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Database giant reckons Flash and tape are the future

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Flash and silos - Oracle wants it all

He talked about putting 50TB of data in flash so that entire data models can fit in memory and their processing can occur in real-time instead of after the event. This is the TMS RamSan idea, having a database in solid state storage, but in Oracle's view there shouldn't be a separate supplier shipping a separate box; the solid state storage should be integrated and supplied by Oracle. It appears that storage will become more directly attached to a system. We might envisage an Oracle database and sundry middleware server setup which has links to its own online storage, which is not shared with other applications. Could we be seeing a return of the silo here - a more integrated silo but a silo nonetheless?

Thus, when application speed and manageability is the goal, if local storage silos make the app and servers go faster they will be chosen. Talking of separate storage and servers and of EMC and NetApp, Fowler said there are lots of technical reasons why you could build servers and storage better for greater performance and manageability. There will be casualties as the interface between servers and storage is refactored.

There is a downside for EMC, NetApp and others here; Oracle implicitly wants to decrease their attach rate in Oracle shops. As ever, Ellison wants more of a customer's IT spend devoted to Oracle and less to other suppliers.

Oracle will continue, it appears, to sell separate servers and storage products to run other vendors' applications, but its big focus is going to be on building Exadata-like tailored and integrated appliances for its own and other enterprise suppliers' big iron applications.

Tape - 20TB by 2015

There is a re-emphasis on tape, where Oracle's recent StreamLine 8500 tape library announcements have been underwhelming compared to what competitors such as SpectraLogic are doing. Tape offers terrific value for storing bulk data for a long time - far more than disk. Fowler thinks that the StreamLine 8500 library will have a two-exabyte capacity in 2015 and a bandwidth of 1,380TB/hour. It will use tape reels that have 20TB capacities instead of today's 1TB. Hold on a moment, where has this suddenly come from?

The last we heard about Oracle's tape plans was back in May, when the firm said a new generation of tape and libraries would come inside 12 months. The new tape format would have a higher capacity and more throughput than the existing StorageTek T10000B with its 1TB and 120MB/sec throughput. Now we have roadmap to a 20TB reel.

Assuming this is not LTO tape but the StorageTek format and that the T1000C or whatever it will be called comes in the next few months, then how many generations does that give us to reach 20TB?

The LTO consortium has, we think, this roadmap timetable (assuming 2.5 years between generations): LTO-6 with 3.6TB raw in late 2012, LTO-7 with 6.4TB raw in early 2015, and LTO-8 with 12.8TB raw in late 2017. Sun is proposing to jump from 1TB today, the T10000B, to 20TB in five years!

Let's assume the first new format, possibly called the T10000 C (T10K C) comes out very soon and at least doubles capacity to 2TB, then, at a 2.5 years between generations rate, we have two generations to reach 20TB, say a 10TB product (T10K D) in mid 2013, and a 20TB (T10K E) one in 2015. That is, by tape standards, a fantastically aggressive schedule.

IBM and Fujifilm have announced a research development producing a 35TB tape, so in theory 20TB capacity is reachable.

Tape library - all a bit hush-hush

A 2EB StreamLine library would have 100,000 slots for 20TB tapes, if that's 2EB of raw capacity. The throughput is said to be 1,380TB/hour, but we don't know how many drives there would be or their throughput. We are looking at the library doing 0.3833TB/sec. If there were 10 drives that means each would do 0.03833TB/sec, compared to today's T10K B doing 120MB/sec. This seems a rather startling increase in data throughput. Having 20 drives would stretch drive performance less but we have no idea how many drives there will be, so speculation is fruitless.

No doubt StreamLine 8500 customers will be getting the good roadmap capacity and throughput news via non-disclosure sessions.

All in all Oracle's storage media views can be summed up as: disk crap, flash great and tape wonderful. Well, Oracle hates tape really but it's a necessary evil because nothing else comes close to its ability to store masses of data cheaply. It remains to be seen how Oracle will treat everyday disk storage but we imagine something like a twin-tier concept of flash and bulk SATA drives might appeal.

Update Details of Oracle's roadmap for tape formats, drives and the SL8500 tape library have emerged and are in a separate story. It is a 3-generation job by the way. ®

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