Oracle Revamps Its Database Appliance Server For Midrange Shops
March 11, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If Oracle wants to take on IBM and others down in the midrange peddling database appliance servers–well, when you get right down to it, that is what an IBM i platform is–it has to do more than try to sell big and expensive Exadata parallel and flash-enhanced clusters. That is why Big Larry crafted the Oracle Database Appliance 18 months ago. Last week, Oracle put out an improved design with beefed up X86 processors and significantly expanded storage.
And if IBM is paying attention, it will offer a similar configuration running IBM i designed specifically to protect its base of system customers at JD Edwards ERP shops, as well as expanding the offering to other ISVs who have to fight against Oracle every day they make their bread.
The Oracle Database Appliance X3-2 consists of a pair of 1U Sun Server x3-2 Xen E5 servers, which have two sockets each and 256 GB of main memory configured to them. The server nodes use Intel‘s 2.9 GHz Xeon E5-2690 processors, which have eight cores. The servers each have one rear-loaded 600GB SAS drive for the Oracle Linux 5.8 operating system (a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and the Oracle 11g database software. Linux is included, as is a set of appliance management tools, but Oracle 11g and its Real Application Clusters (RAC) clustering software most certainly is not bundled onto the box. Each server has four 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports use 10GBaseT cabling, which is the cheap but good stuff. A switch is not included to link the two servers, but there should be. Each node has two 200 GB solid state disks for storing database redo logs, and the other 2.5-inch bays can be used for storage.
A 2U Oracle disk drive enclosure is also part of the Database Appliance X3-2 bundle, and it has 24 2.5-inch storage bays. The disk expansion shelf has four of the 200 GB SSDs, which are used to store more database files for quick access, and the remaining 20 bays are used up by 900 GB SAS disk drives that spin at 10K RPM. That gives customers a total of 18TB of disk capacity, and Oracle says you can double-mirror the data for 9TB of usable capacity and/or triple mirror it for 6 TB of capacity. (It is not clear what the six disk drives in each server node are doing.) If you need to, you can add a second storage array to the appliance for an additional 18 TB of raw database space.
Not including database software, the Database Appliance X3-2 costs $60,000, plus system maintenance (including support for Oracle Linux) that costs $7,200 per year. The extra storage enclosure costs $40,000, with $4,900 per year for maintenance. A baby Exadata cluster with two server nodes and 54TB of disk capacity and 2.4TB of Oracle’s PCI-Express Smart Flash costs $200,000, and you have to pay extra for the Oracle 11g database, RAC cluster extensions, and the Exadata Storage Server software, which ain’t cheap.
The new twist, aside from having hardware that has on the order of 40 percent more aggregate oomph and roughly three times the main memory and disk capacity for only a 20 percent premium, with the Database Appliance X3-2 is that Big Larry is also certifying its Oracle VM implementation of the Xeon hypervisor to run on the database server, which means ISVs can carve out virtual machines on the CPUs and install Linux and their applications to whack the database on other partitions.
Oracle 11g Enterprise Edition costs $47,500 per core, but with the X86 scaling factor of 0.5 that Oracle uses to discount pricing on some processors, you would only have to pay for eight of the cores, that works out to $380,000 plus $84,000 per year for maintenance at list price. A single-node implementation of RAC (for high availability clustering) costs another $80,000 after the scaling plus another $17,600 per year for support. So you are talking something on the order of $560,000 for the hardware and systems software plus $113,700 per year for support.
IBM is selling a quarter-rack of its PureData T1500 database appliance, launched last October for just under $500,000, and this box has three times the X86 processors and 32 TB of raw disk in a V7000 array plus 4.8 TB of flash disk. And the IBM PureData system includes DB2 Enterprise Edition 10.1 and a slew of database tools in that price. (I do not know what maintenance costs on this machine.)
If I were making an IBM i Database Appliance, I would do a bunch of different things, but the quickest and dirtiest thing to do would be to take two Power 710+ servers and bolt them to a Storwize V7000 array. A Flex V7000 array with all the clever thin provisioning, snapshotting, data compression, and replication software would cost $60,116, as I explained back in December when I wrote about us needing a baby Flex System for a database appliance. Two of them would run you $120,223. But slap on two extra large Power 710+ nodes, with 256 GB of memory and 5.14 TB of internal storage at a cost of $34,088 each, and you are up to a subtotal of $188,408. Adding IBM i 7.1 to each Power 710+ server would cost $83,992 and Software Maintenance on the server nodes would run another $36,800 per year. I don’t know what IBM charges for V7000 array maintenance, but I can tell you that this IBM i appliance has a list price of $356,392. Add some flash storage to the server nodes and other features, and let’s call it $400,000 and $90,000 a year for maintenance on the whole shebang. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the Oracle Database Appliance X3-2, and I could go with a lot cheaper storage than the Storwize to get the price considerably lower.
So why isn’t there an IBM i Database Appliance again?