Oracle Exadata: Ten years of innovation

2018 is 10 year anniversary of the introduction of Oracle’s first engineered system, Oracle Exadata, this makes one ponder on the driving forces behind many of today’s IT innovations and about many of the drivers that led to the development of this system in the first place.  Oracle introduced Exadata, for the same reason that other innovations are driven, because it is not realistic to use generalize “off-the-shelf” components when pushing the limits of technology.

In the mid-2000’s, it was found to be difficult to meet the needs of a new class of extreme workloads, which exceeded the performance of envelopes of the various components.  The true potential of the components were not being realized because we were limited by the traditional boundaries of dedicated compute servers, and general-purpose networking.  The best way to run mission-critical databases and meet the most demanding application requirements was to stitch together the best servers, operating systems, infrastructure software and databases to build a hand-crafted solution which would meet the most demanding application requirements.  It was a challenge as hardware, firmware and software incompatibilities in the various components needed to be overcome.

The problems that needed to be solved were:

  • Performance: Optimize the performance of each component in the stack and eliminate bottlenecks when processing our specific workload.
  • Availability: Provide end-to-end availability, from the application through the networking and storage layers.
  • Security:Protect end-user data from a variety of threats both internal and external to the system.
  • Manageability: Reduce the management burden to operate these systems.
  • Scalability: Grow the system as the customer’s data processing demands ballooned.
  • Economics: Leverage the economics of commodity components while exceeding the experience offered by specialized mission-critical components.

The solution was simple; engineer a purpose-built solution to provide extreme database services “if you can’t bring the data to the compute, bring the compute to the data”.  A commercial storage array was needed, a purpose  built storage server that could cooperatively with the database process vast amounts of data, offloading processing to the storage servers and minimizing the demands on the storage network was needed. This resulted in the launch of Oracle Exadata in 2008!

This platform has been built on over the years, and the architecture of the system refined to improve performance, availability, security, manageability, and scalability, all while using the latest technology and components and minimizing overall system cost.

Exadata has brought many innovations  to the market:

  • Performance: Pushing work from the compute nodes to the storage nodes spreads the workload across the entire system while eliminating I/O bottlenecks; intelligent use of flash in the storage system provides flash-based performance with hard disk economics and capacities. The Exadata X7-2 server can scan 350GB/sec, 9x faster than a system using an all-flash storage array.
  • Availability: Proven HA configurations based on Real Application Clusters running on redundant hardware components ensures maximum availability; intelligent software identifies faults throughout the system and reacts to minimize or mask application impact. Customers are routinely running Exadata solutions in 24/7 mission-critical environments with 99.999% availability requirements.
  • Security: Full stack patching and locked down best-practice security profiles minimize attack vulnerabilities.  Build PCI DSS compliant systems or easily meet DoD security guidelines via Oracle-provided STIG hardening tools.
  • Manageability: Integrated systems management and tools specifically designed for Exadata simplify the management of the database system. New fleet automation can update multiple systems in parallel, enabling customers to update hundreds of racks in a weekend.
  • Scalability: Modular building blocks connected by a high-speed, low-latency Infiniband fabric enable a small entry-level configuration to scale to support the largest workloads. Exadata is New York Stock Exchange’s primary transactional database platform supporting roughly one billion transactions per day.
  • Economics:Built from industry standard components to leverage technology innovations provides industry-leading price performance. Exadata’s unique architecture provides better than all-flash performance, at low-cost HDD capacity and cost.

Oracle Exadata has come so far in the past 10 years. No matter whether you need an on-premises database, a cloud solution, or are looking to bridge the two worlds with Cloud at Customer, Exadata remains the premier choice for running databases. Look for continued innovation, as new fundamental technologies are adopted, such as lower-cost flash storage and non-volatile memory, that promise to revolutionize the database landscape. Exadata will continue as a flagship database platform, leveraging these new technologies, and making their benefits available to you, regardless of where you want to run your databases.


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