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Oracle and HP's database machine predicated on Voltaire

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El Reg: Is the Oracle Database Machine just another example of a specialised enterprise high performance computing (HPC) environment or does it have a more general significance?

Asaf Somekh: Yes and no. The majority of our customers today use InfiniBand in an HPC-like configuration to improve the performance of a single application that’s critical to their specific business objectives. One could make the case that the HP Oracle Database Machine does this for Oracle and data warehouses. This is not a bad thing: enterprises can learn a lot from the HPC space in terms of how to architect clusters and grids that combine servers and storage communications to optimise application performance.

What makes this solution more generally significant to a broader data center audience is that Oracle and HP chose to architect the system with a unified fabric for server and storage networking using InfiniBand. The storage traffic and inter-processor communication runs on a single wire. More and more enterprises are now talking about further data center consolidation and building their “next generation” data centers.

Typically, these new data centers consist of large grids of commodity servers coupled with scalable shared file system solutions and connected by a single unified fabric. InfiniBand is the only technology that can enable a unified fabric today. Ethernet can’t do this yet because it is dependent on future technologies such as FCOE which many are saying is still 2-3 years away.

El Reg: Why isn't InfiniBand used for the Database Machine's accessing application servers?

Asaf Somekh: The Database Machine solution covers the backend part of a data warehouse environment and InfiniBand is used as the backbone for it. However, the solution is architected such that the door is open for the customers to use Voltaire to extend the HP Oracle Database Machine’s performance with InfiniBand connectivity all the way out to the application servers. In fact, some of our data warehouse customers identified InfiniBand for the application servers as the key factor in getting their application speedup.

El Reg: How does the cost of a server InfiniBand port compare to the cost of a GigE and a 10GigE port? What are the price trends with these types of port?

Asaf Somekh: InfiniBand is far less expensive than 10 Gigabit Ethernet. 20 Gbps InfiniBand director-class switches cost about US$800 per port (list price). 10 Gigabit Ethernet ranges from about US $1,500 to $3,000 per port and a GigE port averages at roughly US $200 per switch port. New Data Center Ethernet (DCE) solutions are priced even higher with costs between US$2600-3600 per port.

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