Thursday Jan 08, 2015

The Importance of Hardware

Not long ago I had a brief conversation with an "expert" in the Oracle Stack. The expert had provided a comprehensive overview of Oracle technologies, from the top of the stack all the way to the database. I asked where the second part of the overview was, the part that covered virtualization, the OS, hardware, networking, storage, engineered systems, and optimized solutions. The expert shrugged and said those were "commodities."

I can tell you from experience that deep breathing and long walks do wonders for apoplexy. It's not that I don't appreciate the software. Of course I appreciate the software. Without it, what's the point of the hardware! It's just that I don't understand how people who love the software can fail to respect the hardware.

Oracle has been broadcasting for quite a while, now, the benefits you can gain from its advances in hardware, but the reaction I usually get from the unwashed masses is "yeah, well, you've invested in it, so of course you're going to hock it."

Thank goodness there is still some common sense left in the world.

In this TechTarget editorial, Rich Castagna explains, in very simple terms, that advances in software are helplessly dependent on advances in hardware. If you rub elbows with a software zealot, show them the article.

While you're at it, make sure to take a look at Oracle's latest advances in Software in Silicon, including the Software in Silicon Cloud, which allows you to test and optimize your applications on Oracle's latest hardware before you buy it. Here are three links to get you started:

Bookmark this

Software on Silicon Landing Page
so you can keep up with the latest developments

About the Photograph

I took the picture of Black Betty, a 2007 Harley Davidson Softail Custom (FXSTC), in my driveway in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, in the Spring of 2008.

- Rick

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Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

Understanding The New Economics of Server Performance

See below for image license.

Garage nuts like me always enjoy a truce in the perennial Class War because it lets us enjoy the impressive automobiles the super rich get to drive. Or perhaps their chauffeurs get to drive. When the original Bugatti Veyron was launched in 2006, it had 1001 horses. The base model of the 2006 Honda Accord had 166 horses and cost around $20,000. If the cost of increasing horsepower were linear, going from 166 horses to 1001 horses would only increase the price by a multiple of 6. So, looking only at power, the Bugatti Veyron would cost only cost $120,000.

According to the Jalopnki blog, it costs $1.7 million dollars. Some of that is due to its luxury appointments, but most of it is due to the non-linear increase in cost that invariably accompanies a linear increase in power.

Lucky for us geeks, that's not true of hardware. Well, it was for a while, but that's changed. As these three video interviews explain.

Revolutionizing Server Economics

Interview with Renato Ribeiro

Deploying clusters of small systems used to be the most economical way to get compute power because you had to pay a premium to get all that power on a single system. That's no longer true. Renato explains why that's no longer true. And he has charts.

Horizontal vs Vertical Scalability

Video Smackdown: Michael Palmeter v Renato Ribeiro

Is Oracle's approach to large vertically scaled servers at odds with today's trend of combining lots and lots of small, low-cost servers systems with networking to build a cloud, or is it a better approach? Michael Palmeter, Director of Solaris Product Management, and Renato Ribeiro, Director Product Management for SPARC Servers, discuss.

Like Getting a Ferrari for the Price of a Toyota

Interview with David Lawler

Is buying hardware today like getting a Ferrari for the price of a Toyota? Yes, says Senior Vice President David Lawler, because Oracle has re-engineered the way we develop systems from the hardware side and the software side. You get tremendous performance AND low cost. David, who knows his numbers, explains how Oracle does it, and why our competitors aren't doing the same thing. Sound quality is poor, but content is worth it.

The image used in this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: M 93

- Rick

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Monday Nov 11, 2013

Why Move My Oracle Database to New SPARC Hardware?

If you didn't manage to catch all the news during the proverbial Firehose Down the Throat that is Oracle OpenWorld, you'll enjoy these short recaps from Brad Carlile. He makes things clear in just a couple of minutes. photograph copyright by Edge of Day Photography, with permission

Video: Latest Improvements to Oracle SPARC Processors

with Brad Carlile

T5, M5, and M6. Three wicked fast processors that Oracle announced over the last year. Brad Carlile explains how much faster they are, and why they are better than previous versions.

Video: Why Move Your Oracle Database to SPARC Servers

with Brad Carlile

If I'm happy with how my Oracle Database 11g is performing, why should I deploy it on the new Oracle SPARC hardware? For the same reasons that you would want to buy a sports car that goes twice as fast AND gets better gas mileage, Brad Carlile explains. Well, if there are such dramatic performance improvements and cost savings, then why should I move up to Oracle Database 12c?


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Thursday May 16, 2013

Draw, Partner!

Well, I’ve already made one reference reference to Clint Eastwood (image removed from blog), I might as well make another, if only indirectly. So, here goes: the topic today is drawing. That is, making drawings with Oracle hardware components.

For those of you who like to (or need to) create architectural drawings with reasonable renditions of components and all the requisite connections, you are probably already aware of Microsoft Visio, or for those of you who prefer Macs (such as myself), Omnigraffle Pro. Did you know that we have an open repository with a growing selection of components on VisioCafe? We just updated this Tuesday night, adding stencils of Oracle’s new SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 servers. You will find them in the zip bundle Oracle-Servers.

We have also added Visio templates for Oracle's Exadata Database Machines. In case you didn’t know the difference between stencils and templates, templates provide a more powerful (and efficient) representation that allows you to reorganize the racks to match your actual configuration.

For those of us who use OmniGraffle Pro, you will be pleased to note that we are now getting greater, but not always perfect, compatibility. So, your mileage may vary: our official target is Microsoft Visio.

