Oracle Server Buyer's Guide

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 7, 2011


A buyer's guide about Oracle is a little different from those of its competitors. For HP, IBM or Dell it is a simple matter of relaying the latest updates in terms of processors, memory and key specs. Occasionally, there is a change of direction, but most of the time they build them faster, cheaper, quieter or smaller. Users are most interested in the incremental changes and the latest processors inside.

More than a year after acquiring Sun Microsystems, the question remains: Where is Oracle going with its Sun server bounty, and where does it see the industry heading?

From Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), however, users want reassurance. Loyal Sun buyers need to know their cherished product lines and preferred processors will be there for the long haul. Similarly, those new to Sun/Oracle would be tempted only by a compelling reason to select its offerings over the perhaps "safer" options out there. As one user once said, "Nobody is going to lose their job over buying IBM machines."

So where is Oracle going with its Sun server bounty, and where does it see the industry heading?

Besides the obvious trends of continuing virtualization and private clouds, Graham Lovell, Senior Director of Product Management for Systems of Oracle (a long-term Sun server veteran), said highlighted three key trends:
  • Continuous drive for simplicity
  • Driving down total cost of ownership (TCO) through greater integration
  • Catching the optimization wave

"If you can see, and be alerted to, the state of health of the server and its ecosystem at multiple levels, the complexity is reduced significantly," said Lovell. "Most servers today have some form of intelligent console, but many lack the telemetry that links it to what the applications, middleware and operating system are doing, and back to the experts at the vendor's service center."

Accordingly, Oracle is integrating the server lights-out manager with the ops center, enterprise manager software, and the database and middleware layers to reveal a complete picture of the server's ecosystem when viewed at any entry point. Instead of paying someone to integrate and manage these elements, Oracle is pre-integrating them to deliver fully engineered systems. The Oracle Exadata system is an example of this approach. As noted below, many servers are now tailored to specific workloads -- a big differentiator for Oracle, as it will build a box around a specific application, a database or an OS.

In terms of overall direction, the company is concentrating on server hardware build mainly for Solaris, Linux and virtual machines (VMs). Lovell said Oracle is investing in blade- and rack-optimized servers using both the SPARC and x86 architectures.

"Oracle has stepped up its investment in SPARC processors with a published five-year roadmap," said Lovell. "SPARC continues to lead the industry for high-core CPUs, being the first to create both 8-core and 16-core CPUs."

x86 Oracle Servers

Historically, Sun created the world's first 8-CPU x86 system. Oracle followed that with its successor last summer, which used a blade-like design in a compact chassis. In fourth-quarter 2010, the company introduced the dual-node Sun Fire X6275 M2 blade module. According to Lovell, it offers up to more than two times the compute density of most blades.

Earlier this year, Oracle enhanced its Sun Fire x86 systems with Intel Xeon 5600 series processors. Lovell touts superior performance on Java applications for these servers.

The Sun Fire X4800 Server, for example is a 5U, 8-way server available with Oracle Solaris or Linux and Oracle VM pre-installed. "When deployed with Oracle Linux or Solaris and Oracle VM with premier support against Red Hat and VMware, the X4800 is up to 48 percent lower three-year TCO over HP or IBM," claimed Lovell.

It sells with four or eight Intel Xeon processor 7500 series processors, up to 1TB of memory using up to 128 DIMMs and up to eight 2.5-inch drive bays for hard drives. It is marketed as a platform for consolidation and virtualization, in-memory databases, applications with large memory footprints and enterprise computing workloads.

"The Sun Fire X4800 is the most powerful and expandable system in Oracle's x86 server line," said Lovell. "This server is optimized for data warehousing applications due to its high performance and scalability, as well as unmatched RAS features." For details of the entire range of Oracle x86 servers, see the grid on page 2.

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