Oracle T3 Server Buyer's Guide

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Sep 22, 2010


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Oracle threw down the gauntlet at the high-end of the server market, while demonstrating its commitment to Sun servers at this week's Oracle OpenWorld 2010 show in San Francisco.

Oracle threw down the gauntlet at the high-end of the server market this week, demonstrating its commitment to Sun servers at its annual OpenWorld show in San Francisco.

John Fowler, executive vice president for systems at Oracle announced a new line of SPARC systems known as T3.

"We are releasing a 16-core, 128-thread server processor called the T3," he said. "It is the first with integrated on-chip encryption, integrated second-generation PCIe and [it] is faster than the largest IBM POWER 750."

On the x86 front, Fowler made it clear that the company didn't want to manufacturer every size, shape and color of volume server box, preferring instead to build systems tailored to specific workloads and environments. This implies Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) will not be taking on Dell and HP on commodity servers but will instead focus on higher-end machines and servers that support business applications. In that sense, the server is likely to gradually fade from the spotlight under Oracle tutelage.

Familiar Faces

Fowler's brief sprinkling of server news during the keynote was followed by a panel of reassuringly familiar faces from Sun who now head up the various Oracle server and OS areas.

Graham Lovell, senior director of product management for the Oracle systems group, stated that no new x86 server releases were planned for the show, as the whole line had been refreshed within the past several months. He expressed excitement about the Sun and Oracle engineers working on massive product integration projects.

Shane Sigler, senior director of portfolio strategy at Oracle went into more detail on the SPARC T3 release. While the rest of the industry, he said, has just reached 8 cores, Sun achieved that landmark 5 years ago. Now with the T3, Oracle has the industry’s first 16-core server processor inside T3 units.

The new systems are said to provide a 2X increase in performance over the previous generation of SPARC T-Series systems. They range from a single socket 16-core blade and rack to a 4-socket, 64-core rack with 512 threads in a 5U box. They each feature integrated on-chip cryptographic accelerators that deliver wire speed encryption capabilities. According to Sigler, this is achieved via circuitry added to the processor.

"We are releasing four new systems with a simplified naming scheme," said Sigler. "Our SPARC T3-Series provides 2X gains in performance and throughput, and a 4X increase in IO bandwidth. It is database optimized, has built in on-chip security acceleration, integrated 10GbE, and better power and system management."

Product Specifics

T3-1B is the single socket blade version of the T3, which fits inside a Sun Blade 6000 chassis. It provides up to 16 cores, 128 simultaneous threads, 128 GB memory and four hard drive slots (2.5 inch SAS). Like all T3s, it is optimized for Oracle Solaris, Oracle VM Server and Oracle business applications. The intended market is enterprise infrastructure workloads that the organization wishes to house in a blade infrastructure.

The T3-1 is the rack equivalent of the T3-1B. Oracle is aiming this 2U box at Web infrastructure, middleware workloads and application development.

The T3-2 is the two-socket version, which bumps it up to 32 cores and up to 256 threads. This 3U server has up to six hard drives and 256 GB memory. Oracle marketing suggests it as a good platform on which to consolidate legacy servers, save data center real estate and cut operational costs.

The T3-4 is the king of the hill. It features 64 cores, 512 threads, 512 GB Memory and 16 PCIe Generation 2 slots in a 5U machine. The SPARC T3-4 is optimized for customers looking to consolidate SPARC workloads, particularly CRM, ERP and SCM workloads and supporting database, application server and web services.

Sigler recommends 16 Oracle VMs run on the T3-1 and T3-1B, while the T3-2 can accommodate 32 VMs and the T3-4 can take up 64 VMs. He said the Crypto Assist Processor can generate 10,225 encrypts per second compared to 3380 for the previous generation T-Series.

"The SPARC T3 consumes three times less CPU overhead than Intel," said Sigler. "We plan to continue to ramp up the T-Series every 12 to 15 months."

He also highlighted new tests that show the new Oracle processor to be the world leader in countless benchmarks. This includes the SPECjEnterprie2010, the SPECjvm2008, Siebel CRM Benchmark, Oracle E-Business Suite R-12 Benchmark and the x86 to SPARC Virtualization Benchmark. On the latter test, up to 30 x86 servers running Oracle Database 11g can be consolidated to a single SPARC T3-2 server with a Sun Storage F5100 Flash Array, using Oracle Solaris 10 with Solaris Containers.

"Whether customers are running compute-intensive or fully virtualized environments, Oracle’s integrated applications-to-disk solutions deliver the best scalability and performance," said Fowler.

He indicated that many of these SPARC T3 server models should begin shipping in the next 30 days.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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