During this week’s OpenWorld Oracle and HP announced their Exadata offering, a hardware/software solution for offloading I/O processing to proprietary storage nodes. Thanks to Curt Monash for the heads up, everyone was expecting “a major innovation in database” to be announced this week, I almost missed this. Silly me, I was looking for the “major innovation” as being the first time someone has done something, rather than the marketing version of “major innovation” which is the first time “we” have done something.
Exadata is essentially this. Take an Oracle Database node or RAC and instead of plugging it into a dumb SAN, plug it into a bunch of intelligent storage “cells”. These storage cells are optimized for disk throughput but importantly they also offload much of bulky database server processing. They are able to pre-filter datasets (filtering rows & columns) so that a lot less of this processing has to be done on the database node(s) themselves. Then the whole solution is tied together using a highspeed interconnect, infiband, which also allows the storage cells to directly insert their resulting datasets into the right spot in the databases servers process bypassing many layers in the stack. The end result, much higher I/O scan speeds, a claimed 1GB a second per cell.
Because the solution is so hardware dependant, Oracle has partnered with HP to make this solution available as an “appliance”. The first such available is the HP Oracle Database Machine, which is a single rack solution that comes with 14 Exadata Cells (1TB each so 14TB), 8 Database servers and the necessary infiband interconnect. Racks can then be joined up using the infiband interconnect to give much larger storage potentials. The infiband interconnect is also used as the interconnect for RAC.
This solution has its own unique points but the fundemental approach is in vain with those which have been happening elsewhere such as with Netezza, DATAllegro etc. Interestingly since Microsoft announced that they intended to acquire DATAllegro they have had positive feedback for being the first major vendor to progress down this path. With Oracles product largely done and Microsoft’s due 2010 this has changed and raises a few questions as to if the acquisition may have instead been a late reaction to Oracle’s undertakings.