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Oracle, Sun speed-launch Exadata V2

So much for HP iron, Sparcs MIA

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Exadata V2

The Exadata V2 setup has three parts. For the server nodes that process queries and transactions, Oracle and Sun are using a two-socket Sun Fire X4170 server based on Intel's quad-core Xeon 5500 processors, that has 72 GB of memory. The X4170 is a 1U rack server, one of the Xeon 5500 boxes that Sun announced in April.

The eight Nehalem cores in the X4170 database server offer about twice the performance of the prior HP iron, according to John Fowler (who used to be senior vice president and general manager of Sun's Systems group but who Ellison referred to as the person who "heads up engineering at Sun"). And that's 2.5 times more memory (and a lot more memory bandwidth thanks to QuickPath Interconnect) compared to the earlier database appliance. The X4170 server has redundant paths to the InfiniBand switches that link it all together. Up to eight of these database servers can be put into an Exadata V2 rack.

The storage server portion of this setup does not include the F5100 flash array that Sun has been working on and that El Reg told you about last week. The storage array used in Exadata V2 is based on an X4275 server. The X4275 is a 2U rack server with room for a dozen 2.5-inch, 600 GB SAS drives, and it offers twice the capacity of the storage node used in the prior database machine. (Ellison said he was pushing Sun's engineers to use 2 GB SATA disks because the flash more than made up for the slowness of the SATA drives.) The secret sauce in this storage array, the FlashFire technology, seems to be a PCI-Express controller with two or perhaps four flash modules on it that offer up to 96 GB of flash capacity in total.

Each storage node in the Exadata 2 device can have four of these, and there are a total of fourteen in a rack, for a total of 56 flash units and over 5 TB of aggregate memory capacity. According to Fowler, each one of these flash drives yields the same I/O performance as somewhere between 200 and 300 disks.

And because of the use of flash drives, the Exadata 2 machine yields roughly twice the database performance, but consumes 14 per cent less juice. And it apparently costs less, too. The storage nodes can support up to 336 TB of data using 2 TB disks, and Ellison recommends putting the fattest disks possible in the X4275 because the flash drives have so much I/O that, given the tweaks Oracle has done in the storage areas of the database, the slowness of these fat disks is irrelevant.

With the compression algorithms Oracle has created for the Exadata box, a 4TB database can be compressed into main memory and a 15TB database can be compressed onto flash memory in a single-rack configuration.

The third element of the Exadata 2 setup is Sun's InfiniBand Switch 36, the low-end, fixed-port 40 Gb/sec switch that Sun debuted back in June aimed initially at supercomputer shops.

It is interesting that Sun and Oracle didn't choose the top-end 648-port switch. The important thing is that customers can add up to eight racks of the Exadata 2 machines together, clustering them to share workloads and do so "without adding any wires," as Ellison put it. The Exadata V1 machine used 20 Gb/sec InfiniBand switches from Voltaire.

The Exadata 2 database machine comes in four configurations. The base setup includes a rack, one database server, one storage server, and one switch. The database server has Oracle 11g Release 2 and Linux on it and the storage server has Exadata Storage Server Release 11.2 managing the files on the disks and flash. This base system costs $110,000. A quarter-rack system, which has two database servers and three storage servers, plus the rack and switch, costs $350,000. A half-rack, which has four database servers and seven storage servers plus a bunch of InfiniBand switches runs to $650,000, and a full rack costs $1.15m.

Stay tuned for Oracle's competitive analysis about how this stacks up to other data warehousing and OLTP boxes. ®

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