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Exadata storage expansion frees bottlenecks, for a big cost

The new Oracle Exadata storage expansion racks may be able to ease storage-based performance bottlenecks, but the full rack comes with a seven-figure list price.

The new Oracle Exadata storage expansion racks are aimed at reducing performance bottlenecks at the storage level, but one user says that adding all those storage cells could be a “pretty expensive proposition.”

Oracle announced the expansion racks today, which come in three configurations:

  • Full rack with 18 Oracle Exadata storage servers, up to 6.75 TB of Oracle Exadata Smart Flash cache, 432 TB of disk storage and 216 CPU cores for SQL processing in storage
  • Half rack with 9 storage servers, 3.4 TB of cache, 216 TB of disk and 108 CPUs
  • Quarter rack with 4 storage servers, 1.5 TB of cache, 96 TB of disk and 48 CPUs

“My first reaction is that I’d be concerned about the balance between compute nodes and storage nodes,” said the user, who runs two Exadata machines. He asked not to be named before he knew more about the product. “It seems most useful for folks who are storing large amounts of historical data or other data that can be easily partitioned, but the Exadata storage licenses make that a pretty expensive proposition.”

The Oracle Exadata price list puts a full expansion rack at $750,000. That doesn’t include various premier support packages or storage server software licenses, which if included could bump the list price (before discounts) into seven figures just for the expansion rack alone.

Alex Gorbachev, CTO of Oracle consulting firm The Pythian Group, sees the expansion pack as one way to improve storage-based performance bottlenecks.

Exadata sales are big, big software deals that roll more and more perpetual maintenance fees into Oracle’s vast piles of cash.

Oracle consultant

“In the past you could have done this similarly by stacking more Exadata racks and throwing away the database servers in them, but you would have to pay for that hardware,” he said.

Gorbachev said that as Exadata has evolved, first from V1 with Hewlett-Packard and then to Exadata V2 with x2-2 and then x2-8, CPU performance has increased at a much faster pace than storage. Since Exadata offloads a lot of processing to the storage level, storage performance is important, and so this expansion rack can help.

Another Oracle consultant, who asked not to be named, said it seems Oracle is expanding the storage tier of Exadata primarily to compete more effectively with SAN mirroring as a disaster recovery (DR) option. Gorbachev didn’t see the DR improvements in this announcement as being that significant.

The consultant added that customers should take a detailed look at the cost of adding Exadata storage, and he questioned whether the storage server software is worth the cost. He said customers may be able to add a mix of non-Oracle hardware, including InfiniBand and solid state drives, for “dimes on the dollar.”

“Exadata sales are big, big software deals that roll more and more perpetual maintenance fees into Oracle’s vast piles of cash,” he said.

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