AndrewYesterday at Oracle OpenWorld, Larry Ellison announced the database giant's first foray into the hardware realm, unveiling the HP/Oracle Database Machine, branded as Exadata. The Exadata system is a combination of Oracle's 11g database engine using Automated Storage Management (ASM) to manage a grid of HP Proliant servers with 12 SATA or SAS drives each, connected to database servers via InfiniBand. Oracle separated the database processing to allow parts of queries to be run on the storage servers, delivering query results to the database servers rather than whole tables, reducing the amount of I/O passing between servers and storage. There is no interconnect among the storage servers, instead ASM manages read and write requests in parallel among all the storage boxes. The storage server grid allows replacement of failed nodes and ongoing scalability to be automated, and growth to be theoretically unlimited. Oracle claims significant performance increases over traditional architectures and dramatic price improvements at the same time, given the industry standard x86 server architecture and the wide use of dense SATA drives.

Leave it to Larry Ellison not to play politics and come right out with an announcement that goes right at storage vendor giants, many of which are platinum sponsors at his event. While the announcement was primarily aimed at data warehouse applications, with Teradata and Netezza listed as primary competitors, there were specific references to data warehouse implementations on traditional storage products, as well as strong capabilities with OLTP database workloads. EMC, Hitachi, and NetApp systems were described in the announcement with performance capabilities 10-30x lower than the new Oracle appliance, with much higher price tags. Larry's own company, Pillar Data made announcements at OpenWorld touting new strength in Oracle specific tuning and configuration aimed at optimizing performance, but he did not shy away from vigorously promoting a new approach to storage for Oracle that leaves dedicated storage vendors struggling for relevance.

This is the most dramatic announcement in storage in a decade, and could have the effect of significantly lowering TCO and improving performance across database applications of all kinds. Oracle customers, especially those with large data warehouse needs should evaluate their architecture and determine whether spending money on intelligent storage arrays still makes sense given the performance and automation that can be gained from using the Oracle HP platform. Time will tell if Oracle can execute on this ambitious offering, but if they can deliver on their promises, all the major storage vendors should be watching their backs.

By Andrew Reichman

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