ODA X7 – more than just a hardware refresh

Neil Symons Oct 9, 2017 1:37:40 PM

Following a week out in San Francisco with Oracle a number of announcements have come out relating to Cloud Infrastructure and Engineered Systems that are very relevant for our customers. Here are my thoughts on the Oracle Database Appliance X7 updates…

The new generation of ODA has been announced, and it includes all the hardware and software refreshes that you’d expect from the X7 release, plus some new additions.  Here are the major updates:

  • Latest Intel Xeon Silver and Gold processors
  • Increased core count
  • Increased storage capacity
  • 10/25GbE networking (SFP28)
  • KVM virtualisation support
  • SE2 RAC
  • Database support

In terms of the models available, there is no longer an L in the line up, as the X7-2M now has both storage and memory expansion options to provide the required scalability, should you require it.

The X7-2HA now has High Performance (all SSD) and High Capacity storage offerings (HC includes both 3.2TB SSD and 10TB HDD) delivering a huge amount of IOPS, a sub-millisecond response time and, if required, a massive amount of storage.

KVM is the biggest introduction to the ODA, primarily because this is what Oracle are using for virtualisation on their bare metal cloud offering, or Cloud Infrastructure as it’s now known.  So what is KVM virtualisation?

  • Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) is a virtualisation infrastructure for the Linux kernel that turns it into a hypervisor.
  • It was merged into the Linux kernel mainline in kernel version 2.6.20, which was released on February 5, 2007.
  • QEMU (Quick Emulator) uses KVM to virtualise guests at near native speeds.
  • Takes advantage of Intel virtualisation extensions VT-x.

There is support for KVM on X6-2 S/M/L starting with ODA, and X7-2 S/M/HA (bare metal), but there are a few limitations:

  • Guest VM OS can only be Linux.  Other OS support will be provided in later releases.
  • Guest VMs do not support Oracle databases to be deployed in them.  Oracle are in the process of certifying databases in a KVM guest VM.
  • KVM on Oracle Linux does not support hard partitioning.  This means that all enabled cores/sockets on the ODA will be licensed for databases and applications running on the ODA using the appropriate licensing metric for the database edition and application.  Capacity on demand for the ODA still remains in effect.

KVM provides a huge benefit when deploying applications and database on the same server.  Whilst the database has to run in the host OS, which can still benefit from capacity on demand, as required, the application can run in isolation in a dedicated guest VM.  This means that any maintenance or patching that needs to occur can be done without impacting any other software stack running on the same system.

Another major benefit on the ODA is the ability to run SE and SE2 RAC on the HA.  SE is straightforward, there are four sockets available across the two servers, and SE has a four socket limitation, so an SE RAC environment can either be bare metal or virtualised.

To make sure you don’t break any licensing rules for SE2, however, this must be done using OVM to restrict the number cores available to the ODA_BASE by half. This essentially gives you one socket per server for the database workload and means that you stay within the two socket SE2 limitation.  The remaining cores on the HA can then be used for all other non-Oracle database workloads.

The hardware specification for the ODA X7-2 is high end, as always, and for typical Enterprise edition users (with or without performance demands) the TCO with capacity on demand makes this an unbelievably compelling proposition for x86 workloads.

For SE/SE2 customers, however, not quite so much.  Yes, the Oracle on Oracle message still stacks up (I’ve seen plenty of horror shows on systems supported by multiple vendors to justify this claim) however, your minimum/maximum investment for database licensing for any vendors system is always very clearly defined, so unless you’re having major performance headaches, then it’s going to be hard to convince the business to consider something other than what their system admins prefer, or what cheaper and lower spec’d alternative the incumbent supplier has on offer.

Wouldn’t it be great if the NVMe storage in the S and M models were configured and shared over the high bandwidth Ethernet so we could benefit from running RAC? Wouldn’t it be another great development to have KVM approved for Hard Partitioning … Watch this space!



Author: Neil Symons

Job Title: Technical Director

Bio: Neil leads a team of highly experienced Oracle consultants who are responsible for the solution design, implementation, and continuing support of customer projects. With a flair for innovation, Neil loves being at the coalface with customers to present and inspire new ideas and takes real pride in leaving customers in a far stronger position than before they first met.