When I first heard about Oracle Database Appliance and what it does, I got really excited — I saw great potential in this product. When we got our hands dirty and started testing the appliance, I become confident that this product will be a hit. Now it’s finally the time when I can share my thoughts and experience along with other Pythian folks.
This article is targeted primarily on system architects and managers explaining what they get with Oracle Database Appliance as well as what they don’t get.
So what you do get with Oracle Database Appliance
This is why you would want the appliance — if some the bellow solves your headache.
Standard platform — highly repeatable solution
Oracle Database Appliance is the same hardware, same software up to the drivers, components firmware, hardware components revisions and etc — the same for all customers around the world. This means that you are very unlikely to encounter unique infrastructure issues. You will take advantage of all customers’ experience running Oracle Database Appliances in their data-centers. This is similarity to Exadata platform but Oracle Database Appliance has even less variations so more leverage from standards.
All-in-one platform — zero dependencies
Everything comes together — shared storage, interconnect, database servers, Oracle Database Enterprise Edition. Deploying an Oracle RAC cluster on a generic platform requires orchestration of multiple IT teams – DBAs, SAs, Storage Admins and Networking group, at least. In smaller shops, it might be a single team but still all those skills need to work together. It’s also common to have components from multiple vendors like NetApp, EMC, Cisco, Brocade and Dell (just as an example). When we help customers deploy a RAC cluster, it’s frequent to see networking configured wrong, shared storage miss-configured and etc. Making all those components configured right and working optimally together is the biggest time-sink from my experience. See a good example here.
Oracle Database Appliance has very simple architecture underneath Oracle’s proved high availability stack based on Oracle database – redundant cooling and power, dual redundancy on all networking, triple storage redundancy with Oracle ASM, two nodes Oracle RAC cluster, ability to deploy two geographically separated Oracle Database Appliances in conjunction with Oracle Data Guard. Depending on your availability and capacity requirements you can deploy Oracle RAC One Node of full blown two nodes RAC cluster.
Some scalability — flexible CPU licensing
This is an absolutely unique feature that’s available for first time on x86 platform. With Oracle Database Appliance, customers have ability to license only CPU cores that they need and, as the requirements for CPU capacity evolve, customers can enable more CPU cores and add additional licenses to scale the system up to 24 cores provided by Intel Xeon X5675 CPUs — pay-as-you-grow as Oracle calls it.
Customers had to rely on proprietary technologies like IBM LPAR or HP vPar to partition systems and apply Oracle licenses to the selected partitions only. Granted, those platforms are quite expensive so now Oracle customers can leverage commodity-priced hardware and have similar elastic licensing capabilities.
Oracle Appliance Manager dramatically simplifies installation of the appliance. My experience is that in just two hours, I’ve got a fully blown two nodes RAC cluster installed, configured and empty database up and running — no need to configure networking, storage, database servers and etc. Simply put — automation that works. It’s actually feasible to make such automation work because all the components are under control. There are small things that needs to be done prior still — allocate IPs and configure DNS alias for a SCAN Listener but that’s nothing compare to the traditional scope of work.
What do you not get with Oracle Database Appliance
None of those are show-stoppers but you need to set the expectations right to avoid potential disappointment and lost investments in hardware and efforts.
No Exadata Storage software
Oracle Database Appliance is not a mini-Exadata — there are no additional “brainy” features outside of what’s coming with Oracle Database Enterprise Edition software – no Smart Scan, Storage Indexes, Hybrid Columnar Compression and etc.
No scalability beyond a single system
While there are capabilities of flexible licensing and growth within a single Oracle Database Appliance, you cannot scale beyond a single system of two nodes RAC cluster. If you have higher requirements for a single database or planning a consolidation platform of larger capacity, you want to look into Oracle Exadata.
No hardware customization
The appliance comes in one single configuration. You can’t add fiber-optics HBAs or any other controllers and can’t add more space or use different drives. You might take it as a disadvantage but remember what is the main focus of the appliance is to provide and highly repeatable solution with simplified configuration and maintenance.
No external backup out of the box
While an Oracle Database Appliance comes configured with storage split to database and recovery areas (40% and 60% by default), you don’t get external backups out of the box. This is something you need to setup. Remember that you are limited in how you are connecting the appliance to the external world — you have to work with several 1 GbE and 10 GbE interfaces available. Gladly, there are plenty of those that can be used as you are pleased including for backup network.
So did Oracle invented something completely new? Not at all! Rather tried and proven technologies neatly packaged together. Great products don’t have to be something revolutionary new. Taking existing technologies and package it in such a way that makes adoption really easy and solves real problems — this would do and that’s what Oracle Database Appliance is. I think I can almost compare Oracle Database Appliance with Apple iPad.
That’s all for now but stay tuned. My colleagues have lots of blogging material in the pipeline. I’ll be posting some storage benchmarks that I’ve done during beta program — they are really impressive I think. I’m also organizing a webinar so keep your eyes open.