Management Summary for Purchasing Exadata

Jon Lingard 29-Apr-2021 17:24:17



The purpose of this document is to provide C-Level executives and purchasing teams with a summary on the value of Exadata and why it remains the de facto platform of choice for mission critical Oracle database deployments.

DSP-Explorer is the leading Oracle practice in the UK that specialises in Oracle technologies such as databases, applications and low code development. We’ve deployed thousands of databases, manage hundreds on Exadata migrations and provide expertise and support to our customers to maximise the value they derive from Exadata; both on premise and in Oracle Cloud.

Management Summary

Exadata is a hardware appliance developed by Oracle that is uniquely specialised in running Oracle databases.

Back in 2008 Oracle’s objective was to build an appliance consisting of compute, networking and storage infrastructure engineered together with Oracle’s own software to rival over converged infrastructure systems that were entering the market at the same time. Exadata was the result and was initially designed for data warehousing workloads. Optimisations soon followed and the next version itegration opened up the use cases for transactional (OLTP) workloads too. Over the next decade Exadata has been adopted by 9 out of the top 10 global banks and insurers, all of the top 10 global telecoms providers use Exadata and 9 of the top 10 retailers do too. 86% of the Fortune Global 100 use Exadata.

Exadata is now not just available as a hardware appliance – Exadata Cloud Service (ExaCS) is 100% compatible with on-premise Exadata to guarantee architectural equiveillance. ExaCS has helped customers adopt Hybrid Cloud designs and start transitioning workloads to be fully consumed on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

For workloads that cannot move to Public Cloud Oracle have Exadata Cloud at Customer (ExaCC). ExaCC is the same ExaCS technology brought into a customer’s own datacentre behind your own firewall and the infrastructure is managed by Oracle, paid via a subscription model similar to a Public Cloud service.

Exadata is not solely for the largest of global enterprises. It is a platform that can be acquired in small chunks that scales up and out with your business. In the cloud Exadata can be consumed at relatively small costs on a Pay-as-you-Go model through to really flexible and scalable options using Oracle Cloud Universal Credits.

On premise Exadata is sliced into 4 different configuration options:

  • Eighth Rack (or base rack with ExaCC) – Entry level and lowest cost but does have scalability limitations
  • Quarter Rack – By far the most popular configuration option and the most scalable
  • Half Rack – Reserved for the most demanding workloads and/or consolidation projects
  • Full Rack – Colossal amount of compute and storage resources

Oracle has decades of experience designing database applications so when Exadata was designed they were well aware of the limitations and performance bottlenecks imposed by conventional computing platforms. Oracle realised they needed a storage layer than could easily scale and parallelize database queries. Beyond just storing and shipping data, Oracle saw an opportunity for storage to collaborate in the processing of database requests. Instead of sending an entire database table across the network to the compute server to find a small number of records, data filtering could be performed in storage and only the resulting records sent across the network.

One reason that Exadata continues to retain its loyal customer base and more importantly acquire new customers is it's unparalleled rapid pace of innovation that has ripple effects directly on our customers. Organisations might think that they can engineer an appliance themselves using standard x86 servers, a common hypervisor and fast storage but it’s been disproven time and time again that this is a false economy and does not come close to competing with Exadata’s performance or the efficiencies derived from a simplified operational support model.

Generic infrastructure provides generic results. In other words, if you don’t have a demand for extreme performance, scalability and/or consolidation then your workloads are bound to be rather generic. Therefore, looking at “build it yourself” blocks of compute and storage infrastructure is more than likely going to be your most cost-effective platform. Especially if you look at KVM for license hard partitioning to limit your software cost exposure.

Exadata reduces your costs of running Oracle software. Simply put, you need much less Oracle licenses on Exadata to run databases than you do on generic infrastructure. This is because Exadata significantly improves compute resource performance and results in far fewer compute cores needing to be enabled. This has a direct impact on Oracle software licensing between 2x and 5x. Capacity on demand further reduces the cost of running Oracle software on Exadata.

