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Global CIO: Oracle Reveals Strategy And Customers For White-Hot ExadataGlobal CIO: Oracle Reveals Strategy And Customers For White-Hot Exadata

Transcending data warehousing and OLTP, Oracle's Exadata is triggering an industrywide redefinition of the core IT systems that fire the global economy.

Bob Evans

July 13, 2010

7 Min Read

"The problem our customers were having was they were taking their existing servers and storage they were running with Oracle for OLTP systems, and then they'd say, 'Oh, let's do a data warehouse,' and they'd put the exact same configuration up and they didn't quite understand that what's important for OLTP is what the IT guys call "random I/O": how many I/O's per second can you issue.

"For OLTP, that's how they work: you're looking at this random-access stuff. But if you look at a data-warehousing workload, what they're doing is sequential access: they're scanning through massive amounts of information really fast. So it turned out that the storage from the conventional storage vendors—for example, IBM, EMC, you name it—was optimized for random I/O's. And you can spend tons and tons of money with EMC and you can get huge numbers of random I/Os per second—but, if you measured their sequential I/O performance, it was really bad," Mendelsohn said. "So we talked to the [storage] vendors, and we went to EMC—this was like 4 or 5 years ago—and we said, 'Listen, this is no good—your stuff works great for OLTP, but it just doesn't work for data warehousing.' And they just never understood the problem—they just didn't get it—they always said, 'Oh, it's your software that's no good.' " Faced with that dead end, Mendelsohn said, Oracle decided to come up with its own storage solution, and set to work with some commodity HP servers and storage, optimizing them with the 11g database and related software and Infiniband networking technology, all of which combined to deliver the necessary performance for both data warehousing and OLTP workloads in a single fault-tolerant and preconfigured system. And then, he said, Oracle and its customers began to look beyond those applications to the possibility of tapping into Exadata's processing power and speed to consolidate standalone databases into the system as well. "In one of our Exadata boxes now, we can do a million I/O's per second," Mendelsohn said. "If you talk to any of your friends in IT, they'll say, 'Well, my big applications need, maybe, 50,000 or a 100,000 I/O's per second,'—so this million just blows them away. So once we put in the flash, we could do not only very fast sequential I/O for data warehouse-type workloads, but we could also do huge amounts of random I/O's per second as well. So we can now run any sort of workload with extreme performance. "The other major thing going on in IT is consolidation—and if you have about a million I/O's per second in this box, then you can run about 50 databases on this one box, not just one, like we were doing with data warehousing. So CIOs can save a lot of money, and that's the standard consolidation story." Which positions Exadata in not only the space for data-warehousing appliances but also "on IBM's turf" for high-end OLTP systems, Mendelsohn said, adding that "IBM and EMC are starting to feel the pain of Exadata, and what to do about that." "It's sort of like, well we have this Teradata box in the corner of my data center, but 95% of the rest of what we have in the data center isn't Teradata—it's IBM stuff, or HP, or Sun. And now this [Exadata] box is a very strategic box—it's a platform I can use to build out my entire IT infrastructure—it's not just for data warehousing, but rather for *everything* that runs Oracle database," Mendelsohn said. "That's why, when you hear Larry talking about pipelines, there's a big difference between V1 and V2: it went from data warehousing, which is a nice niche in the market, it's probably 20% or so, to now we have a product that addresses the entire hardware storage and server market underneath Oracle databases—much much more strategic, much much more interesting to the CIO-types when they look at modernizing their infrastructures under databases." In that regard, part of Exadata's appeal, Mendelsohn said, is that it comes preconfigured from a single vendor that specializes in precisely the type of complex design and optimization and tuning work that can be very costly and time-consuming for businesses. And that point amplifies the part of Oracle strategy outlined by president Charles Phillips in an interview a few months ago with Global CIO in which he said that many CIOs have reached the point where the complexity and cost of integration and ongoing oversight, made necessary by so many suppliers contributing bits and pieces to the overall IT stack, were simply becoming prohibitive. So part of Oracle's solution, Phillips said, was to unify the stack under Oracle technology, allowing CIOs and their teams to get out from under the perpetual and expensive chore of wiring and connecting and tuning and testing and reconfiguring. As Mendelsohn described it, "If IT guys go out and build infrastructure under an Oracle database in their enterprise IT shop, it's a major design project. Let's say I'm gonna deploy a new CRM system for 100,000 people or a call center or whatever—then the IT team has to go in and figure out what's the right servers to buy, what's the right storage to buy, how do I connect them all together properly into a cluster or a SAN or whatever they're doing. "And this is a big deal: it takes months and months, and lots of negotiating with lots of vendors, and at the end of the day they have this completely unique system that they built—and it's really good, but they're the only ones in the world who have this unique system. Which means that if there's any problem, they're going to be the first ones to find it, right? "So what they really like about Exadata is, number one, they're out of the design business—they let Oracle's engineers who know how to build systems for high-end performance and availability do that, so that the six months of design is completely gone. They buy the box, they bring it in, and in a couple of days it's up and running, versus doing it yourself where it's six months of design, then maybe another six months of tuning and getting it to work well," Mendelsohn said. As a result, he added, CIOs can devote more attention to core business and growth issues without that daunting feeling of isolation that comes with creating a truly one-of-a-kind bespoke system: "It also means I'm not the only one running this configuration—another 1,000 enterprise customers are running the exact same configuration as I am, so the likelihood that I'm going to be the first one to find a problem is going to go from 100% to maybe 1%." RECOMMENDED READING: Global CIO: Larry Ellison's IBM-Slayer Is Oracle Exadata Machine Global CIO: Larry Ellison's Hardware Boasts Are Nonsense, Says IBM Global CIO: Oracle's Phillips Says Standardizing On Oracle Is The IT Cure Global CIO: Oracle President Phillips Says 22% Annual Fees Great For CIOs Global CIO: Oracle's Larry Ellison Declares War On IBM And SAP Global CIO: Why Oracle's Earnings Will Improve With Sun Global CIO: IBM Claims Hardware Supremacy And Calls Out HP's Hurd Global CIO: Oracle Needs More Than Talk To Beat IBM's Systems Global CIO: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's Top 10 Reasons For Buying Sun Global CIO: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison On The Future Of IT Global CIO: Oracle-Sun A Bad Deal? Only A Fool Would Say That GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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