Mythics Blog

Enterprise Storage Reinvented

Posted on October 4, 2014 by Erik Benner

Tags: Flash Storage, Oracle

At Oracle OpenWorld 2014, Oracle introduced the world to the latest member of the Axiom family, the FS1 array. This is a hybrid flash array, leveraging the strengths of both solid state and tradition hard disk technologies to provide an impressive storage solution for the entire datacenter.

When Oracle purchased Pillar in 2011, many of the industry analysts thought Larry Ellison had lost his mind. Here was a storage company with some great technology in the Axiom array, but still failing to grab any significant market share. This week at Oracle OpenWorld Larry proved that he made the right choice when bringing Pillar into Oracle.  "The Oracle FS1 Series marks the emergence of a new class of application-engineered storage that eclipses SAN solutions from EMC, NetApp, HP, and IBM. It enables our customers to use business priorities to drive their IT investments instead of IT limiting their business potential," said Mike Workman, Senior Vice President Flash Storage Systems.

Oracle took the Pillar system and reinvented it. First they redesigned the architecture to take advantage of the enterprise grade Oracle hardware that all the Oracle Engineered systems use. This enabled Oracle to leverage the same SAS storage trays, X4-2 servers and even the Carrier Grade Netra servers to build the array, instead of custom built hardware used in the previous generation of Axiom storage. This allowed Oracle to reduce the expense through the elimination of customized hardware components and at the same time enabling the ability to provide a greater amount of flexibility in the hardware configurations. This enables architects to design arrays for the specific business need, mixing multiple tiers of storage to provide the right mix of traditional disks (HDD) and solid state devices (SSD) for both Performance and Capacity.  The new array was also designed from the ground up to support the higher speeds and capacity that datacenters require, with the capacity for Petabytes of flash storage, IOPS rates up to 2 million, and over 80 GB/sec of throughput to the SAN.  The new storage controllers are based on the Oracle Netra series, NEBS 3 compliant telecommunication carrier grade servers that provide a high level of system reliability that helps ensure that the server continues to operate under the extremes of environmental conditions.  

Apart from Oracle’s FS1, other vendor flash arrays are designed as niche technologies; forcing datacenter storage admins to mix traditional arrays with SSD based systems on the SAN. This not only increases storage sprawl (something the traditional HDD arrays were designed to eliminate) but also removes the opportunity for new efficiencies and performance gains. The FS1 array solves this problem with a design that integrates both SSD drives and HDD drives in a single platform. It is no longer necessary to have separate high-performance SSD  arrays and lower-performance HDD  primary storage arrays. The FS1 can do both jobs.

Not only can storage types be mixed with storage pools, but the system manages data blocks at the drive block size which enables efficient use of drive technologies. This allows migration of data between media types at block size granularity, improving the efficiency of the storage array.  This performance improvement is best demonstrated when compared to a competing storage array, like the EMC XtemeIO array. The following sample metrics compare performance achieved by the FS1 array against the EMC XtremIO array.*

  • 8.6x the SSD capacity
  • 1.2x Read KIOPS performance
  • 1.5x Write KIOPs performance
  • 8x R/W32k block performance. An important rich media metric.
  • 9.7x Write transfer rate performance
  • 4.9x Read transfer rate performance


Next, Oracle started the redesign of the software through a process called Co-Engineering. This unique Oracle process aligns the technology between layers of the stack. The Network, Operating System and Database teams all are involved with designing the technology. This allows for a level of integration between technologies that is not possible when multiple vendors are involved. Some examples of what happens when the same people that design the database are involved with designing the storage follow:

  • QoS Plus – This ability allows the storage array to provide a Quality of Service rule to every packet of data moving through the array, from controller to individual block of data on the drives. This allows business critical workloads priority though the stack. The result is the ability for the business to safely mix workloads in ways not possible on other arrays. Imagine sharing backups and database redo logs sharing the same disks without a performance penalty! The Plus part of QoS also leverages heat map technology to identify the data blocks that are actively being accessed by the applications and database systems.  This innovative technology keeps the active data performing with SSD performance, while at the same time saving on storage expense by moving less active data to HDD. Storage resources can also be aligned to business priority, mixing Performance SSD, Capacity SSD, Performance HDD and Capacity HDD into QoS levels. This allows ALL applications to leverage SSD random I/O speed, without wasting expensive solid state capacity on inactive data. And it works! We at Mythics were able to test the FS1 at Oracle OpenWorld, and saw the results.
  • Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) – This technology enables superior database and Data Warehouse compression. Performance improvements are due to the reduced I/O workloads achieved through advanced compression technology that results in a 10-50x compression ratio.
  • Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol (OISP) – This tight integration between the storage array and the database allows for dynamic and automatic database-to-storage tuning, an example is enabling data file and database log file writes be automatically handled differently by the array.
  • Automatic Data Optimization (ADO) – Utilizing this technology, database admins can control where data resides and what compression technology is used. All of this is done automatically using simple business rules. Individual blocks of data are managed without the database administrator needing to reverse engineer table structures.
  • RMAN – Imagine being able to backup to storage at transfer rates exceeding 30 Terabytes an hour! More importantly, this is done with only a few simple commands from the database. Backups can be configured in a matter of minutes.
  • Application Storage Profiles – Storage profiles are pre-engineered and tested by Oracle for improved database and application performance. This auto provisions database storage components like indexes, control files, archive logs, redo logs, and data files to the optimum storage tiers - leveraging solid state disks when needed, but also leveraging the lower cost traditional HDD when appropriate. This enables rapid provisioning of applications with complex storage needs in minutes. 

While there is a focus on the database and storage, the FS1 is equally good and providing benefits to your virtualized environment, enabling large numbers of Virtual Machines to efficiently leverage the performance benefits. Oracle FS1 already supports multiple hypervisors, including support for Oracle VM, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware. This will allow Virtual machines hosted on these environments access to the same QoS Plus abilities, improving performance through the entire datacenter. Topping it all off, is the ability for Oracle Enterprise Manager to monitor the array, providing a single-pane-of-glass into your systems.

Contact your Mythics sales rep to learn more about how the FS1 storage array can be used to not only reduce your storage expense, reduce the number of arrays in your datacenter, and significantly improve application performance. 

* The EMC XtremIO performance data from pages 10-13 of, published September 2014

Erik Benner - Enterprise Architect


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