The Exa-Logical Choice: Proven, High Performance, Cost-Effective. The Comparisons Pale.

Oracle introduced Engineered Systems to the world in 2008. Two years later, Exalogic built on this success with an integrated solution that delivered extreme performance, simplified maintenance, and also ran all of your applications. Since then, the engineered systems trend caught fire, with several industry analyst studies giving it credence.

Now IBM comes out with its me-too offering, the PureApplication System, a converged infrastructure system from IBM that doesn’t quite make the cut for a truly engineered system.

A closer look reveals that Exalogic is the logical choice for running business applications.

For this post, we’ll compare the latest release of Oracle’s Exalogic to IBM’s PureApplication System and look at this from the customer’s eye. We’ll focus on three critical items: Performance, Simplicity, and Cost. I could argue the merits of an arcane esoteric feature that allows me to play buzzword bingo. But, from a business’ perspective, it’s hard to argue there are three more vital considerations.

Proven Business Performance

Oracle Exalogic has been in the market for two years, with customers in 43 countries, 22 industries, along with 340 certified partner solutions. The question I would ask is: How many production customers does PureApplications have? The silence is deafening. PureApplication Systems are the very definition of unproven.

What about business applications performance you ask?

Good question. Here’s where a picture is worth a thousand (or more) words. Take a look at the charts below. Each successive Oracle Exalogic release is delivering better performance. The benchmark results show record performance for every application. (Note that the Standard Hardware configurations mentioned below are Intel Xeon processors running with the same CPU and memory characteristics as Oracle Exalogic - meaning Intel Xeon @ 2.93 GHz with 96 GB RAM, NFS mounted storage, over a 1GigE network.)

This is quite impressive in an age where even a one second delay in page load time results in decreasing customer satisfaction and lower conversion rates. This is the kind of performance business applications need and receive with Oracle Exalogic.

How is this possible? Well, an Oracle Engineered System is a complete package of best-of-breed storage, compute, network, operating system and software products that are integrated, tested, tuned, optimized, delivered and supported as a single factory-assembled unit. With specific configurations, all the guesswork around sizing, configuration, and compatibility is removed.

What’s left is just extreme performance.

Application performance is the other piece here. 70,000+ application customers give Oracle deep domain expertise in the applications space. It is this expertise that is on full display via the application optimizations achieved through engineered integration between software and hardware components. This is why Exalogic customers receive benefits like quicker time to value, better manageability, faster performance and lower risk.

The problem with PureApplication Systems is that IBM runs a variety of Operating Systems and hypervisors, each of which has different performance characteristics so it cannot possibly optimize for performance. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, PureApplication Systems integrate computing, storage, and networking but there is nothing around deep hardware and software integration.

This is where Exalogic shines making it the logical choice for running business applications.

There are a number of other performance related areas to consider. These include:

  • An Optimized Network for Software Performance via Exabus
  • Middleware optimized for running business applications including WebLogic, Coherence Data Grid, and Oracle RAC
  • Built-in Intelligent Application Load-Balancing, Traffic Routing & Load Control, and Content Caching

Unfortunately, IBM’s PureApplication Systems are unable to match Oracle in these areas as well.

Simplicity

When the discussion is around simplicity, unified management is a critical component. Exalogic has this in spades. Unfortunately, IBM generally tends to score on the low end of “ease of use” surveys.

With its deep integration with Oracle Enterprise Manager - included with the Exalogic license, I might add - Oracle is the only vendor in the industry that can offer complete apps-to-disk management with a single management tool.

This means that all aspects of the application stack (application, middleware, operating system, server hardware, storage & networking) are managed through a single pane of glass, with contextual drill-downs, so administrators spend less time managing and monitoring their critical business infrastructure.

Add to this the rich set of system tools and utilities that are included, and now businesses can perform detailed diagnostics. This approach integrates hardware management across the infrastructure stack and extends the efficiencies associated with virtualization management tools to the application and database layers.

This simplicity makes for streamlined operations, increased productivity, and reduced system downtime. And, it’s all standards based. All good things!

On the flip side, IBM’s PureApplication Systems are built on PureFlex infrastructure, meaning that it inherits all the management shortcomings of PureFlex systems as well. As an example, there are no less than four separate consoles just to manage the hardware elements of a PureApplication System. This, of course, is also completely different from what most IBM customers use to manage existing IBM hardware.

