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Oracle hates discs, loves tape

Database giant reckons Flash and tape are the future

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Update Oracle EVP John Fowler has damned disk technology, praised flash and said tape has a future in an Information Week interview and yesterday's Oracle strategy webcast.

Fowler is Oracle's top dog for server and storage systems and it's worth paying attention to what he likes and dislikes, since systems embodying these views will be coming out of Oracle over the next few years. Oracle's overarching idea is to build integrated and converged stacks of server, storage and systems software so that data centre applications can chew through vastly more data than they do today and at a ferocious pace. Fowler described a Sparc processor strategy leading to systems in 2015 with 128 cores, 16,384 threads and the ability to process 120 million database transactions per minute.

How will disk-based storage keep up with that?

He thinks that the separation that has grown up between servers and storage - meaning storage area networks (SAN) and filers - is wrong. EMC and NetApp prospered because they built great products but it's time to bring storage back in-house and integrate it with the servers and the applications.

Networked storage was developed in relative isolation from servers and applications such as Oracle databases and SAP, Siebel and PeopleSoft software. Fowler reckons that his development people can now understand the bandwidth, memory I/Os and latency needed by such software running on Oracle's servers, and develop storage that delivers what the applications and servers will need.

Disks - 'old and fail a lot'

This is what Fowler thinks about disks: "They're really old, and they fail a lot", likening them to TV tubes and the transistor, and saying that there's going to be a tidal wave of development in storage. In the supercharged world of server processing he's outlining there will be no willingness to have threads and cores wait for disk I/O. Like today's supercomputers it's going to be all about building a pipeline with the right capacity, latency and speed to feed and receive data from the hundreds of cores executing Oracle or SAP apps and keeping them busy. Logically there is no place for disk as a primary data storage tier in this scenarios.

He is planning for a 15-fold increase in storage controller throughput and 50-fold improvement in storage controller capacity by 2015.

Fowler reckons that servers and storage are changing as we speak and will change even more as his development people get the deep insight into what the big iron applications need. There's going to be a constant escalation in system performance because of what his people will do in developing servers and storage. He also says storage is going to come down in price over the next five years, saying it's one of the most expensive and challenging to manage items in data centres today, and that is going to change.

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