Oracle shares its cloud logic with Exalogic

By Subraya Mallya - September 2010 | Topics - Cloud Computing

Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, Public Cloud – the resounding noise of everyone trying to define their version of Cloud Computing just got a whole lot louder.

With Larry publicly chiding the “Cloud-Washing” by wannabe cloud vendors, Oracle was in a bind. They could not simply turnaround and come out with their own cloud offerings. Now with Sun acquisition firmly tucked in and a bevy of hardware, network technologies in their basket, Oracle finally jumped in the fray with its own Cloud strategy.

While validating Amazon’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service architecture model, Oracle’s foray into cloud resembles more of the Microsoft’s appliance model. With the success of Exadata (the Database appliance) behind them, and given their focus on Private Cloud, an appliance strategy from Oracle was all but expected. Larry Ellison duly announced Exalogic, an Elastic Cloud appliance in Oracle OpenWorld this week.

Exalogic Toplogy

(Image Courtesy: Oracle Corporation)

Hardware

For those seeking technical details here is a quick summary. (You can find more gory details on the Oracle website). Exalogic comes with two choices of kernels – a Solaris Kernel for high performance computing and a highly optimized Oracle Linux kernel. Besides being optimized for Oracle Applications, Fusion Middleware and Java, it is also a highly engineered-to-work appliance comprising of

  • Pre-configured hot-swappable clusters of nodes (upto 30 compute servers)
  • 360 2.93 GHz Xeon Cores
  • 2.8TB DRAM
  • 960GB mirrored SSD to hold operating system and manage local swaps.
  • a high throughput 40GB/sec interconnect fabric based on Infiniband to connect all the components
  • 1.2 microsecond latency
  • 10GB connectivity to the Datacenter
  • 40TB disk storage
  • 72GB write cache.

In terms of elasticity, it allows you to add, deploy and run multiple applications on a Exalogic cluster and partition the access, quotas to specific applications. If/as required additional Exalogic applications can be racked without having to use external switches. So essentially one could build a private cloud with a series of these Exalogic appliances connected together. Partitioning also address the security needs between different tenants of a Exalogic Cloud.

Software

The core of Oracle cloud strategy is Java. With the goal of meeting the needs of all the Java based applications in an enterprise, Exalogic has been architected with Oracle WebLogic suite of products including WebLogic server, JRockit and HotSpot VMs and Coherence cache management.

In terms of performance gains, according to Oracle,  the HTTP response saw 14X gains, Java application performance a whopping 60% and database communication by 3X compared to equivalent alternative.

PrudentCloud:Exalogic Performance Numbers

(Image Courtesy: Oracle Corporation)

One of the claims Oracle made during the keynotes was, two Exalogic appliance can handle the entire traffic of Facebook. That should be enough to evoke curiosity.

Management

Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud:PrudentCloud
(Image Courtesy: Oracle Corporation)

One of the biggest challenge in companies with data centers  is management of the sprawl and governance. With Exalogic and the ever-improving Oracle Enterprise Manager embedded into it, Oracle aims to make the maintenance easier. Enterprise Manager will allow you to provision, monitor, manage individual components and diagnose issues form application-to-disk as demonstrated in one of the demo sessions. Through integration with Oracle Support portal, the patch management also has been streamlined. All software updates will be provided using a single patch.

My point of view

  1. The customer base that Oracle is going after are enterprises that are looking to build “Private Clouds” (I call it – “Simplified-Rationalized-Consolidated-Data Centers”). I don’t see any SaaS vendors or Public Cloud vendors running to buy Exalogic. Public Cloud vendors like Amazon and Google have built their datacenter on highly optimized, customized commodity hardware that is easily swappable and redundant. SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com have already standardized on Dell Servers or IBM Servers.
  2. For an enterprise that decides to build a Private Cloud, this is a perfect solution. The chest thumping by Oracle saying “everything-we-do-is-the-best” notwithstanding, the underlying architecture of Exalogic is what most data center operations teams dream to achieve. Highly Optimized, Fault Tolerant, Easily Manageable infrastructure that contains the sprawl but at the same time provides the elasticity and security to manage a multitude of technology initiatives. Standardization is what IT organizations need to shake off the fatigue they are under. Frankly, without vendors taking the onus of delivering integrated infrastructure components like Oracle has done, corporate IT organizations have no semblance of chance to implement anything close to a Private Cloud. A large Fortune 500 companies’ IT organization just cannot do what Amazon AWS has done.
  3. Architecturally, Exalogic is not all that different from what is happening in commodity public cloud. In a cloud architecture, everything happens at the cluster level, nodes are mere building blocks and can be swapped. So assembling a bunch of clusters into a optimized self-contained manageable unit is an upgrade on that. Workload management, diagnostics, governance within those clusters becomes manageable and predictable.
  4. I would love to hear more about the maintenance/manageability and also the power consumption part. The examples shown were much more simplistic. Load balanced architecture for high traffic and 24x7x356 uptime in a e-commerce site would require much more.
  5. Oracle should have taken a cue from Microsoft’s Azure Appliance announcement. Microsoft worked with select customers (eBay included) to incorporate their needs and then made the announcements. That would have added immediate credibility to the performance and scalability claims Oracle is making. I am sure Oracle has done that behind the scenes but not having customer come up and speak would have made a world of difference.
  6. Given that they compared Exalogic to Amazon EC2, I would have expected Oracle to make some announcements in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service(IaaS) space and put money where their mouth is and demonstrated the viability of Exalogic. A prospective customer would then subscribe to the public service, do the evaluation with a proof-of-concept and then make the decision to move it to their Private Cloud.

Beyond that I would also be interested in seeing Amazon EC2 comparisons extend beyond architecture to pricing, service levels in the days to come. I am sure Oracle would do roadshows to demonstrate that. As such, as I have said in my earlier posts, Cloud Computing is less about technology and more about business and it is less about costs and more about agility and resulting business advantage.

Update: I have since learnt that Exalogic is priced in the $1Million range. That pretty much throws out of the window, the whole “Moving CAPEX to OPEX” discussions we have been having, in the Cloud world. Maybe Oracle can come up with Leasing Model that will give customers the same OPEX model while leveraging the virtues of Exalogic.

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: