Success on Sparc

The latest SPARC chips and systems are at the center of better business processes.

By Philip J. Gill

July/August 2014

Server consolidation projects are designed to cut costs and improve data center performance, but companies deploying Oracle’s SPARC servers, including the SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 servers, are getting additional benefits as well. Whether it’s a hardware refresh or a complete revamp of IT infrastructure, these companies are finding that this new generation of SPARC servers—combined with the power and dependability of the Oracle Solaris operating system—reduces operating costs; improves business operations; expands capacity; adds capability; and, in one case at least, even recruits top IT talent.

Seamless Reliability

No matter how they are delivered—airwaves, cable, or satellite—broadcast television services demand 24/7 operations that operate reliably and seamlessly, at the touch of a button or the flick of a switch. With a subscriber base of more than 15 million households, Mumbai, India–based Tata Sky is the leading provider of satellite-based, direct-to-home broadcast television services in India.

“We offer a wide variety of television services, from standard-definition and high-definition channels to video-on-demand, mobile TV, movies, and personal video recorders—both standard and high definition—as well as interactive content including games, educational applications, and more,” says N. Ravishanker, chief information officer at Tata Sky, a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Tata Group and the US-based mass-media firm STAR TV.

Tata Sky
Location: Mumbai, India
Industry: Media and entertainment
Employees: 1,500
Oracle Products: SPARC T4-2 and SPARC T4-4 servers; SPARC T5-2 and SPARC T5-4 servers; SPARC M5-32 server; SPARC Enterprise M9000; Oracle Solaris 11 with Oracle Solaris Zones Preflight System Checker; Oracle Solaris Cluster (for high availability); Oracle Database 11g; Oracle Real Application Clusters; Oracle Enterprise Manager; Oracle VM 3.0; Siebel Customer Relationship Management; Oracle Active Data Guard; Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services

Yapi Kredi
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Industry: IT services/government
Employees: 14,865
Oracle Products: SPARC T5-4, SPARC T4-4, SPARC T4-2, and SPARC T4-1 servers; SPARC Enterprise M9000; Oracle Solaris 10; Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Database 10g; Oracle GoldenGate; Oracle Internet Directory

In 2012, Ravishanker explains, the firm was looking to add both capacity and capability to better serve its growing customer base. “There is excellent opportunity for growth in this market, especially since there is so much churn in cable television,” he says. “Since this is a commodity product, we face challenges similar to every B2C [business-to-consumer] organization in scalability and reliability.”

“We needed a hardware refresh that added capacity to support our growing subscriber base,” says Ravishanker. “We also needed to set up a disaster recovery [DR] site to maintain the 24/7 reliability and availability our customers have come to expect.”

Tata Sky has been using SPARC servers running the Oracle Solaris operating system since the company’s inception—it opened for business in 2006 with SPARC-based Sun Fire E20K servers—and it looked to new SPARC servers to upgrade and enhance its IT infrastructure, beginning in 2012 with new SPARC Enterprise M9000 and SPARC T4 servers from Oracle and continuing in 2013 with Oracle’s next-generation SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 servers.

According to Ravishanker, these systems have improved performance, cut costs, simplified operations, and improved reliability and availability for the company’s core business-critical applications, including its billing, smartcard management, electronic voucher distribution, and online customer ordering systems.

“With the new SPARC systems, some applications run up to 10 times faster,” he says. “An application that ran at 4 seconds per transaction now performs at 0.4 seconds per transaction, and that provides near-instantaneous response times to our customers’ online requests, such as ordering movies or new television channels.

The company also has established its first DR site, located in the city of Pune, India. “With the new data center, should we experience a full-scale shutdown at our primary production site, we can be back up and running in less than 90 minutes,” says Ravishanker. “Powered by our new SPARC servers, the disaster recovery site provides our customers with greater service reliability and availability.”

“We slashed operating costs 20 percent, including licensing, reduced data center floor space requirements, improved energy efficiency, and consolidated 61 legacy systems at no additional cost, thanks to SPARC’s built-in advanced virtualization technologies and linear scalability,” Ravishanker continues. “We have been able to do all this and maintain service levels with less staff.”

Such an array of benefits is common among companies deploying SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 servers, says Masood Heydari, senior vice president of SPARC systems for the systems group at Oracle.


In April 2014, Oracle introduced Oracle Solaris 11.2, an enterprise cloud platform that integrates a full OpenStack distribution, software-defined networking (SDN), clustering, and virtualization in a proven enterprise-class operating system.

OpenStack functionality in Oracle Solaris 11.2 environments supports a standard self-service environment for sharing and managing compute, network, and storage resources, and it enables the rapid deployment of virtual machines. Application-driven SDN, from application to storage, ensures that service-level agreements are maintained within a data center or cloud environment. Oracle Solaris Zones provide zero-overhead virtual environments, and kernel zones deliver OS independence and isolation. John Fowler, executive vice president for systems at Oracle, notes, “By engineering the OS, virtualization, SDN, and OpenStack together, Oracle Solaris 11.2 provides a complete cloud platform, for simple, efficient, secure, compliant, and open enterprise cloud deployments. It’s designed to help customers accelerate their businesses and capitalize on the potential of cloud computing while reducing cost.”