Up to the X5 model all Exadata’s required all cores on the Servers to be licensed by either the Processor or Named User Plus (NUP) metric. Since the X5 was released Oracle have supported a “Capacity on Demand” model, which reduces the amount of licenses required to run Exadata. This drastically reduced to TCO of Exadata and opened up adoption to much smaller SME sized organisations. Today, Capacity on Demand combined with the extreme performance gains over generic infrastructure result in a much lower TCO than comparably sized infrastructure solutions when factoring in the hardware and software costs.

Exadata Timeline

The following timeline demonstrates a proven history of Exadata innovation and evolution that directly drives business value to customers. This value does vary and is dependent on the business drivers for adoption but history has proven that Exadata is not going away and remains the standard for enterprise database deployments.



Business Drivers for Exadata Adoption

The following business drivers stand out for being justification to move away from generic, shared, virtualised infrastructure to dedicated, specialised, high performance infrastructure for Oracle databases.

  • Ever increasing demand on end user/application performance
  • Server & storage refresh cycles driving up Oracle software costs in line with commodity server specs increasing (compute cores)
  • Database consolidation projects such as combined an OLTP application running simultaneously with analytics processing rather than doubling up on database licensing on separate physical servers.
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures
  • Specific database workloads that will benefit from isolation away from generic workloads

Technical advantages

There are multiple technical advantages to Exadata when comparing the core infrastructure components to commodity ‘build it yourself’ or other converged infrastructure appliances. The following is a summary of the unique benefits that Exadata offers customers that cannot be replicated.

  • Hybrid Columnar Compression – HCC reduces the amount of capacity used by data warehouses with infrequently updated data. Due to the greater compressibility of columnar formats, traditional data compression algorithms yield between 2x and 4x compression, while HCC averages between 10x and 50x compression. A significant reduction in the amount of I/O can also improve performance significantly.
  • Smart Scan SQL Offloading – Is the execution of data-intensive database operations within the Exadata Storage Servers. The network traffic between the compute and storage servers is significantly reduced when only the process summary is sent, and the results are returned. By comparison, Traditional architectures have a network bottleneck where data-intensive operations necessitate sending vast quantities of data between compute servers and storage.
  • Storage Indexes - On Exadata Storage Servers, storage indexes are automatically stored and kept in memory. If the Storage Index indicates that an I/O to a region won't find a match, the I/O is skipped, resulting in a large performance gain.
  • Persistent Memory – For time-sensitive database operations like log writes, special algorithms optimise persistent memory and Flash. All-Flash storage fully removes the latency of disc media for the most challenging OLTP applications.
  • RDMA over Converged Ethernet (ROCE) – This results in significantly reduced latency and increased throughput by accessing permanent memory in smart storage servers directly from the database, bypassing the entire OS, IO, and network layers.

Operational Advantages

Exadata is designed for extreme performance but it’s also an appliance that simplifies database and system administration by an order of magnitude. The following benefits have been recognised by organisations the world over, regardless of the size of deployment.

  • Simplified patching
  • No engineering time
  • Improved monitoring and fault resolution
  • Better support – “one throat to choke”
  • Predictable performance and scalability
  • Reduced downtime
  • Streamlined collaboration between DBA, DevOps, SysAdmin and Networking teams


Exadata is now a platform of choice to deploy mission critical and performance intensive database workloads. This platform is available in a traditional hardware appliance, as a Public Cloud Service or as an On-Premise Cloud Service behind your own firewall. This flexibility and choice elevates Exadata above competitive converged infrastructure appliances where there is no architectural equivalency between on-premise and Public Cloud.
Exadata should be assessed for technical relevance when benchmarking appropriate solutions for running database operations and should be compared to a full TCO, including software, operations, and support, when comparing to other solutions - not just the cost of the hardware.

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