Mythics Blog

Oracle Exadata X5-2:  More Than Just A Hardware Upgrade

Posted on January 30, 2015 by Randy Hardee

Tags: Oracle, Exadata X5-2, Engineered Systems

Last week, Oracle announced the X5 upgrades for several of their Engineered Systems, all triggered by the release of the Oracle Server X5-2 and X5-2L that is the basis for these systems.  Here's a list of the Engineered Systems impacted by the X4-to-X5 hardware upgrades:

  • Oracle Exadata X5-2
  • Oracle Exalogic X5-2
  • Oracle Database Appliance X5-2
  • Oracle SuperCluster with Exadata X5 Storage Servers
  • Oracle Big Data Appliance X5-2
  • Oracle Zero Data Loss Appliance X5
  • Oracle Virtual Computing Appliance X5

For this blog post, I will focus on the Exadata X5-2.  It's the fifth generation (or sixth, if you count the V1 HP version) of the “Oracle Database Machine”, and the X5-2 is much more than just a hardware upgrade.  Here's a picture of the latest specs and hardware configuration:

As you can see, the Exadata X5-2 has faster CPUs, more cores, more/faster DDR4 DRAM memory, bigger F160 flashcache cards, etc., so go through the speeds and feeds detailed in the datasheets at your leisure.  Here's my list of the highlights and noteworthy changes to the Exadata X5-2 beyond the core hardware upgrades:

  • All-Flash Exadata Storage Server – In addition to twice as much flash cache on the High Capacity Storage Server option (now using NVMe protocol), the High-Performance Storage Server option has been replaced by the X5-2 Extreme Flash Storage Server option, with (8) front mounted 1.6TB PCIe flash drives (12.8TB flash total) also using state-of the-art NVMe interfaces for low overhead. While mixing High-Capacity and Extreme Flash Storage Servers appears to be supported (although special ASM and grid/cell configuration would be still be required).  The cool thing is that we now have an “All-Flash Exadata” configuration option for super-high performance and IOPS requirements.  Exadata Flash Storage Server software is $20K per flash drive (High Capacity is still priced at $10K/drive).
  • Flexible “Elastic” Configuration Options – Historically, the Exadata has come in pre-defined hardware configurations, i.e. 1/8th rack, ¼ rack, ½ rack, and full rack.  With the X5-2, the customer can create and expand their Exadata configurations with just about any combination of Exadata X5-2 Compute Servers and Storage Servers.  Obviously, this impacts not just new deployments, but also upgrade and expansion options for previous Exadata deployments all the way back to the X2.
  • Capacity-on-Demand Licensing (CoD) - CoD allows the customer to license the Oracle software incrementally instead of licensing the entire Exadata configuration. DBMS licenses can now match the enabled Exadata hardware, and can be purchased later as needed for growth instead of a large upfront expenditure. In terms of minimums for CoD licensing, a minimum of 40% of the cores in a server must be licensed (14 cores per server, or eight cores per 1/8th rack).
  • Support for Virtualization with Oracle Virtual Machine (OVM) – For customers that want/need an extra level of multitenant isolation, consolidation, or cloud deployment within the Exadata platform, virtualization with OVM is now supported.  It appears that there are no restrictions on what can be run on the Exadata under OVM, so it could now support non-RDBMS tools such as ETL (Oracle GoldenGate, ODI, etc.) as well other 3rd party software, but I would stick with the core Oracle Database suites for now.  OVM also had some software licensing advantages, since Oracle's virtual CPU licensing policies (OVM Trusted Partitions) come into play as well.  Like CoD licensing, Exadata OVM Trusted Partition licensing requires a minimum of 40% of the cores in the system to be licensed.

Lastly, there are more than the usual upgrades to the Exadata-specific software in the recently released version (required for X5 and also backward compatible to previous generations).  Here’s a brief overview of these enhancements:

  • Exafusion Direct to Wire OLTP Protocol - Faster InfiniBand software drivers which allows the database to bypass OS network stack and make calls directly to the InfiniBand hardware.  Exafusion is supported back to the X3-2 and requires the GI/DB release as well.
  • Dual-Format Columnar Flash Cache – During scans of Hybrid Columnar Compressed (HCC) data, the HCC data is automatically transformed into pure columnar format as it is loaded into flashcache.  It’s automatic and transparent performance boost, and also requires GI/DB
  • Exadata-specific AWR Enhancements – AWR reports now include Compute and Storage Configurations, Health, and I/O Analysis metrics specific to the Exadata platform.
  • Exadata OVM Enhancements – High speed InfiniBand SR-IOV supports full Exadata features with performance similar to non-virtualized (supports both 11gR2 and 12c GI/DB versions).
  • New Database Node Monitoring and Alerts - New DBMCLI utility for monitoring and managing the DB Compute Nodes (very similar to CELLCLI and services for Storage Servers).  The new service (dbserverd) replaces and introduces a Management Server (msStatus) and a Restart Server (rsStatus) as well as new user accounts (dbadmin, dbmmonitor).
  • Linux 6 Support – On both DB Compute and Storage Servers (except for dom0 in OVM config).  This also has impacts on default files systems (now ext4 for new installs), startups of OHA and TFA, and other Linux commands/utilities.

As a heads up, there are lots of pricing changes on the new Engineered Systems price list, as well as a new Exadata X4-8 Half Rack base configuration available now. Here are the links to Oracle press release and video for more information.

Oracle Press Release

Recorded Video

Randy Hardee - Vice President, Technology


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