Feeds

Oracle and IBM fight for the heavy workload

Seconds out

Boost IT visibility and business value

Parallel universe: SunCluster and Exalogic

These are not the only parallel machines in the Oracle and IBM arsenals. There are several more important ones, and no doubt more will come out from Big Larry and Big Blue, as well as their competitors, as customers seek to solve specific problems with their clusters.

Oracle can't ignore the Sparc/Solaris base, which doesn't want to run Linux and needs a Sparc platform on which to run Oracle11g/RAC applications. In late September, ahead of its OpenWorld conference, Oracle rolled out a Sparc SuperCluster configuration, which marries its Sparc T4-4 quad-socket servers with the Exadata storage servers and some generic ZFS disk arrays.

Oracle Sparc SuperCluster T4

The Sparc SuperCluster T4

Specifically, the Sparc SuperCluster rack has four of the Sparc T4-4 servers, each with four eight-core 3GHz Sparc T4 processors. Collectively, the four nodes, used to run Oracle 11g as well as application code, have 4TB of memory and depending on disk options, between 97TB to 198TB of disk capacity.

The rack has multiple QDR InfiniBand switches and 8.66TB of flash in the Exadata storage arrays, yielding 1.2 million IOPs. There are also a couple of Oracle's ZFS Storage 7320 arrays in there. The database nodes can run Solaris 10 or Solaris 11. Prices for the SuperCluster were not divulged.

The other interesting engineered system from Oracle is the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, a tuned machine to run a virtualised implementation of Oracle's WebLogic application server. In a full-rack configuration, the Exalogic cluster has 30 1U rack servers with a total of 386 Xeon X5670 cores spinning at 2.93GHz.

Each node has 96GB of main memory, just like in the Exadata X2-2 nodes, and 40TB of external disk in the rack. QDR InfiniBand links the nodes together so they can share work and 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches link the app serving cluster to the outside world.

The secret sauce in the Exalogic cluster is called Cache Coherence. As the name suggests, this is a piece of gridding software that allows those 30 servers to look like one giant app server to the outside world.

The Cache Coherence balances, synchronises, caches and partitions the app serving data and workloads under the covers.

Oracle is using its own implementation of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux, its riff on the Xen hypervisor and the JRockit virtual machine to run the WebLogic app server. (JRockit and WebLogic came to Oracle through, you guessed it, an acquisition.) Pricing for the Exalogic clustered app servers has not been announced.

Ask Dr Watson

IBM deployed its initial Watson question-answer machine on a BlueGene massively parallel supercomputer, but decided to promote the then-new Power7-based Power 750 workhorse server by challenging humans on the US Jeopardy! game show.

Watson was as much a publicity stunt as it was science, and with all the money Big Blue put into the project it needed to get something tangible out of it besides a win for the propeller-heads at IBM Research at Yorktown Heights, New York.

IBM Watson QA Power7 cluster

IBM's Watson QA System

The Watson machine consists of ten racks of Power 750 servers with a total of 2,880 Power7 cores and 16TB of main memory.

Watson drew on that memory and the fast 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches from Juniper linking the nodes together, as well as the parallel nature of the DeepQA software stack that searched through databases to find keywords and give responses.

The machine obliterated Ken Jennings, who with 74 wins has held the top rank in the game the longest, and Brad Rutter, who racked up a record $3.25m on the show during his reign earlier in the decade.

DeepQA creates an in-memory database of text, based on the Apache Hadoop MapReduce algorithm and related HDFS file system created by Yahoo!, to mimic the search-engine operations of Google.

The stack also includes a bit of code called Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA), a framework created by IBM database gurus back in 2005 to help them cope with unstructured information such as text, audio and video streams. The UIMA code performs the natural language processing that parses text and helps Watson figure out what a Jeopardy! clue is about.

IBM is working with doctors and researchers at Columbia University, speech-recognition experts at Nuance and insurance company Wellpoint to commercialise Watson as a medical expert system.

I saw the Watson machine in beta testing only weeks after it won the Jeopardy! show and when it was stuffed to the gills with medical journals and encyclopedias. And it did a pretty good job at differential diagnosis, even if it is still not quite as convincing as House. ®

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.