So, what can I say? "Make my day! Draw, Partner!"


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Friday Apr 12, 2013

Computer Biology 101

I know there were those who hated the experience of dissecting frogs (image removed from blog) in high school biology. Not me! When I was finished, I was more than happy to help the pretty, but squeamish, cheerleader with hers. Sadly, that did little to improve her scientific understanding, and even less to make her appreciate the ever-helpful geek assisting her. Indeed, I have always liked taking things apart. If only I was better at getting them put back as a functional whole.

When I first joined Sun a quarter century ago, we were expected to field-strip a Sun 2/170 blindfolded, add a multi bus card, load the OS, and deliver it to a demo in record time. Okay, maybe we weren’t blindfolded… That first year was rough for me, because documentation was incomplete and we were forced to beg the service engineers to introduce us to the innards. Heaven help us if we ever forgot to wear a static wrist strap, or stripped a thread!

I hope you didn’t miss our big announcement of next-generation Oracle SPARC servers last week. I have good news for you: you can field strip (in a sense) one of these new servers and learn a great deal about what makes it work, all without getting your hands dirty, or worrying about breaking something.

Go to the OLL (Oracle Learning Library) site and check out the “virtual dissections” available to you: Oracle’s SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 Server Technical Insights. While you are at it, be sure to provide your comments. Our goal with OLL is to create a community of users who give feedback so that we can do more of what works. You might want to look around the site in general: there is a lot of good stuff there.


Thursday Jan 03, 2013

Extreme Sports and the SPARC T5 Chip

In my day, you were extreme if you surfed. Nobody had a leash. If a wave ripped the board out of your hands, you had to swim all the way back to the beach. In big surf, that could take 15 minutes. And then you had to paddle out again.

Today, if you're not juggling rusty chainsaws while riding a BMX bike off the top of the Eiffel Tower with half a dozen angry chimpanzees trying to rip off your helmet and goggles, you're not considered extreme.

Which is exactly why the SPARC T5 chip has 1024 functional CPUs. None of Oracle's SPARC engineers wanted to find himself at a cocktail party having to confess in an embarrassed chortle to a salon full of top hats and sequins that he had designed a mere 512 CPU chip. Imagine the chagrin!

Interview: Deep Dive into the SPARC T5 Chip

So Oracle's SPARC engineers worked wicked hard to scale the T5 to eight sockets. Since each socket has 16 cores, that gives you 128 cores, total. Since each core can support eight individual threads (or strands, if you're not the sartorial type), you wind up with a total of 1024 functional CPUs.

As you know, processing power without bandwidth is kinda like a mega motor with a nano fuel tank. Doesn't get you too far. So the T5 also has memory bandwidth to match its processing power. And lots of other capabilities that you an read about in this:

Interview: Deep Dive into the SPARC T5 Chip

- Rick

P.S., If you want to read about surfing in the old days, check out Chapter 1 of Tocayos, a novel I've been writing and posting online in my spare time.
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Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

A Quarter Century of SPARC

SPARCYou might have missed an interesting milestone: the 25th anniversary of SPARC. Twenty-five years! Almost 40% of my life: humbling, maybe a little scary. When I joined Sun Microsystems in 1988, SPARC was just starting to shake things up. The next year we introduced the SPARCstation 1, which had basically triple the performance of our Motrolla-based Sun–3 systems.

Not too long after that, our competition began a campaign of “SPARC is dead.” We really distressed them with our success, in spite of our small size. “It won’t last.” “It can’t last!” So they told themselves. For a stroll down memory lane take a look at this page.

History of SPARC

I remember the sales meeting we had in Atlanta to internally announce the SPARCstation 1. Sun hadn’t really hit the big times, yet. Our much bigger competitors viewed us as an ill-mannered pest, certain of our demise. And, why wouldn’t they be certain: other startups more our size, such as Apollo (remember them?), Silicon Graphics (they fought the good fight!), and the incredibly cool Symbolics are memories.

Wait! There was also a BIG company, DEC, who scoffed at us: they are history, too. In fact, we really upset them with what was supposed to be an internal-only video production that was a take-off on Bruce Lee movies, in which we battled the evil Doctor DEC – complete with computer mice (or is that “mouses”?) wielded like nun chucks with the new SPARCstation 1 somehow in the middle of everything. The memory is vivid, but the details hazy. After all, that was almost a quarter century ago.

So, here’s to Oracle’s SPARC: still going strong after all these years.

– Kemer

Tuesday Jan 31, 2012

How Much Do YOU Know About Your Server?

Before you run off half-cocked and purchase one of Oracle's Sun servers from some guy selling them out the back of his Escalade, you should be armed with three types of information:

What Servers Are Available?

This handy-dandy tool reveals just the right amount of information about Sun servers, letting you drill down at a pace that the average sysadmin with an IQ of 160 can absorb. Three clicks and you'll have all the info you need.

Which Version of What Software Runs on Whose Server?

Well, almost all the info you need. OTN's Software Stacks list the versions of the OS, firmware, systems management tools, virtualization technology, diagnostic tools, and middleware that runs on each of Oracle SPARC T-series and M-series servers, as well as Sun Blade and Sun Carrier-Grade servers.

What Support Is Offered for Each Server and for How Long?

Even if you are buying your servers from Hugo in the Escalade, you will want to know what type of support Oracle offers and for long we'll offer that support. This page spells that out for not just our servers, but all our hardware. You can also get to this page from the leftmost column of the Systems Community Home Page.

- Rick


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