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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to Oracle engineered systems and server appliances
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Oracle Database Appliance seen as gateway to Exadata

The Oracle Database Appliance is a 4U, two-node RAC server appliance seen by experts as a more affordable entry point toward Exadata, but it doesn’t have nearly as many features.

Oracle on Wednesday introduced a two-node Oracle Database 11g and Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) appliance that offers a lower cost entry point to Oracle Exadata, but it doesn’t include many of software features that give Exadata performance boosts.

The 4U Intel-based machine, called the Oracle Database Appliance, includes two servers with built-in shared storage that allows end users to build a two-node Oracle RAC infrastructure. List price starts at $50,000 for the hardware only, significantly lower than the six-figure starting point of a quarter-rack Exadata. Oracle suggested it would work with databases up to 4 terabytes large. Specs include:

  • 24 total Intel Xeon processor cores
  • 192 gigabytes main memory
  • 12 terabytes raw disk storage; 292 gigabytes solid state storage
  • Scalable licensing per processing core from 2 to 24 cores

That said, the Oracle Database Appliance doesn’t include the Oracle Exadata Storage Server Software features such as hybrid columnar compression and smart scan that the company claims have given Exadata exponential query improvements.

“Oracle definitely needed something like this,” said Alex Gorbachev, chief technology officer (CTO) of Pythian, an Oracle consulting company that took part in the beta program for the new appliance. “A lot of customers couldn’t justify the cost of Exadata but could use some of the features that an integrated appliance can provide.”

It took Pythian “a couple hours” to set up the appliance, have it running and accepting data on it. Gorbachev added that normally a new system setup requires expertise from various IT departments: systems, storage, networking and database, for example. Configuring this new appliance doesn’t require that.

The appliance also comes with some management software that simplifies its operations and automates patching for example.

“It still requires some feeding and care when it comes to tuning, but other than that it’s removing a lot of overhead.”

That doesn’t mean it will eliminate the need for a DBA.

Kerry Osborne, chief information officer (CIO) at Enkitec, another Oracle consultancy that had an early look at the appliance, said end users won’t get the same performance that they would get out of Oracle Exadata. And they shouldn’t expect it either: The new product is a smaller, less-expensive version of Exadata, and as such it’s not going to have as many features. Osborne said it’s also not something you can throw in the corner and expect to run on its own.

“Anyone that thinks you can run any type of Oracle database without a knowledgeable human being is asking for trouble,” he said.

Shyam Varan Nath, one of the founders of the Oracle Exadata Special Interest Group within the Independent Oracle Users Group, said that Oracle originally had a eighth-rack Exadata but discontinued it. He considered Oracle’s response to those smaller IT shops that said the quarter-rack Exadata was still too expensive.

“This could be a way to provide a similar box at lower price point without raising eyebrows on those already sold at higher price point as meant for large enterprises,” he said.

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