IT Innovation

Super Hero IT

Oracle engineered systems, storage, and analytics support the Avengers.

By Rich Schwerin

May/June 2012

Yes, your data center is powerful. But is it powerful enough to protect the nations and peoples of Earth from all threats, terrestrial or extraterrestrial? If you’re Agent John Smith, it better be.

Smith is the chief systems administrator for the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), where he works for Nick Fury. And just as Fury must assemble the Avengers to battle threats to the world that no one else can handle, Smith must assemble the most powerful data center to deliver extreme performance and Earth-saving analytics.


A seven-year S.H.I.E.L.D. veteran, Smith has seen a lot of technology come and go. Some of it is retired, and updated hardware and software take its place. At S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, in the Helicarrier, and in field offices around the world, some hardware is retired by force.

“An Asgardian’s hammer really does a number on these infrastructures. We’re using Kevlar and a lot of classified materials in the housings of our server and storage hardware, but superpowers give IT a run for its money,” says Smith.


Oracle Magazine caught up with Smith after a classified incident destroyed all of the legacy data center hardware at a previously secret S.H.I.E.L.D. lab. Smith seemed surprisingly upbeat as he looked at scorched pieces of hardware where dozens of racks of state-of-the-art systems once stood.


“Today, we’re rolling in Oracle engineered systems, so recovering from this kind of event is easy,” Smith says. “The intelligence we deliver enables S.H.I.E.L.D. to complete its missions, so high availability and performance are paramount. The faster we can assemble the data center and deliver vital information, the better.”

Smith pauses to watch his trio of tech teams in action. One group rolls in new engineered systems: Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, and Oracle Big Data Appliance. Another group works to deploy an arsenal of storage solutions: Oracle’s Sun ZFS Storage Appliances, Pillar Axiom 600, and StorageTek tape libraries and drives. And a third group of technicians focuses on analytics, installing Oracle business intelligence (BI) tools and technologies and Oracle Hyperion performance management applications.

Engineered for Battle

Extraterrestrial security emergencies don’t wait, so S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t waste time configuring, testing, connecting, and deploying disparate hardware piecemeal-—which is why Smith relies on Oracle engineered systems.

“We chose Oracle Exadata because it provides extreme performance for both data warehousing and OLTP [online transaction processing] applications, and its architecture is highly scalable, secure, and redundant,” says Smith. “As a result, our agents—and of course, the Avengers—get the right information at the right time and can make better decisions to be more effective in day-to-day operations and in battle.”

S.H.I.E.L.D. systems connect thousands of agents and exabytes of classified information in international operations. The frontline data gathering and analysis applications run in a secure private cloud, so building them in Java and running them on Oracle Exalogic machines makes perfect sense to Smith. “Oracle Exalogic is engineered for cloud computing,” says Smith. “It’s tested and tuned for Java applications, and it delivers extreme performance.”


S.H.I.E.L.D. takes in terabytes of information every day, from surveillance video to satellites, threat sensors, field reports, network traffic, and more. This high-volume, high-velocity, and high-variety data must be processed in batch and in parallel, filtered, transformed, and sorted before it is loaded into an enterprise data warehouse. For that tall task, Smith and S.H.I.E.L.D. rely on Oracle Big Data Appliance, an engineered system optimized for acquiring, organizing, and loading unstructured data into Oracle Database 11g. “Every day we load massive amounts of mission-critical intel into Oracle Big Data Appliance, and it handles everything we give it,” says Smith.

Intelligence, planning, and analytics play prominent roles in protecting Earth from all threats, and Oracle Exalytics supports those roles for S.H.I.E.L.D. As an in-memory BI machine, it delivers the extreme performance S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to succeed. “When assessing threats, S.H.I.E.L.D. has to quickly draw actionable insights from massive amounts of data,” says Smith. “Oracle Exalytics is our go-to enterprise BI platform, and its advanced data visualization and exploration get the job done.”

Supreme Storage

With S.H.I.E.L.D.’s international jurisdiction comes a massive amount of data, both structured and unstructured—all of which needs to be securely stored, backed up, and perpetually available.


So in addition to using all of the storage built into its Oracle engineered systems, S.H.I.E.L.D. uses network-attached storage (NAS), storage-area network (SAN), and tape storage devices—in particular Sun ZFS Storage Appliance, Pillar Axiom storage system, and StorageTek tape libraries and drives. “Our Sun ZFS Storage Appliances provide hot backup for our Oracle Exadata machines, and they deliver NAS storage for the systems that need it,” says Smith. “When you’re storing as much critical, Earth-in-the-balance data as we are, you simply can’t afford any data corruption errors. The ZFS file system’s advanced error detection and self-healing capabilities keep S.H.I.E.L.D.’s data accurate and online.”

To address SAN storage requirements, Smith turns to the next-generation SAN architecture of the Pillar Axiom 600 storage system.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. agents place pretty high demands on the data center,” says Smith. “The storage provided by the Pillar Axiom 600 enables us to meet some very particular and strict service-level agreements [SLAs], prioritize data access across the system, and ensure that all applications get what they need when they need it.”

Because the volume and value of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s data grows exponentially, Smith uses Oracle’s StorageTek SL8500 modular library system to help him manage complexity, control costs, and deliver on SLAs.


“Considering the massive volume of data we need to back up, the StorageTek SL8500 is well equipped. It’s an exabyte storage system with 24/7 high-availability features,” says Smith.

Knowing that a superpowered disaster can strike anywhere at any time, S.H.I.E.L.D. operates mirrored Oracle engineered compute and storage systems in multiple locations worldwide in a highly secure private cloud configuration. As Smith’s tech teams complete the connections between the Oracle engineered compute and storage systems, they begin data recovery from tape and other systems in the S.H.I.E.L.D. private cloud.

Smart, Agile, Aligned
At The Center of
Extreme Data - pdf

Oracle engineered systems and storage have an obvious presence in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s rebuilt data center, but S.H.I.E.L.D. also depends on additional software to analyze and manage its own unique operation. For Smith, analytics and enterprise performance management are among the most important software deployed at S.H.I.E.L.D.

“With Oracle Business Intelligence Applications and Oracle Hyperion performance management applications, we’re able to manage analytics and optimize operational performance worldwide,” says Smith. “With Oracle, we can quickly assemble insights into action anytime, anywhere, on any device.”

“When Fury assembles the Avengers, our IT has to be a step ahead,” concludes Smith. “And thanks to Oracle’s engineered systems, storage, and analytics, we’ve assembled a superpowered data center worthy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Next Steps

 READ more about The Avengers

LEARN more about
 Oracle Exadata Database Machine
 Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud
 Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine
 Oracle Big Data Appliance
 Oracle storage solutions
 Oracle business analytics


Photography byNick van den Berg,Unsplash