HP, Oracle Shake Up Storage

Is the Exadata Storage Server 'the most dramatic announcement in storage in a decade?'

September 27, 2008

3 Min Read
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Forrester Research Inc. analyst Andrew Reichman in a blog post Thursday called the Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) Exadata Storage Server and Database Machine "the most dramatic announcement in storage in a decade," and argued that it could significantly lower the total cost of ownership and improve performance across all kinds of database applications.

Pythian Group analyst Christo Kutrovsky called it a smart storage server and said the Database Machine and Storage Server is "much faster than anything out there right now" in his own blog post, but pointed out that there's a limited market for a machine that costs $2.2 million. Of course, just buying the storage server to run with an existing Oracle database system would be much cheaper.

What is it that has people so worked up, and is this really a game-changer for the storage industry? Here's some background: Antone Gonsalves of InformationWeek.com reported the news here. The Oracle press release is here, along with a fact sheet on the HP Oracle Exadata Storage Server and one on the HP Oracle Database Machine. If you want to see Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and HP CEO Mark Hurd discuss the system, you can find a link to a short video on those pages.

One Ellison quote offered up by Oracle: "For the first time, customers can get smart performance storage designed for Oracle data warehouses that is ten times faster." The Ellison quote I like better comes from the New York Times: "This [machine] is 1,400 times larger than Apple's largest iPod."

The system features placement of intelligence next to each of the dozen SATA or SAS disk drives in the storage grid, the implementation of automated storage management, the use of two high-speed InfiniBand pipes, and the tactic of performing queries on the storage server rather than the database server and returning just query results rather than entire tables. It has a boatload (a technical term) of Intel processors to handle the database and storage through parallel processing. An Oracle white paper said one storage server rack offers 65 Terabytes of raw SAS capacity with peak throughput of 18 Gbit/s or 218 Terabytes of raw SATA capacity.Forrester's Reichman noted that the system will compete with data warehouse vendors like Teradata (NYSE: TDC), Netezza Corp. (NYSE: NZ), and others, and could pose a threat to EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) , NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), and Ellison's own Pillar Data Systems Inc. Reichman noted the irony that many of those companies were platinum sponsors of Oracle OpenWorld, where the announcement was made.

His conclusion: If Oracle can deliver on its promises, "all the major storage vendors should be watching their backs."

While bigger and faster is always important for large high-end systems, Pythian Group's Kutrovsky said the key problem the system solves is configuration. He cites a long list of common configuration mistakes that IT departments make with their storage systems and said "using Exadata necessarily and immediately solves all of these issues" because it is a single, pre-configured system. "The 'best practices' are the only practices with the Database Machine," he wrote.

Charlie Babcock over at InformationWeek talked to one early user. LGR Telecommunications has been working with the Database Machine for more than a year. Chief architect Hannes van Rooyen called it an ideal design for taking on massive data loads with rapid cycle times.

Does that appeal to you? Are you in the market for a large, high-speed database and storage system that costs millions? That is pre-configured so you can't make a mistake? Is this a real move forward in storage technology, or just a high-priced system for a few companies with special needs? It's often hard to separate hype from reality so I'd love to hear what some real-world database and storage administrators think about this system.0

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