The latest SPARC chips and systems are at the center of better business processes.

By Rick O'Herron

July/August 2014

“Organizations used to map one application to one server,” explains Heydari. “SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 systems have so much power and capability that businesses today will typically carve these servers up into multiple virtual machines and deploy multiple different applications on a single system. Users not only get much higher performance, they get better return on their investment.”

Where Credit Is Due

Performance is important in all industries—and all economies. Turkey has a rapidly growing private sector whose growth is fueled in large part by the availability of consumer credit.

“Although credit card penetration is high in Turkey, the demand for consumer credit continues to grow,” explains Sinan Özer, executive vice president of infrastructure operations and security at Yapi Kredi Bank. Yapi Kredi was founded in 1944 as Turkey’s first private bank. It is the nation’s fourth-largest private bank and was the first to introduce consumer credit cards in 1991.

To keep up with demand, Yapi Kredi is currently migrating its credit card processing from legacy mainframes and non-SPARC UNIX servers, consolidating that workload on larger, more-powerful, and cost-effective SPARC T5 series servers from Oracle running the Oracle Solaris 10 operating system and Oracle VM 3.0.

“We’re consolidating our legacy servers onto new SPARC T5 servers, using virtualization to bring 80 hosts down to 50 hosts running on 10 machines,” says Özer. “When we’re finished, 65 percent of all our processing will be done on SPARC servers.”

These SPARC systems will be running not just consumer credit card operations but also retail banking, merchant card and banking, risk management, treasury, and other core banking services, Özer notes.

Yapi Kredi chose SPARC systems because it has been committed to the SPARC architecture and Oracle Solaris, the leading enterprise UNIX operating system, for some time. “The bank has been using Oracle Solaris for 15 years,” says Özer. “Years ago, we moved many of our core banking applications to Oracle Solaris.”

With the new SPARC systems, some applications run up to 10 times faster. ”–N. Ravishanker,
Chief Information Officer, Tata Sky

When the current SPARC T5 server project is completed later this year, the bank expects significant savings. “The new SPARC systems offer one-third lower maintenance costs compared to the mainframes they are replacing,” says Özer. “Electricity costs will decrease to less than a quarter of current costs, and so will our cooling costs. Because of this and other cost savings, we expect a payback period of less than two years.”

More to Come

Yapi Kredi’s IT overhaul isn’t done yet; there are more SPARC systems to come.

“Later this year, we will be installing a SPARC M6-32 server that will be used to move the rest of our core banking applications to SPARC and Oracle Solaris,” says Özer. “We are also rewriting those applications on the Java platform. Once that is done, all of our core applications will be running on SPARC and Oracle Solaris.”

Besides the cost, reliability, and performance benefits, Özer says Yapi Kredi’s use of open platforms, SPARC servers, and Oracle Solaris has an added advantage: It helps the bank attract top IT talent.

“It’s getting very hard to find sufficient talent for mainframes, says Özer. “The younger generation only wants to work with the latest technology—that means systems such as SPARC and Oracle Solaris.”


Under their metal exteriors, Oracle’s next-generation SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 servers look alike, sharing common components, terabytes of memory and storage, and more. What distinguishes one from the other is how they are put together, and that, in turn, is a matter of scale.

“The two systems were designed to handle the same tasks, but with different design approaches,” says Renato Ribeiro, director of product management for SPARC systems at Oracle. “SPARC T5 servers scale up to considerable capacity, while using a fraction of a server rack. The SPARC M6 server supports four times the capacity of the largest SPARC T5 system.”

The design and capacity of the SPARC M6 server delivers additional benefits. “SPARC M6 servers include more component redundancy and therefore greater availability and serviceability,” says Ribeiro. “As a result, you can consolidate more applications and deploy more virtual machines, while achieving better performance through the highly scalable design.”

The design differences between SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 servers are obvious in the way the systems can be configured. The SPARC T5 system begins with a blade server with a single processor and 256 GB of memory and tops out with a server with 8 processors and 4 TB of memory.

The SPARC M6, introduced in September 2013, picks up where the SPARC T5 leaves off, and is Oracle’s newest, most powerful, and most scalable SPARC server to date. The top-of-the-line SPARC M6-32 has up to 32 12-core 3.6 MHz SPARC processors and up to 32 TB of main memory. Each of those SPARC chips has 12 cores—twice the number of cores as its predecessor, the SPARC M5—and each core can run 8 threads simultaneously, allowing for 3,072 threads running in the top-of-the line system’s 384 cores. “The SPARC M6-32 offers enough power to run the largest, most demanding applications in use today, all in-memory,” says Ribeiro.

The new SPARC T5 and SPARC M6 also run counter to the conventional wisdom about large-scale multiprocessor systems—they offer near-linear pricing from a two-processor SPARC T5-2 server to the 32-processor, multiterabyte SPARC M6-32 server. “Although they scale to a very high number of processors and many terabytes of memory, users don’t pay a premium for that performance on the bigger package,” Ribeiro says.

Next Steps

LEARN more about
 SPARC servers
 Oracle Solaris
 Oracle Optimized Solutions


Photography by Aldo Schumann,Unsplash