Oracle Exadata Review

Thanks to Smart Scan, the amount of data transferred from storage to database nodes significantly decreases.

What is most valuable?

  • Backup/Restore performance: Fast backups, fast restores (especially useful for creating clone environments)
  • Low Memory utilization on database nodes: The database performs less work, especially for I/O. This is due to the ability to offload processing from the database nodes (compute nodes) to the storage nodes (cells).
  • Decrease in I/O (from the perspective of database nodes): thanks to smart scan, the amount of data transferred from storage to database nodes significantly decreases.
  • High I/O performance: Due to Smart Scan, storage indexes and intelligent storage server nodes and storage server software(cells).
  • Decrease in database size and decrease in I/O: Due to Exadata specific compression techniques, database size decreases. In addition, the amount of I/O that is done for querying the same amount of data is decreased, as well. (This one also increases performance of the queries.)
  • Increase in redo write speed: Smart flash logs provide better LGWR performance, as LGWR writes redo data both flash and disk in parallel. It considers whichever of these writes completes first as done.
  • Smart Flash Logs are a new feature that comes with cell software. They are not for reading. They are used like a circular buffer for redo writes. Smart Flash Logs can enhance the performance of an OLTP database.
  • Ability to prioritize I/O using IORM: IORM is used for managing the Storage I/O resources. We can manage our I/O resources based on the Categories, Databases and Consumer Groups. The hierarchy that we build, used to distribute I/O.
  • IORM must be used on Exadata if you have a lot of databases running on an Exadata Machine. IORM is a friend of consolidation projects, in my opinion.
  • Automatic SR creation using ASR: Decreases management costs. Oracle Auto Service Request (ASR) is a secure, scalable, customer-installable software feature of warranty and Oracle Support Services that provides auto-case generation when common hardware component faults occur. ASR manager can be installed on an external Oracle Linux or Oracle Solaris server. Also, you can use one of the Exadata database nodes for installing ASR manager (not preferred).
  • Implementing QOS for CPU using Instance caging: Instance caging can be used to limit the CPU usage in the database level. It is a good thing for building consolidation environment. It can be configured for preventing the non production residing on the same Exadata database machine to allocate the resources excessively, leaving no space in CPU queues for the production environments.
  • Fast support by Oracle: Maybe it is because it is an engineered system or maybe it is because of another reason, the quality and speed of Oracle support is very satisfactory.
  • Single vendor support: Software and hardware support by Oracle.
  • High Availability: It is a Highly available database machine. It provides built-in high availability, at both software (for example: Oracle RAC) and hardware levels.
  • Scalability: Exadata is a scale-out compute and storage platform.
  • Ability to create tablespaces and datafiles very quickly.
  • Offers a database environment built by Oracle: An Oracle database machine, that is built, optimized, certified and supported by the RDBMS vendor (Oracle). (Oracle RDBMS is the concern of this machine. Exadata is built for it.)
  • InfiniBand network for RAC private interconnect: InfiniBand functionality. CPU cycles of the servers are not used for InfiniBand transport.

How has it helped my organization?

We have implemented Oracle EBS on Exadata several times. We mostly used Exadata as the data layer. The most significant gain was in the area of performance. Performance increased significantly both for OLTP and batch works.

In addition to the performance increase, we saw a significant decrease in IT operations, because the necessity of SQL tunning is decreased, the total work that is spent on administration operations decreased, and so on.
Another significant gain was the efficiency of the administration. In Exadata environments, one database machine admin (or DBA team) could manage not only the database, but storage (cells) and the OS as well.

As the Exadata is hardened by Oracle and it is the most important one among the system in the engineered systems group of Oracle, we haven't seen any big Exadata specific problems that could not be solved, yet. The latest Exadata machine is generation 6 (X-6) so there is a current knowledge base.

What needs improvement?

Product specific documentation is satisfactory, but the interoperability documents should be improved. For example, there should be a step-by-step installation document for installing EBS on Exadata. Similarly, the documentation should be revised and Exadata specific notes should be added where necessary. We saw this need while installing EBS 12.2 database tier on Exadata. The document was written for the subject “Installing EBS 12.2 on Linux X86-64 (Exadata fits this category)". However; the OS RPMs that the document instructs to install, were not not present even in the latest Exadata. However, as Oracle says, Exadata has all the RPMs and they are up-to-date, so we were confused. We created several SRs, and even today it is not certain. We installed the RPMs specified in the document into Exadata. This was okay, but they may not even be necessary at all.

Certification should also be improved. Today, Oracle doesn't certify applications with engineered systems. We just check the RDBMS and OS certification to decide whether our application's database is cerfied with Exadata. This is actually enough for most of the cases. However, certifying specific data layers of certain applications (like EBS's database tier) on Exadata and adding some notes and recommendations (especially for performance) and restrictions (where necessary) can be a good move.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used this since 2011.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have not had any stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not had any scalability issues. Oracle Real Application Clusters on Extended Distance Clusters is not supported with Exadata. So, basically, it is not supported to build RAC extended clusters on multiple Exadata machines. The good news is that RAC extended clusters will probably be supported with Exadata in Oracle Database 12.2 (12CR2). It is not certain yet, but it is expected, so we will see.

How is customer service and technical support?

Actually, a consulting company (Oracle Partner) giving the technical support of this product, we didn't encounter any problems by getting advanced support by Oracle and we didn't get any unrecoverable problems while implementing what we learnt from the user guides and Oracle support documents.
The technical support of Exadata is quite good (if it is given by the IT professionals who know what they are doing).

Which solutions did we use previously?

Our customers were using conventional converged infrastructures and standalone servers. The reason they switched can be explained with the following list of items:

  • Exadata is optimized by Oracle for Oracle databases.
  • All the costs, capabilities and expected results are actually already defined for Exadata. No big surprises.
  • Single vendor support for the whole stack.
  • Unique and innovative capabilities, such as Smart Scan, Exabus and HCC.

How was the initial setup?

Setup is straightforward. You just fill out a deployment form that Oracle sends you. By filling out this deployment form, you actually give all the necessary inputs for the deployment (such as IP addresses, host names, NTP server IP addresses, DNS server names, etc.)

Most of the time, Oracle field engineers, who are well-trained for deploying Exadata, do the setup on-site. After the initial setup, any experienced admin who knows Oracle RAC and Oracle RDBMS, can go further to provision databases (create databases, do performance related configurations and so on) on Exadata or they can even further migrate databases to Exacta.

After the first setup, Oracle still answers your questions and supports you to make sure that deployment meets the customer requirements.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I recommend a proper sizing. A proper sizing makes you decide how big (1/8,1/4 etc) your Exadata should be. In the sizing phase, you can also decide whether to license all cores, or reduce the number cores using capacity-on-demand features of Exadata, as well. This has a direct impact on licensing.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

In general, our customers are generally interested in Exadata. But, there are cases where the power of Exadata is just too much. Especially when the databases are not so big and when the transaction counts are low.

From an Oracle perspective, our customers also evaluate the Oracle Database Appliance (ODA). The decision is made according to the needs. If ODA is not enough for the customer’s needs, they consider Exadata.

What other advice do I have?

I recommend others to define their needs and the things they expect from Exadata. I strongly recommend doing a PoC to ensure that Exadata meets their expectations.

Of course, reviewing the Exadata related documents and real life stories will give a better idea about the tasks that are done for implementing an Exadata environment and the tasks that are done to get the most benefit from Exadata.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: My company is a partner of Oracle.
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