What is our primary use case?
As we are a service provider for the government our job is to stabilize the database layer. We need to make sure all our data is secure. That's why we like to work with a robust environment like Exadata to make sure that our response time and our reliability are good.
What is most valuable?
Oracle Exadata's performance is one of its best features. We very satisfied with it. The previous equipment used to make a payment for all the government employees used to take at least two days for some of the transactions. Now, it will take hours to make the same amount of payments. Another thing is the flexibility to organize all of our databases. We can use it with new features that come with this version of Oracle 19c, which is the container database. With container databases, we can work with many databases, organized and segregated, and still access the functions and management, the things that most of the technical people like to have in place.
What needs improvement?
Regarding the technical side of the machine itself, I don't see much that needs improvement. In terms of the kind of service and support that most of the clients need, it is huge investments. I would like to emphasize that the clients that use these technologies from Oracle must be well supported by the Oracle company. This is one thing that I would like to address. They could have better support.
Additionally, the price for the Exadata is quite high. This is one thing that Oracle must think about. You can find the same features and the same performance that Oracle provides in other kinds of technology. So it depends on the client. If you want to use an Oracle engineered system, then you know that you have to pay.
Otherwise, you'll need to buy more for performance, replications, and the availability of these kinds of things. But you don't want to pay a lot. You have another option that Oracle support calls Oracle ODA. With ODA, you don't have to use machines, but you have the same kind of features and key performances. However, you may have reduced options for scalability with these kinds of Oracle solutions compared to the engineering system like Exadata. After buying these, you have the support that you need to maintain all these environments. This is what I want to address.
I will mention security. I know that there is a feature for security, but it is not included in the first purchase of this solution. That means if you need to increase the security, you need to buy the security feature which doesn't come by default on these solutions. As you may know, there are a lot of security problems all over the world with this kind of environment. Based on the fact that we are serving the government, we need to have security issues solved from the beginning and take care of security immediately. It would be better if Oracle could have some solutions that would bring us the confidence with their security at the outset. That's one thing I would like to address.
I'm not saying that there is no security on this machine. There is good security on the version of Oracle which is running on these machines, it's very nice. But I'm saying this because I know that Oracle can do more than that and bring the substation to the clients.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have been using Oracle Exadata since 2010.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Even with the old machines, we didn't have any constraints with the stability. There were some problems regarding the hardware that you must change because they are getting holes and they fail more frequently. When the life cycle goes, it's the end. But on the other side, this machine is very stable.
Since we have had these machines in production, we haven't had any downtime. Over the last two years, we had a lot of downtime with the old machines because they were very old and did not have enough performance to solve the demands of the database. But we don't have any constraints about the stability with these new machines.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The strategy of the company was not to pay a lot, because we don't have much money. So we began with the scalability approach. We bought enough resources to sustain the demands of all our clients.
If the demands increase, we can also increase the resources and close off the cabinets. We can scale this machine anytime that we need. We can go until the version that they allowed for scalability. Then, if you need to maintain this technology, you can scale out and have two machines working together side by side.
This is a database machine. We have a system that hosts more than 20,000 citizens. So most of the time we have more than 3,000 transactions per day. As a service company for the government, every database resource is on this machine. We have at least three or four databases running on this machine and we have many applications that are running through this machine as well, so it serves all the countries.
How are customer service and technical support?
The first line of maintenance is done by my team, including day to day operation. Support from Oracle is for things which are beyond our knowledge of database administration. Most of the time, the maintenance is done by us. But there is a point you must understand regarding the hardware maintenance. We are not allowed to do hardware maintenance, this belongs exclusively to the Oracle Team. The Oracle Team must be the one that does the hardware maintenance on these machines. Of course, we have a partner here in Mozambique who represents Oracle. This company is the one that is the second line of support. If they find something, they can escalate it to Oracle or they can solve it themselves.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
When we started the company, we thought about the responsibilities that the company would have attending to all the requests from the government and that we would need to go to robot technology. We thought in 2002 to go directly to work with the Oracle database. So Oracle database was the first database technology we decided to use as our strategic plan for the stability of the company.
At that time, we start working with the small machines and after two or three years, we realized that there are a lot of scalability problems with those kinds of machines and stability issues with this kind of hardware. So that's why we we had lots of downtime and we spent lots of time correcting these kinds of problems instead of thinking about growing the business. So we moved these small machines to a bigger one in 2010. That's all extra data with the X-2 version, but these kinds of machines are getting old and they are out of order now. We cannot buy the spare parts or anything else we need. So we decided to keep using all of the technology, but moved from that environment to a new machine with a better performance.
This has seen better performance. That's why we are still working with only one technology, Oracle.
How was the initial setup?
For Oracle Exadata, there are two main profiles that you have to take care of. One is the installation itself, like assembling the machines, which need some kind of expertise. The other is the installation of the software and creating the database, which need other kinds of equipment. From our perspective, our main goal within all of this is not about these two profiles. It's about the database engineering. Because we are coming from using an old machine, which is running an old version of Oracle, you will need to properly create not only the environment to host the database, you will also need to migrate from an old version of Oracle, like 11g, to 19c. This is another challenge that we have during implementation of these projects.
I can say that from acquisition it took at least, but not more than, five months to implement.
At acquisition we need to design the tenders and the rules of the company. The tender goes out, then it is published, then we evaluate all the tenders, then someone must win the tender. All this takes a lot of times. Then you go to the implementation phase. We did a workshop to design the solution. It took at least three weeks. Then it starts implementing the infrastructure. Migrating the database is another point because one database can take at least two days. That's the situation. But start to finish takes five months.
What about the implementation team?
We did the assembling and installing of all these with the support of Oracle ACS, which is a very nice team that gives personal support for us. It was very good working with them. The other thing is the migrating itself. Migrating depends on each company because not all the companies have the same database architecture or the same data. That's why at the migration stage, 60% of the intervention of migrating from the old version of Oracle to the new version was done by my team. But the Oracle STS support was with us the whole time.
What other advice do I have?
I would of course recommend Oracle Exadata to other people who are looking into implementing such solutions. They need to know what happens with this solution, what can be done with it, because as the government we cannot give out that information because it's not allowed. But, I would recommend it if a company wants to use these solutions, wants to have stability with their equipment, with their applications, and with their systems. If a company wants to be competitive in the market and have a good name, reputation and everything else, I think using Oracle, with the Oracle Exadata machine, is the best way to achieve that.
On a scale of one to ten, I can give Oracle Exadata a 9.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?