IT Innovation

The SPARC/Oracle Solaris Platform Evolution

Optimization combines hardware and software in new ways, improving performance and availability for enterprise workloads.

By Diana Reichardt

May/June 2011

Oracle Magazine spoke with Jean S. Bozman, research vice president at International Data Corporation (IDC), about enterprise hardware and software trends and Oracle’s SPARC roadmap.

Oracle Magazine: What is optimization, and why is it important to customers?

Bozman: Today there is an industrywide move to have greater optimization between hardware and software, and a good amount of that optimization applies to systems management as well. From the 1980s through the 1990s, IT organizations were acting as their own system integrators. They had large IT staffs, and they did a lot of tuning and optimizing and tweaking themselves. Many IT shops traded tips and techniques for this optimization process, but the result was one-off customization that couldn’t be leveraged in a consistent way. Just as importantly, the combination of the increasing complexity of systems, the specific IT skill sets needed, and the budgetary considerations for this kind of work made it harder for a company’s IT staff to do this work themselves.

In recent years, particularly with the economic downturn, downsizing affected many IT departments. Today, a lot of the expertise that was dedicated to in-house tuning by in-house IT departments is moving to IT providers that are working to optimize system performance and system reliability. So what you have in the case of Oracle is a group of skilled hardware and software engineers who are able to look at all of the company’s products and optimize Oracle’s software to run even better on its hardware. Oracle has been very clear about putting its engineers to work side by side to optimize solutions for rapid deployment, and with high levels of system performance and availability.

In computer science, it’s well known that operating systems and firmware and systems-level code can be optimized to work together more efficiently, resulting in improved system performance and overall throughput—getting more work done per unit of time. For example, placing new functionality within an operating system kernel has the effect of speeding up performance—much more than adding that functionality outside the operating system kernel. As the SPARC hardware evolves, that’s the kind of thing that can be done with Oracle Solaris, allowing it to work even more efficiently on future generations of SPARC.

Oracle Magazine: What does the combination of Oracle and Sun mean for customers and the marketplace?

Bozman: Customers will see more progress for SPARC systems running Oracle Solaris—and the amount and degree of optimization should increase between 2012 and 2014, according to the Oracle technology roadmap revealed at Oracle OpenWorld in September 2010. Importantly, this optimization process will work with SPARC’s built-in support for virtualization [Oracle VM Server, formerly known as logical domains or LDOMs] and Oracle Solaris Containers for workload isolation and granular management and control. Taken together, these features support workload consolidation on SPARC systems, improving resource utilization.

As the SPARC/Oracle Solaris platform evolves, binary compatibility is another important consideration. Historically, Sun customers have been able to start with one SPARC platform and then move on to the next, while bringing all their application software along with custom apps or ISV apps with guaranteed binary compatibility. This has been very important to longtime SPARC customers, who have been able to take advantage of upward compatibility as they move from one generation of hardware to the next. Now that Oracle includes Sun technology, you can see this process accelerating. The December 2010 SPARC Supercluster announcement from Oracle was a good example, with some very specific product offerings and solutions being unveiled. We expect there will be more examples using SPARC building blocks in the overall line of Oracle products going forward.

Next Steps

 LEARN more about Oracle’s SPARC servers and Oracle Solaris

 WATCH the SPARC Supercluster launch Webcast

Photography byJussara Romão,Unsplash