questioned why certain things were done in certain ways in the past and what direct benefit that provided clients.
Engineered systems are already using the technologies that the rest of the industry is trying to re-package to meet the challenges customers are facing now and in the coming years.
Oracle, I believe, has at least a 2 year advantage in that they:
- learnt from the early stages in the market,
- fine-tuned their offerings,
- aligned with support requirements of such dense capability blocks,
- helped customers come to grips with such a cultural change
- is continuing to add to its "magic sauce" and still engineering the best of commodity hardware to further increase the value add of Engineered Systems.
The lead is not just in technology but also the approach that customers are demanding - specific investments balanced with specific revenue generating high-yield business challenges.
As a CIO it is important to recognise the value that Engineered Systems bring in addressing key business requirements and ensure an overall simplification of the Datacenter challenge and large CAPEX requirements in general.
Engineered Systems provide the ability for IT to transform itself providing directly relevant Business Services.
It is not a general purpose approach where the IT organisation can hope for transformation - Engineered Systems enable and weaponise the datacenter to directly fulfill requirements expressed by the CIO team through intense constant dialogue with business leaders!