Simon Haslam's Oracle Fusion Middleware blog

2013: the Year O-box was Born!

2013 has been one of those "flat out" years for me. This has been due to a few factors: a SOA EDG project that spanned much of the year, a couple of systems going live in the summer, a few shorter engagements for architectural designs/reviews, the usual Oracle conferences and last, but certainly not least, forming a new software company called "O-box".

Firstly let's rewind a year:

Although I'd heard of the Oracle Database Appliance (ODA) I hadn't paid it any attention until I heard rumours of a new virtualisation option at Oracle OpenWorld 2012. Immediately this opened up the possibility of putting together various Fusion Middleware appliances whilst also benefitting from the tried and tested automated database provisioning and patching.

Of course there's nothing particularly new about Oracle appliances. At the end of the 90's Oracle launched a database appliance, code named "Raw Iron", which, if I remember correctly, was x86 hardware (HP or Dell) running Solaris x86 administered by Enterprise Manager. Not long after this Dell had a go with their Oracle Database Appliance by Dell. Both of these were single host/single instance 8i databases. Once RAC came along and, after Julian Dyke and I had worked on a couple of RAC plus clustered iAS projects, we jointly put together a package called "RAC-in-a-BOX" at the end of 2006. This was a simple but powerful pre-packaged RAC solution based on two HP DL385s and MSA1000 fibre attached storage. We learnt quite a lot in doing so, but suffered from the usual problem of being too technical without having enough sales/marketing nous.

Finally, after the Sun acquisition, Oracle must have found the rather nice 4U two bay blade-and-storage server, called the Sun X4370, in their product catalogue. With this they started Project Comet, i.e. the new Oracle Database Appliance. Andy Colvin and Kerry Osborne both wrote interesting blog posts about it. The product was launched just over 2 years ago in autumn 2011 and to date apparently over 2000 ODAs have been sold, making it vastly more successful than any previous Oracle appliance (certainly Julian and my one!).

One thing that you will notice about all of these appliances is that they are x86/x86_64 based. Over the last few years x86_64 has become the architecture of choice for most of my customers and, following AMD's advances a decade ago, Intel seem to be on a roll at the moment - we now have 24 high performance Xeon cores available in a single 2 socket server!

Now, back to 2013:

In February Oracle started discussing details of the new virtualisation option for ODA. What must have been tricky for the ODA engineering team was that at the same time as this underlying change the ODA X3-2 hardware was also being prepared - the 2 server blade chassis was to go but more I/O capacity, 10GbE networking and the latest Xeon processors were coming. So whilst details of the ODA X3-2 was released at the start of March, even after the official launch of it and the "virtualized platform" in April, it took a couple iterations of the ODA software (v2.6) before virtualisation was supported with one image on both ODA v1 and X3-2.

By May Oracle had released WebLogic / Oracle Traffic Director templates for ODA 2.5 and a month or so later for X3-2. This was also the time I was working with a customer using Oracle demo equipment on a Proof of Concept, ending up in the purchase of two ODAs at the end of August which then went into production in October. At OpenWorld in September I had a joint presentation with Oracle called "Oracle WebLogic on Oracle Database Appliance: Combining High Availability and Simplicity [CON8980]" and had chance to meet what turns out to be quite a few ODA enthusiasts!

Having been in discussions about an Oracle SOA appliance since the early part of the year, in September Lonneke Dikmans, one of Vennster's managing partners, and I agreed to jointly set up a new company to design, develop and sell such an appliance (and others running Fusion Middleware). And so, backed by both Veriton Limited and Vennster BV, O-box Products Ltd was born!

O-box Products Ltd 

Since then we've been busy, busy, busy! Vennster has been providing both development and marketing resources, we're had a chap developing our Sales & Marketing strategy, and I've been working on technical strategy (more of that another day). All of this culminated in our official launch at the UKOUG Tech13 conference in Manchester at the start of December.

Mascha van Oosterhout & Lonneke Dikmans on the O-box stand at UKOUG Tech13
Mascha van Oosterhout & Lonneke Dikmans on the O-box stand at UKOUG Tech13

To wrap up the year Oracle has recently released the ODA X4-2 which uses the new Intel E5-2697 v2 processors and has up to a staggering 48 cores! ODA using Oracle VM Server which allows licence partitioning by cores so this is going to give us the option to have even more substantial SOA systems (e.g. providing 20 arrays are up to supplying sufficient IOPS I'm expecting maybe 20 cores of SOA).

So what's ahead for 2014?

I'm not going to make any wild 2014 speculations but go for the easy ones:

  • From an O-box perspective early in 2014 we will have our first public demonstrations of the O-box SOA Appliance and hope to have our first customer live in the first quarter.
  • The recent ODA 2.8 software release has brought some useful enhancements to its virtualisation implementation and there are bound to be more changes coming in this area.
  • Oracle will almost certainly release SOA 12c and it will bring new cloud, managment and integration features whilst building upon the maturity and stability of the SOA 11g platform.
  • I'll probably be busier than ever but will try to make more time to keep blogging!

Happy New Year!

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