Oracle Unveils SPARC SuperCluster System With T-4 Processors

Oracle has rolled out the SPARC SuperCluster integrated computer system, the third such computer built from the ground up with Oracle servers, storage, operating system, processors, database, middleware and application software in one complete unit.

September 27, 2011

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Oracle on Monday rolled out the SPARC SuperCluster integrated computer system, the third such computer built from the ground up with Oracle servers, storage, operating system, processors, database, middleware and application software in one complete unit. The SuperCluster, which was preceded in the market by the Oracle Exadata and Exalogic systems, is engineered and built with all Oracle technology to maximize performance, reliability, high availability and scalability.

"This is a really fast computer, ladies and gentlemen," said Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, at a launch event held at the company's headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., in an auditorium filled with Oracle partners, customers, employees and others. The event was preceded by one week the opening of the annual Oracle OpenWorld convention in nearby San Francisco.

The SuperCluster combines the latest versions of Oracle components, including the Solaris 11 operating system and new T-4 SPARC processors, both of which Oracle obtained in the acquisition of Sun Microsystems (completed in 2010). Among the boasts Oracle makes about SuperCluster: The T-4 processor has a five times faster single-thread performance than its predecessor, the T-3; four sockets per machine of eight processors each and eight threads per processor each, for a total of 64 threads per socket; performance of as many as 1.2 million input-output instructions per second (IOPS); and a 10-fold data compression rate in storage.

The Exadata, introduced in 2008, is designed to run Oracle database software in a single unit, and Exalogic, launched in 2010, is designed to run Oracle Fusion middleware and Java applications. SuperCluster, Ellison said, is designed to combine those two capabilities into a third machine.

"That's important because we have a huge SPARC/Solaris installed base, and those customers want to upgrade their system to something compatible. We wanted to give them a very, very smooth upgrade path, and that's what the SPARC SuperCluster is," he said.

Ellison frequently compared the Oracle products to the IBM P-series system. He said the Exadata is 10 to 50 times faster than the P-Series and four to 10 times faster at doing online transaction processing (OLTP), and that a cluster of eight Exadata machines costs just $3.3 million while just one IBM P-Series can cost $18.8 million.

The SuperCluster, along with Exadata and Exalogic, is based on parallel processing, in which different compute instructions are routed through multiple threads within processors at the same time. Parallel computing also occurs between the database and storage. But Oracle's technology goes beyond that, said John Fowler, executive VP of systems at Oracle, who held a similar title at Sun before it was acquired.

"We're not just playing a processor game here. We're not just tuning one little part of the system," said Fowler in his presentation. "The architecture of the Exadata storage cells is that instead of a server asking for a block of data, we're actually constructing queries that are executed in parallel across the different storage devices. It is not possible for any conventional storage system to equal this."

While some of Oracle's claims may seem strong, specification groups and people at other tech companies test systems to verify such claims, says Nathan Brookwood, a research fellow at Insight 64, a technology research firm. Brookwood said he considers the T-4 processor "a very strong product."

"They used to be able to make all these interesting claims about throughput, but if you had applications that didn't parallelize well, then you saw very unimpressive performance," Brookwood says. "Now, it looks like they've done a much better job on the single-thread aspect, and that should, all other things being equal, result in dramatic performance improvements."

Oracle also introduced a series of servers running the T-4 processor and the Solaris 11 operating system. The company did not reveal pricing information on the SuperCluster.

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports Research: Storage & File Virtualization (subscription required).

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like


More Insights