Tuesday Jun 02, 2015

Oracle’s New Four-Socket Flash-Optimized x86 Server

We are excited to announce the release of our new four-socket x86 server, Oracle Server X5-4, based on Intel’s Haswell-EX processors.  Designed with Oracle operating systems, Oracle virtualization, and Oracle Database in mind, this is the most powerful four-socket x86 server we’ve ever built.  

With the highest reliability, availability, and serviceability features in the four-socket space, Oracle Server X5-4 is the ideal x86 platform for consolidating enterprise applications and for running in-memory databases that require large amounts of memory and I/O.


Once again, Oracle has teamed up with Intel to deliver a unique processor SKU, Intel ® Xeon ® Processor E7-8895 v3, to provide our elastic computing capability.  This specially designed processor SKU effectively combines the capabilities of three different Intel Xeon processors into a single processor, allowing customers to choose between different core counts and frequencies based on the workload.  Oracle system design engineers worked closely with Oracle’s operating system development teams to achieve the ability to vary the core count and operating frequency of the Xeon E7-8895 v3 processor with time without the need for a system level reboot.  

Like its two-socket cousins, Oracle Server X5-4 now supports  a new high-bandwidth flash technology known as NVM Express (NVMe).  Using an Oracle-unique design, we are able to improve the bandwidth to each flash drive by over 2.5 times, compared to conventional SSDs.  We achieved this by eliminating the SAS/SATA controller from the path completely.  



By bringing four PCIe lanes directly to the NVM Express SSD itself, we are able to provide 32 Gb/sec bandwidth to each drive.  That’s over 2.5x the bandwidth when compared to the 12 Gb/sec pipe of a conventional SAS3 SSD.  And, along with the additional bandwidth, we eliminate the protocol conversion to and from SAS, further reducing latency and boosting performance of transactional workloads.

We were able to accomplish this bandwidth breakthrough and also use standard Small Form Factor (SFF) drives.  Oracle’s NVM Express SSDs fit into the same drive bays as hard drives and conventional SSDs.  Oracle Server X5-4 supports up to four NVM Express drives in designated slots for a total capacity of 6.4 TB.  These slots connect through the disk back plan to an internal PCIe switch.

Most importantly, we’ve engineered a way to make these flash drives hot-pluggable.  This allows you to keep the server and database running even in the event of a NVM Express SSD replacement.

So why is this new flash technology so important when running Oracle software?  For Oracle Database, our NVM Express flash technology is optimized to accelerate Oracle Database using a feature called Database Smart Flash Cache.  This feature keeps recently accessed data warm in flash storage, reducing the chance that the database needs to fetch the data from slower magnetic media that may be direct attached or resident on a NAS/SAN fabric.   In addition to the high-bandwidth interface to the NVM Express SSDs, the flash technology itself has been engineered to be high-endurance and write-optimized for Oracle Database.

Oracle Server X5-4 supports 72 cores (or 144 threads), 6 TB memory, 7.2 TB HDD capacity, and contains 11 PCIe Gen 3 I/O expansion slots. It is also the most dense x86 server based off of the Intel Xeon E7 processors with its 3U chassis, allowing 40% higher rack-level core and DIMM slot density than the competition.  

To learn more about Oracle Server X5-4 you can find additional information including data sheets and white papers here

Josh Rosen is a Senior Principal Product Strategy 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.

Friday Apr 25, 2014

Is IBM POWER8 a Smart(er) Choice?


On Wednesday, April 23, IBM announced new POWER8 systems at the OpenPower Forum. But IBM customers might be disappointed, as it appears that IBM is shifting its strategic R&D focus to Linux on POWER. IBM recently stated that they will “significantly reposition POWER8” and that they are trying to displace x86 with POWER8 in hyperscale/scale-out data center deployments. IBM seems to be re-aligning POWER8 to cover lost ground since it decided to de-invest in x86 entirely, while Oracle has instead adopted the strategy of adding/building value for enterprise environments and adding functionality to enhance customer experience (our software in silicon with SPARC processors, Oracle Solaris enhancements and Engineered Systems as examples). Ultimately IBM's strategy may lower the starting price, but IBM may not be able to sustain the model nor add significant net-new value longer term with POWER or AIX.

This represents a major shift in strategy and potentially a reduced investment in POWER AIX for the enterprise.

IBM’s hardware business is in a state of major transition. Is hardware even strategic to IBM? 

"They used to be a leader. Now they sell one business after the next. That is not a way to grow," said Fred Hickey, editor of The High-Tech Strategist newsletter who has followed IBM for 30 years. There is clear evidence that IBM is reducing investment in  hardware:

  • IBM sold their PC and Workstation business to Lenovo in 2005
  • IBM just closed their deal to sell off its x86 server business to Lenovo
  • IBM has retained Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for their chip fabrication facilities
  • IBM delivered only two POWER updates in the last four years
  • IBM doesn’t have a public POWER roadmap beyond POWER8 and AIX8

On the other hand, Oracle is doubling down on integrated hardware and software investments to support a long-term innovation roadmap and increased customer value:

  • Oracle increased investment in SPARC and Oracle Solaris delivering five generations of SPARC processors in four years, and doubling performance with each release
  • Oracle plans to release Solaris 11.2 next week, the world’s first cloud operating system coupled with the benefits of advanced virtualization, software-defined networking, and OpenStack integration
  • The SPARC roadmap now shows three future generations of SPARC processors through 2019
  • Oracle continues to invest heavily in a broad portfolio of Engineered Systems to simplify IT

Lots of Unanswered Questions
IBM leaves a lot of unanswered questions on what is going to happen next and whether its new strategy will add any real value:

  • IBM’s POWER strategy is complex and unclear with its new focus in the entry/scale-out market vs. the enterprise. What do current AIX/POWER customers do?
  • Can IBM and the OpenPOWER consortium deliver value with a complex multi-year effort to build a new ecosystem around design, manufacturing and software for the x86/scale out segment?
  • IBM is offering customers new hardware for Linux. What are the bottom line costs and benefits for migrating Linux applications running on x86 to POWER8? What is the value for Linux on POWER over x86? 
  • How does IBM plan on implementing future hardware/software optimization, i.e., PureSystems and PureFLEX, while at the same time pursuing a purely OpenStack model for POWER8? For that matter, what is IBM’s current strategy for PureSystems, given that it did not announce POWER8 Flex nodes and did not mention PureSystems at its recent earnings?

Given this radical new strategy and all the surrounding uncertainty and potential risk, do customers really want to continue to invest in POWER8 and AIX?

Stay tuned for more analysis, as IBM reveals more details about POWER8.


The following is intended to outline our general product direction. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract. It is not a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for Oracle’s products remains at the sole discretion of Oracle.

Friday Aug 24, 2012

Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure for Dummies eBook

Are you considering "going to the cloud" as a way to cut IT costs and maximize your virtualization investments? Then Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure for Dummies is a no-nonsense guide to help you navigate this hot topic. This user friendly guide explains how to cut through the noise and take advantage of integrated virtualization and management tools to implement a cloud infrastructure that not only lowers operational costs but that can easily adapt and scale to run a broad range of application services safely and securely.

This e-book will serve as a valuable Cloud computing guide covering important topics such as:

p_dlg_id=11847803&src=7618000&Act=8" title="DOWNLOAD">Download your exclusive copy of Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Special Edition today.

Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Special Edition

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Oracle integrates cloud applications and platform services together. For more information about Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), visit www.oracle.com.

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