To add to the complexity on the IBM PureApplication Systems, the product does not allow for software installation without virtualization/hypervisor. For many mission critical, performance-bound applications this restriction is unacceptable.

Adding insult to injury, PureApplication Systems requires applications to be bundled in a virtualized pattern. As we know, all applications are not supported by PureApplications Virtual Application Pattern. For example, EJB clustering or applications with remote EJB calls are not supported. Nor are any applications with database backed sessions or memory-memory replication. The black list continues with stand-alone EJB jar, stand-alone connector (RAR), shared libraries, and arbitrary assets (like .zips) for business level applications.

Does that sound simple to you?

Cost

I couldn’t complete this post without a discussion of the cost component. I’ll start with a basic example. Exalogic provides virtualization support at no cost with Oracle VM. PureApplication Systems will require an additional cost for management tools from VMware, Red Hat and others…all leading to increased TCO for sure, not to mention higher complexity.

Speaking of management tools, IBM needs to rely on third-party tools for complete management. For example, a reliance on Quest, Precise or Embarcadero is needed to provide database management solutions for IBM DB2 and Informix. By stitching together this quilt, IBM PureApplication Systems customers will now also pay for additional consulting services resulting in higher TCO.

Taking it one step further, Oracle customers can leverage existing licenses of WebLogic, Coherence, etc. with Exalogic. On the other hand, IBM bakes in the software cost into the price of PureApplication System and does not allow customers to reuse, or migrate, their existing licenses of WebSphere Application Server and DB2.

Wait, there’s more.

IBM PureApplication Systems Virtual Applications pattern provides the kind of customization options that turn flexibility into a four-letter word.  Currently, IBM supports only IBM middleware (WebSphere and DB2) for virtual application patterns. A limited number of third-party patterns are available for purchase. But if you need to customize or build your own pattern to suit corporate needs and requirements, significant time and effort will be required; time and effort that will involve expensive IBM consulting services, which of course, will add to the cost and result in a higher TCO.

Another cost related consideration is that standardization yields dramatic cost benefits. When you have a system that is built to work well in a certain way, well, that is what it does! Take a look at the graphic below. Oracle’s Engineered Systems are purpose-built for speed and cost-effectiveness.

IBM gave it their best try, but they didn’t quite get there. Taken from this perspective, Oracle equals optimized and cost effective, while IBM’s approach is still labor-intensive and costly. But hey, they have to keep their Services business going somehow!

Summing it Up

Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. I commend IBM for following in Oracle’s footsteps and validating the Engineered Systems strategy. However, while it may be an improvement for IBM, PureApplication Systems fall short against Oracle’s approach.

It seems clear that Exalogic is the logical choice for running business applications.


Oracle Exalogic

IBM PureApplication System

Proven

System Availability

2 years ago

GA end of July 2012

Customers worldwide

43 countries, 22 industries

None Known

eXtreme Performance

Proven Performance - Documented Enterprise Business Applications Performance Improvement and Java Performance Improvement

Yes – 60+ applications benchmarked

No

Built-in Intelligent Application Load-Balancing, Traffic Routing & Load Control, and Content Caching

Yes

No

HW+SW Engineered Innovation

Optimized Network for Software Performance - Exabus

Yes

No

Optimized Middleware – WebLogic, Coherence Data Grid, Oracle RAC

Yes

No

Simplicity

Unified Application to Disk Management Platform

Yes – Oracle Enterprise Manager Total Cloud Control

No – Several Management and 3rd Party Products required

Common Infrastructure for both Public and Private Cloud

Yes – Oracle Public Cloud is based on Exa-System

No – IBM Public Cloud is not based on PureApplication System

Partner ISV Applications Certified

340

Approx. 80

Easy Application Certification

Yes

No

Cost Effective

Flexible Deployment Choice - Ability to deploy Applications with no-cost mission-critical virtualization or without the use of virtualization

Yes

No

Flexible Licensing – Ability to leverage existing software licenses

Yes

No

Mission Critical Virtualization Support at no cost

Yes – Oracle VM

No - Require 3rd Party VMware

Easy to Manage and Deploy Application for faster time to value

Yes

No

No cost OVAB/OVM templates and assemblies

Yes

No

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