Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Oracle Revs Virtual Compute Appliance 

The engineered systems that Oracle is best known for are used to accelerate databases and middleware, but the company also peddles machines that are preconfigured to run basic cloud infrastructure workloads, too. Called the Virtual Compute Appliances, these machines were just updated with the latest processors from Intel and some other features.

Unlike the Exadata database, Exalytics in-memory database, and Exalogics middleware machines, the Virtual Compute Appliances are aimed at more generic workloads and are not specifically tuned to run Oracle's systems software.

The big change with the new Virtual Compute Appliances that came out this week is a move to the Sun Server X4-2 systems, which use the latest "Ivy Bridge" Xeon E5-2600 v2 processors from Intel. These processors have as much as 35 percent more oomph than the prior generation of Xeon E5 processors, from the "Sandy Bridge" generation, that Oracle used when it debuted the Virtual Compute Appliances last August.

At the time, Oracle was the one and only of the tier one system makers forging such converged systems that could say it controlled the system, operating system, hypervisor, network, and management layers in the entire cloudy system. The machines run Oracle Linux, its variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Oracle VM, its variant of Xen. Oracle supports Windows, Linux, and Solaris as guests, and interestingly, the price of the system includes full, unlimited user licenses to Oracle Linux and Solaris as guests and Oracle VM as the hypervisor. Oracle is still the only vendor that can offer the whole stack in an infrastructure cloud.

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The 1U pizza box server that is the foundation of the Virtual Compute Appliance has two processor sockets and up to sixteen memory slots across those two sockets for a maximum of 512 GB of main memory in the system using 32 GB memory sticks. The X4-2 machines have room for four drives, which yields 12 TB of disk storage or 2.4 TB of solid state storage. The machine comes with four 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports. Those disks are not intended as the sole persistent storage for the cloud, and in the original Virtual Compute Appliances Oracle put a couple of ZFS 7320 appliances in the rack and uses iSCSI or NFS to link the storage back to the virtual machines in the cluster. This time around, Oracle is peddling its brand new ZFS Storage Appliance ZS3 arrays, which were also announced this week.

The Virtual Compute Appliance also includes two fabric interconnect director switches, which came through Oracle's acquisition of Xsigo Systems nearly two years ago, which uses 40 Gb/sec InfiniBand as a backbone for converged server and storage traffic in the cluster. The servers have a special adapter card that combines the InfiniBand server traffic between the nodes and the Fibre Channel traffic out to external storage and runs it atop of the InfiniBand protocol. The whole shebang is controlled by a bit of homegrown software called the Virtual Compute Appliance Controller Software (such a literal name), and this, like all other Oracle hardware and software, hooks into the Enterprise Manager 12c uber-controller.

The base rack in the Virtual Compute Appliance comes with two server nodes and can support up to 25 server nodes. These nodes have eight-core Xeon E5 v2 processors running at 2.6 GHz and 256 GB of main memory, with two 1.2 TB SAS disks in a RAID 1 mirrored configuration. This base configuration also has the InfiniBand director and a single ZS3-ES array, which has four InfiniBand ports to link to the storage head in the director switch, 292 GB of SSD write cache, and 18 TB of SAS drive capacity. There are extra InfiniBand switches for server connectivity and Ethernet switches for the management backbone, and there are two heads in the storage array for redundancy. Oracle VM has live migration for server failover as well.

The base Virtual Compute Appliance X4-2 cists $282,000, with premier support for the system costing $33,840 and for the operating systems costing $22,500. An additional node costs $15,500, which is fully loaded with all of the software in the stack; premiere support costs $1,860 for this node and costs $1,240 for the operating systems.

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