Today's guest blog comes from Renato Ribeiro, Director for SPARC Systems Engineering at Oracle.
Oracle has just announced a new microprocessor, and the servers and engineered system that are powered by it. The SPARC M8 processor fits in the palm of your hand, but it contains the result of years of co-engineering of hardware and software together to run enterprise applications with unprecedented speed and security.
The SPARC M8 chip contains 32 of today’s most powerful cores for running Oracle Database and Java applications. Benchmarking data shows that the performance of these cores reaches twice the performance of Intel’s x86 cores. This is the result of exhaustive work on designing smart execution units and threading architecture, and on balancing metrics such as core count, memory and IO bandwidth. It also required millions of hours in testing chip design and operating system software on real workloads for database and Java. Having faster cores means increasing application capability while keeping the core count and software investment under control. In other words, a boost in efficiency.
What is even more remarkable about Oracle’s SPARC M8 chip is the revolutionary implementation of accelerators and logic that are especially designed for extreme acceleration of in-memory data processing, and for the protection of that data while in memory, on disk, or moving over the network. This was breakthrough design in which small portions of the chip’s silicon were dedicated to specific operations that are key to enterprise software. When this technology, called Software in Silicon, is utilized, the performance advantage of the SPARC M8 processor cores increases to 7x for in-memory analytics compared to Intel’s latest cores. A similar performance boost of 7x is seen on cryptographic hashes using strong, wide keys.
Software in Silicon technology was actually introduced with the SPARC M7 and S7 processors in the last two years, and the SPARC M8 chip is already using its second generation. It is a sign of maturity that, since its introduction, Software in Silicon features in these processors have been utilized by Oracle Database 12c automatically to increase in-memory query performance and transaction security.
The results of this revolutionary approach are truly remarkable: the processor cores offload analytic operations to Data Analytics Accelerator (DAX) units, and go on performing other database tasks. The DAX units take data directly from memory, uncompress it on the fly if necessary, and then perform searches, filters and joins at extreme speeds. All this is transparent to the user, and is handled by the Oracle Database In-memory option for Oracle Database 12c. Open APIs have also made this technology available to Java 8 Streams processing. But what is important is the end result: analytics can be performed on transactional data in real time, and yield critical insight into the business in a fraction of the time compared to conventional approaches.
There is one anecdote that we hear often from customers testing such features created by Oracle’s co-engineering: the tests run so fast that the users say “something went wrong, the answer cannot be out already”, which leads to repetitions and additional tests until they realize that, yes, the speed is real.
IT security is a tough discipline in part because of complexity: too many devices, networks and applications in which to activate security features. Things get worse when there is overhead associated with security operations, causing it to be deployed on a case-by-case basis. The best way to make IT security stronger is to make it simpler: implement it by default into systems, and only open it up by exception. For that, you need to automate deployment and remove overhead.
Software in Silicon technology enables encryption of data in storage and in the network without a perceptible performance penalty. The 32 crypto accelerators in the SPARC M8 processor operate on the industry’s widest set of cyphers. They leverage the tremendous memory bandwidth and speed of the chip to provide the largest gains in performance compared to competitors. With SPARC technology, end-to-end encrypted transactions can be enabled all across the data center, simplifying security architecture. In another sign of co-engineering, the security functions in Oracle Database and Java applications use the crypto accelerators automatically.
A second important Software in Silicon feature is Silicon Secured Memory, which is unique in its ability to protect data in memory from access errors or hacker attacks. It is already used by Oracle Database 12c, and can be activated easily with most applications, providing protection against one of the most common software errors that are exploited by malware: buffer overflows. The chip and server hardware monitor access to data in memory, and only allows operations when coming from the process that own that specific data location. It is an ingenious way to stop data from being corrupted or stolen at the source, identifying the offending software program that then can be patched or removed.
Many of our customers balance the deployment of new applications with the modernization of legacy ones. Taking advantage of great technology such as Software in Silicon means in general that their applications have to be deployed using modern software like Oracle Database 12c and the Oracle Solaris 11.3 operating system. The SPARC platform lets users adopt this technology at their own pace. Guaranteed binary compatibility allows legacy applications to first run unchanged in new servers with SPARC processors, and then be modernized later. In addition, Oracle has publicly committed to supporting Oracle Solaris 11 until at least 2034, while Oracle’s Lifetime Support policy for hardware ensures that customers do to not have to replace their existing systems before they and their applications are ready for an upgrade.
If you haven’t done it yet, check the launch webcast on the new SPARC M8 processor and systems. And if you're going to be at this year's Oracle OpenWorld, don't miss the SPARC M8 sessions we have scheduled for you:
Renato Ribeiro is a Director for SPARC Systems Engineering at Oracle. In over a decade working at Oracle and Sun Microsystems, he has gained expertise in applying computing technologies to databases and applications, virtualization, and benchmarking, especially in mission critical, large scale deployments.