Simon Haslam's Oracle Fusion Middleware blog

Oracle Database Appliance X3-2: Official Launch

Today was the official launch of the Oracle Database Appliance (ODA) X3-2 in a webcast delivered by Oracle President Mark Hurd and Database Senior VP Andy Mendelsohn, and they were joined with a panel of 3 customers. You can replay the webcast here.

This announcement has brought together a set of recent improvements to ODA:

  • hardware component updates,
  • an optional additional storage array,
  • a virtualisation option to allow you to run the database and other products in VMs,
  • a licence change to allow you to run Oracle Traffic Director (OTD) on ODA (not just Exalogic),
  • the packaging up of WebLogic and for ODA.
ODA X3-2 Launch

Andy Mendelsohn, Senior Vice President, Database Server Technologies, Oracle
Andy Medelsohn, Oracle

I have covered all of the above, except the new OTD licence entitlement, in previous posts so I refer you to those if you've not seen them:

1. Oracle Database Appliance X3-2 - Initial Impressions:
http://www.veriton.co.uk/roller/fmw/entry/oracle_database_appliance_x3_2
2. Middleware on the Oracle Database Appliance:
http://www.veriton.co.uk/roller/fmw/entry/middleware_on_the_oracle_database

Instead let's think about where ODA, and specifically the WLS+Database combination on ODA, might be most useful to customers, by looking at its key benefits.

1) Database Installation Automation

Installation of a basic Oracle database is pretty easy to do, and automate, especially now that the patch-sets are full installers. Installation of Grid Infrastructure (clusterware and ASM) is certainly not so simple; automation is possible but requires a serious investment in time. Therefore if you are looking to install either Database Restart, RAC One Node or full RAC but only need it on a small number of systems it can be relatively expensive. Alternatively you go down the OEM Cloud Control plus Database Lifecycle Management Pack route, but again this may not be cost effective in licence/support/labour if you only have a small number of databases to manage. In this respect the ODA configuration utility is a real benefit as it asks you all the questions you need up front (in particular network configuration) and then just gets on with it. Being a very tightly controlled environment you can expect this process to run trouble-free on ODA. A second benefit is there's no debate over the configuration - you get what you are given, which is a configuration that Oracle knows to work. Therefore there's a time saving in not thinking about, and making, design decisions (assuming you're happy with, or at least can live with, Oracle's choices). Once it comes to the database creation itself you more or less pick "small", "medium" or "large".

2) WebLogic Installation Automation

When running the virtualised ODA (2.5.0+) there are special "WebLogic on ODA" and "OTD on ODA" OVM templates that you can deploy from ODA Base driven by data from the new "WLS Configuration on ODA" utility:

ODA WLS Configuration Utility

This will create all the VMs for a WebLogic cluster and OTD active/passive pair. Note that at this stage the automated installation/configuration can only create a single cluster (of 2, 4 or 8 VMs/managed servers) and run a single domain. One feature I'm very pleased about is that both 11g (10.3.6) and 12c (12.1.1) templates are available already (although you can currently only run one version per ODA).

In my opinion though installing WebLogic is pretty easy - where it will start to get very interesting is when it will automatically install and set up some of the layered products, especially sophisticated ones like SOA Suite, in a highly available configuration... this is certainly the sort of thing that could cut down on my workload!

3) Load Balancing

The inclusion of the OTD traffic management software with ODA is be a very useful development, especially where you have an internal load balancing requirement as part of the infrastructure, such as with OSB and BPEL PM. Until now OTD has been Exalogic only and so relatively unusual - on the webcast today Oracle said they had sold over 1000 ODAs so if you imagine a similar, or higher, rate going forward, and assume that a good proportion of these will include WebLogic then we could see lots more OTD in production.

Incidentally the WebLogic EE (and therefore WebLogic Suite) licences have been amended to include "WebLogic Software Kit for Oracle Database Appliance" which is the WLS configuration tooling I have briefly described plus a restricted licence for OTD when running on ODA. In other words you will need to licence the OTD VMs for at least WLS EE.

