Friday Oct 04, 2013

Oracle x86 Systems: The Best x86 Platforms for Oracle Solaris

With adoption in over 50,000 businesses and institutions, Oracle Solaris has clearly established itself as the world leader in UNIX-based operating systems. Oracle Solaris includes many unique and innovative technologies that are not commonly available in other operating systems, such as Oracle Solaris ZFS, Dynamic Tracing (DTrace), predictive fault detection, built-in virtualization, and advanced security.

As a result of a broad strategic alliance between Oracle and Intel, Oracle Solaris has become widely deployed on Intel-based x86 systems from a variety of different hardware vendors. Intel has embraced Oracle Solaris as a mainstream UNIX operating system for enterprise-class, mission-critical systems based on Intel Xeon processors.

While Intel Xeon processor-based systems from any hardware OEM can be certified to run Oracle Solaris, Oracle has engineered Oracle Solaris to provide additional benefits when running on Oracle x86 systems. A primary example of this is the Oracle Solaris Fault Management Architecture (FMA). Developed and enhanced over the past decade, Oracle Solaris FMA is composed of a set of diagnosis engines that process raw error events from the hardware and provide an automated and intelligent method for problem diagnosis.

As a result of Oracle’s partnership with Intel, Oracle Solaris FMA was instrumented with diagnosis ability for DIMM and CPU correctible errors and fault detection for PCIe errors. Oracle Solaris also has the ability to offline individual processor strands, retire individual pages of memory and cease using problematic I/O devices.

While Oracle Solaris FMA is a built-in feature of the operating system, its capabilities can vary dramatically based on the server on which it is running, as is shown in the figure below:

Figure 1. Complete Oracle Solaris FMA capabilities are only available on Oracle x86 systems.

When running on Oracle x86 servers, Oracle Solaris automatically detects the presence of Oracle Integrated Lights Out Manager (Oracle ILOM), the embedded service processor that is part of every server from Oracle, and establishes a high speed connection between the two which allows both Oracle Solaris FMA and Oracle ILOM to have total visibility into the health of the entire system. Oracle’s x86 systems are the only Intel-based systems in which the service processor and Oracle Solaris are tightly integrated. As a result, organizations running Oracle’s x86 servers have the flexibility to choose how they want to monitor their servers, which simplifies their management infrastructure.

Oracle has also engineered Oracle Solaris FMA to provide special serviceability features when running on Oracle x86 systems. When a component fails in any of Oracle’s x86 servers, Oracle Solaris FMA will diagnose the problem and specify the failed component using the same nomenclature as the slot/component identification label silkscreened on the chassis. To further help in identifying and locating faulted components, when Oracle Solaris diagnoses a fault, a fault message is sent to Oracle ILOM, which in turn lights the appropriate fault indicators. Both of these allow for easier and faster service, enabling technicians to quickly restore services that were brought down by a fault.

Oracle Auto Service Request (ASR) is a secure, scalable, customer-configurable software solution for Oracle hardware products that resolves problems faster by providing automatic service request generation and priority service request handling for specific faults. If a fault is detected, the ASR software automatically creates a service request with the My Oracle Support portal. By automatically including the component part number in the service request to Oracle, Oracle ASR makes ordering replacement parts very simple. While non-Oracle hardware vendors have their own technologies for communicating problems back to their respective support organizations, those technologies are not tightly integrated with Oracle Solaris. Having a set of software and firmware components that have all been engineered and tested together is the only way to ensure accurate diagnosis of problems.

Oracle’s x86 systems are the best x86 platforms for Oracle software. Only Oracle provides customers with an optimized hardware and software stack that comes complete with choice of operating system, virtualization software and cloud management tools – all at no extra charge. Oracle’s optimized hardware and software stack has enabled a 10x performance gain in its engineered systems and has delivered world-record benchmark results. Oracle offers a wide range of Intel Xeon processor-based servers to suit the needs of enterprise class application that are required to conduct day-to-day operations:

 Product Name  Features  Primary Application
 Sun Blade X4-2B  Two-socket blade module based on Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family  Compute node for clustered computing and virtualization needs in a blade form factor
 Sun Server X4-2 Two-socket 1RU server based on Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family Compute node for clulstered computing and virtualization needs
 Sun Server X4-2L Two-socket 2RU server based on Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family Storage node for large internal storage capacity needs
 Sun Server X2-4 Four-socket 3RU server based on Intel Xeon processor E7-4800 product family Consolidation node for efficient use of resources with high-performance and large memeory availability
 Sun Server X2-8 Eight-socket 5RU server based on Intel Xeon processor E7-8800 product family  SMP node for scale-up computing

Figure 2. Oracle x86 system portfolio

Oracle Solaris runs better and smarter on Oracle x86 servers. By engineering Oracle Solaris to work with Oracle’s x86 hardware, Oracle has engineered unique features that bring value to organizations that are looking to run their mission-critical applications. The advanced fault management and serviceability features, as well as improvements to installation and system management, make Oracle x86 systems the best hardware choice for running Oracle Solaris.

