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Oracle customers build the Exalogic business case

OpenWorld attendees cited major ATG projects, massive PeopleSoft systems and data center modernization as reasons to buy a big ticket Exalogic box.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The list price for a full Exalogic Elastic Cloud rack is $1,075,000 plus an additional $129,000 for premier support. Then there are charges for customer data and retention, software licenses, software updates and licensed support. That's a lot of money for an application server, supercharged as it may be. Yet, a handful of executives explained how they made the Exalogic business case here at OpenWorld this week.

Nathaniel Lantz, systems manager at Allegis Group Inc., a Hanover, Md.-based global staffing company, explained that his firm is in the midst of a data center modernization initiative. Part of that project meant moving the company's mission-critical applications to a converged infrastructure. With 300 offices around the world and the hefty task of managing HR and payroll, the PeopleSoft system is the definition of a mission-critical application at Allegis. The company processes about 133,000 paychecks per week, every week of the year.

The company ran through a proof of concept with four different converged architectures before deciding upon Exadata and Exalogic. Performance is often one of the primary use cases for Exalogic, according to Mohamad Afshar, vice president at Oracle.

"High availability is key to our business," Lantz agreed. "Mission-critical payroll processes require uptime."

Not only that, but the move will help the company save money on middleware.

"We're consolidating our use of Oracle licensing in a single platform," Lantz said. "Right now we have islands of middleware that are costly to maintain. We're going to consolidate that."

Nintendo not playing games with the case for Exalogic

Dave Tempero, senior director of IT operations at video game giant Nintendo of America Inc., is currently working on a project he couldn't talk about in detail other than to say it's customer facing and based on ATG, the e-commerce platform Oracle acquired for $1 billion in 2010. He added that the project requires four 9s of availability and that reliability was the primary business case for the purchase.

Nintendo got the power it needed out of Exalogic, but it also got a deal.

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"We rated different environments," Tempero said. "The engineered platform, we thought it had an advantage in time to market and being optimized for the tools we needed to use for ATG. Cost and flexibility we were less sure of. After some negotiation with the sales team, we ended up with a fairly good blend of software license and hardware costs."

Nintendo also needed to deal with bursts of activity around specific events or seasons and looked both at cloud and commodity hardware to meet its needs.

"Commodity would be labor intensive for us to make all the customizations," Tempero said. "We have some Sun in-house and a lot of other platforms. To put optimizations into commodity would take a lot of time. Public cloud had an advantage with burst and scale, but the disadvantage was security. We could not get over putting sensitive data in the cloud. We feel the cloud is still evolving and we don't want to be the first [adopters]."

Nintendo is putting up two data centers in production and one for disaster recovery. The applications stack will run on a quarter rack Exalogic and half rack Exadata.

Exadata's longer time on the market is clearly evident, according to Tempero. Oracle and the market are still figuring some things out about Exalogic, such as how the product can best be used at organizations that require unusual configurations.

"Exadata is a well-understood platform. Oracle understands how to sell and deploy it," Tempero said. "Exalogic is getting there. I think the future is promising but, especially when you're trying to do special things like running Tomcat over sockets direct, it's hard to get support."

Tempero had some advice for others embarking on similar projects. Oracle Enterprise Manager and operations centers are very useful management tools, and he said companies should be sure they're included in the project. Additionally, management of the staff running the systems can get complicated. Nintendo has its networking team managing the Infiniband and network switch, the database team managing the databases, the Unix team managing the Unix engineering and the hardware team managing the box.

"That's an awful lot of people to get to work together," Tempero said. "I think over the next few years we're going to get to a single team responsibility."

Exalogic lessening 'full impact'

For Cognizant, the Teaneck, N.J.-based IT infrastructure and business process outsourcing services company, an investment in Exalogic was all about the two days a year they call "full impact," said Aaron de los Reyes, director.

Twice a year, everyone in the company does their HR performance appraisals.

"In our case, when 150,000 people do that on a Friday, the peak load you need to set up just for [human capital management] is enormous," de los Reyes said. "We were just in emergency triage mode from an architecture standpoint."

Cognizant was running 75 AIX servers, with roughly 500 CPU cores running PeopleSoft and WebLogic Web integration tools. It replaced those 75 AIX boxes with a half rack of Exalogic.

"The ability-to-go-to-sleep-at-night implications add up to performance at the operations level," de los Reyes said.

Cognizant also did some head-to-head comparisons with Exalogic and the T-servers. One of their customers is running 10 million transactions a year on software created on the Java Composite Application platform.

"We did Exalogic bake and they did the T-server bake," de los Reyes said. "We came up with a pretty rigorous ROI benefits realization process. Exalogic won out on the licensing side. You just need less on WebLogic because you're getting more out of Java itself. If it's boxes to boxes, we reduced our role by 50% and we didn't have to try."

This was first published in October 2012

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Essential Guide

Guide to Oracle engineered systems and server appliances

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