4) More Flexible Licensing

Without a doubt the ability to license a subset of the processor cores in the servers, from both a database and WebLogic perspective is attractive. Many customers have licences that were originally bought when quad and even dual core processors were the norm, and maybe strange total numbers, so quite often you can't "fit" them on new hardware. The only way to license a sub-set of cores on new x86-64 hardware is using Oracle Virtual Machine or Oracle Solaris-x86 - you are apparently not allowed, for example, to just disable cores in the BIOS (don't ask me why). Virtualised ODA allows you license a certain number of cores and then increase, and more recently decrease (which effectively means re-allocate elsewhere), the number of cores you are using. As one of the customer panelists on today's webcast said: "Capacity on demand was a huge factor."

5) Hardware Pre-Selection

The most important consideration is whether your database requirements fit within the hardware, particularly the I/O performance, of the ODA - if your application can make productive use of faster storage, such as a SAN with tiered SSD, then this would make better use of your investment in RAC licences. That said for quite a few of the mid-sized customers I work with the database servers do not have very heavy workloads by modern standards, and on an ODA they'd usually have processors to spare (don't forget ODA is now 16 fast x86-64 cores per server!).

The servers and array themselves are standard, commodity hardware. Recently I produced a quick spreadsheet to price up an equivalent system from HP, based on DL360p's and a D2700 enclosure. Overall I came to the conclusion that the Oracle hardware was about 15% cheaper list price than a comparable HP configuration, though frankly I'm not sure what the error bars would be and suspect this could get lost in the discounts. The upside to picking your own hardware is you can get the specification that offers the best value to you (e.g. you might want 384GB memory per host), the downside is you have to be confident that you've chosen the correct configuration (e.g. some configurations of memory can run more slowly). With the ODA it's a simple, single line item on a purchase order.

So, if you already have many production systems and have negotiated contracts in place with suppliers you probably already have the skills in-house to choose a suitable configuration at a good price. If your Oracle Database runs the one or two biggest production systems in your organisation this is less likely to be the case. As I've said before though, the purchase cost of the hardware is an almost insignificant part of the total cost of ownership, so is not very relevant.

6) Platform Isolation

Another aspect of having a "black-box" solution to run Oracle software is that the majority of customers are keen to protect their Oracle resources so many want to ring-fence the compute power and storage used for them from other systems. Whilst this kind of thing can be done in management software sometimes it's just simpler to separate systems, especially if you don't have a large IT department and some specialist skills. ODA provides an entirely isolated environment, away from the vagaries of MS Exchange defragmentation, backups and other hazards that can sometimes catch you out in shared SAN/NAS environments.

A final benefit you should consider for ODA is having a single support provider for all components of the platform. In theory this should reduce those incident management situations where you have to convince teams from different, sometimes competing, vendors to take ownership and work together.

Summary

So to wrap up, ODA with WebLogic has several advantages over building and installing your own system, most notably in potentially reducing IT staff workload. In my opinion ODA will be most attractive to you where several, or all, of the following applies:

  • you have one, two (or a few) mission critical production Oracle Databases, with moderate I/O workload,
  • you already own Database Enterprise Edition and are using its features and options (such as Data Guard or Partitioning),
  • your existing number of licenses don't fit neatly into 6 or 8 core multiples and your existing hardware needs replacing,
  • you either have RAC on one or two production systems already, or would like to have it for the highest levels of availability,
  • you either don't have an existing virtualisation platform, or are not using it for Oracle products,
  • you use WebLogic for mission critical applications, and their total workload can handled by maybe 4-16 x86-64 processor cores,
  • you already use direct attach storage, or you don't have a modern SAN/NAS.

I'm sure some mid-sized Oracle middleware customers will find ODA an ideal match for their next technology refresh as it offers a straight-forward, yet highly available, platform that should be relatively easy to deploy and maintain. If you're based in Europe and considering ODA for your WebLogic-centred middleware infrastructure I would love to talk more!

For more technical information see the new Oracle WebLogic Server on Oracle Database Appliance area of oracle.com.

 

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