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Don't fear Exadata, baby take my hand

Various IT administrators may feel like they'll lose control if their organization adopts Exadata. Not so, writes one consultant.

The massive explosion in data, combined with an ever-increasing hunger to boost processing speeds while keeping costs low, has led to engineered systems in data centers. Oracle Exadata is one such proven engineered system that renders scalable intelligent storage and extreme performance for data warehousing and online transaction processing applications. Yet many network, storage, system and hardware administrators fear its arrival.

Fahd MirzaFahd Mirza

Many organizations have recognized the inevitability of adopting an engineered system like Exadata for their private or public clouds. The more pressing matter for company decision-makers is how to manage the people who will run these systems.

In a typical organization, there are network, storage, system, server, database and data administrators. Whenever a new data processing requirement arises within an organization, each administrator is faced with a specific task. The hardware administrator puts together the server or server cluster hardware; the system administrator configures the operating system for that hardware; the storage administrator takes responsibility for storage area networks or network-attached storage; the network administrator hooks up this new hardware with the rest of the organization; and the database administrator incorporates the database into the system, and then works with the data administrator to populate it with data. Then each administrator manages his or her respective component. These roles often overlap and the interaction can sometimes be intense.

With Exadata, database administrators cannot hide their excitement -- after all, it's a database machine. The issue is that the other administrators are confused about their roles within these systems. Administrators have grown accustomed to their turf over the years, and many think that Exadata will blur the boundaries. They still haven't accepted the fact that Oracle took over storage with Automatic Storage Management, which tightly integrates an InfiniBand network and storage server with the database servers.

No one administrator can or should manage the entire Exadata system. The notion that a single person can manage every facet of Exadata is simply not realistic or practical.

Pre-integrated Exadata can be alarming

For everyone except the database administrator, it's pretty alarming that Oracle developed a pre-integrated and pre-assembled system with all the networks and storage in place. So what happens when the whole data center is replaced with Exadata systems? Will these administrators be redundant? In short, no. Things will certainly change, but as they do, new challenges and tasks will arise. The roles will integrate with Exadata, making it far easier to manage not only data processing machines, but also the people responsible for them.

Exadata is really nothing but a cluster with data-aware network and data-aware storage. It still has and will forever have to speak to the outside world, and so external networks are not going anywhere. There is little to do when it comes to the internal InfiniBand network, even for the database administrator. And there also is not much to do for storage hardware, except when there is a large, complex cluster. This is the beauty and ease of an engineered system that is pre-set by the manufacturer, and in the case of Exadata, Oracle did a good job.

Network administrators, storage administrators and system administrators should regard Exadata as another server cluster. It's beneficial for all stakeholders, because it stores and processes more in less time and reduces the overall footprint. It provides the perfect opportunity for all administrators to learn more. Network, storage and system administrators don't really need to learn Oracle, because their skills are valid on Exadata. They just need to have a working understanding of Exadata components.

The only thing that changes while managing Exadata is the need for increased coordination among administrators, which is something all project managers have always wanted. No single administrator owns Exadata. Instead, it is run by a partnership comprised of different administrators to fulfill customer data needs. No one administrator can or should manage the entire Exadata system. The notion that a single person can manage every facet of Exadata is simply not realistic or practical, though it looks great on paper.

Localizing the knowledge of network, storage, system, hardware and database administrators is indispensable. Exadata enables them to synergize their skills for the benefit of their customers. It's a team effort. At the end of day, it's all about accepting the change and adapting oneself to the brave new world of engineered systems.

About the author:
Fahd Mirza is an Oracle database administrator at
Pythian. He is an Oracle ACE and an Exadata Certified Specialist, and has been working in Oracle products since 2001. Follow SearchOracle on Twitter and Facebook.

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