Pierre Lessard is a Principal Product Manager in Oracle’s Systems Group, focusing on x86 servers.  He spent the last fifteen years at Oracle in Operations and Engineering, working on both SPARC and x86-based systems.

Driving Database Innovation Down the Stack: Oracle Database and Oracle Linux on Oracle x86 Hardware

Oracle has always been a database company, but more recently we are driving database innovation even further down the stack through the operating system all the way down to the hardware.

Oracle x86 servers are the building blocks for Oracle’s engineered systems such as Exadata. These engineered systems run Oracle Database and Oracle Linux and are highly optimized to work together and provide unique features and benefits. For example, there is code in Oracle Linux and Oracle Database to make it run faster on Oracle x86, and there are firmware enhancements embedded in the server that make Oracle x86 the best x86 platform for running Oracle Database.

Oracle made these enhancements as part of the work to build engineered systems, but you can still take advantage of many of these features outside of engineered systems, if you are running Oracle Database and Oracle Linux on Oracle x86.

To understand how Oracle engineers its x86 servers to be the best for Oracle software, let’s first talk about Oracle’s overall design approach for building x86 systems. Oracle strives to make the most reliable, enterprise-grade servers because we know that this is what Oracle’s database customers want and expect.

Oracle x86 servers are built using Intel Xeon Processor family CPUs and chipsets, Intel NICs, and Intel SSDs. Oracle and Intel have a shared vision of creating the highest-performance, lowest power, and most reliable servers. Oracle collaborates with Intel to drive performance and reliability improvements at the component level to provide improved RAS features. Oracle also adds hundreds of firmware extensions to the storage subsystem and BIOS to ensure optimal database robustness.

In addition to the reliability built into each server, there is additional reliability that is engineered into Oracle Database when running on Oracle x86. This extra robustness comes from the process by which Oracle software is developed, tested, and deployed.

Oracle runs its own product development IT infrastructures on Oracle x86. In other words, software engineers developing Oracle Database write and unit test their code on Oracle x86, and Oracle Database builds are tested on a farm of Oracle x86 servers. Running Oracle Database and Oracle Linux on Oracle x86 is also a combination that Oracle uses to run its own cloud business, processing 3.2 billion business-critical database transactions per hour in Oracle’s Hosted cloud.

Through all of this additional testing and internal use of Oracle Database on Oracle x86, we uncovered many corner-case bugs in our storage subsystem, in our BIOS, and in other subsystems. And we worked through and fixed all of these bugs prior to general release. What this means is that customers running Oracle Database on Oracle x86, whether as part of an engineered system or a stand-alone server, are going to see fewer problems, less downtime, and reduced operating expenses.

Oracle and Intel not only collaborate closely to build servers but also to make sure that Oracle Database has maximum performance with Intel Xeon Processors. For example, Oracle and Intel worked together to accelerate encryption and decryption by three times by using AES-NI, improve the performance of checksum calculations in Oracle Database 12c by 40 percent, and add NUMA optimizations to improve locking by over 50 percent.

With the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors, Oracle will refresh its two-socket product line to take advantage of the improved performance, additional cores, and power savings. Oracle’s new Sun Server X4-2L server will support the fastest Intel Xeon E5-2600 v2 Processor family CPUs while also supporting over 50 TB of internal storage in only 2 rack units. And using Oracle’s Sun Flash Accelerator PCIe cards, Oracle Database I/O service times can be made fifteen times faster.

The net results from hundreds of firmware enhancements, hundreds more improvements to Oracle Linux, server components engineered for reliability and performance is a server that is designed for Oracle Database at all levels. And there are many more enhancements in the pipeline to further integrate hardware and software to provide a unified Red Stack.

Josh Rosen is a Principal Product Manager for Oracle’s x86 servers, focusing on Oracle’s operating systems and software. He previously spent more than a decade as a developer and architect of system management software. Josh has worked on system management for many of Oracle's hardware products ranging from the earliest blade systems to the latest Oracle x86 servers.


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