The Buzz From the Oracle OpenWorld 2010 Exhibition Floor

Jim Czuprynski reports not only on the keynotes and announcements from OOW 2010, but also on what the DBAs on the exhibition floor were saying–what impressed them and what concerns they had for the future of their existing systems.

I’ve just returned from Oracle OpenWorld 2010, and my head is still spinning from all of the product announcements, knowledge, and interactions I encountered in San Francisco over the last four days. For the first time in my career, I found myself in a unique position to talk to storage administrators, system architects, and even Oracle DBAs because I was helping one of my clients, Hitachi Data Systems from Santa Clara, CA, to promote their unique enterprise storage solutions as many folks streamed through our exhibitions.

HP and CSC, the two major co-sponsors of OOW 2010, put up impressive displays and handed out a lot of neat hardware – iPads were a big give-away item in drawings this year – but many smaller vendors had a dizzying array of products, many of them complementing Oracle applications as well as database administration. One of my favorites was 3PAR’s booth, which featured their storage solutions, a neat 1/8th scale race car setup, and a chance to win an all-electric-powered Tesla sports car at the end of the conference.

The estimated 41,000 attendees representing 116 countries has made OOW one of the largest (if not the largest) IT hardware and software trade show / convention in the world. Since it also incorporated JavaOne and Oracle Develop conferences for the first time this year, it’s probably eclipsed the size of the SAP Sapphire annual conference. Oracle estimated that 141,000 cups of coffee were served this year, and based on my teammates’ astute observations on my personal energy level at OOW 2010, I consumed about 15% of that by myself.

Keywords From the Keynoters …

Larry Ellison was in such demand at this year’s OOW that he actually had two keynote addresses, one on Sunday evening, and one on Wednesday afternoon. Ellison arrived at the Sunday evening presentation virtually breathless, but he immediately began to stress Oracle’s new orientation – “Hardware and Software Engineered to Work Together” -after the Sun acquisition, and this appeared to be the major theme of the 2010 OOW conference as well. He also revealed the new ExaLogic application server platform – or as it’s actually known, the Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud.

Ellison took great pains to describe exactly which cloud computing model Oracle will be embracing: It’s a platform, not an application. Ellison went on to describe the Exalogic server as a “cloud in a box” and as the “brother” of the ExaData database server. He might be right: it has impressive processing power, with 30 servers and 360 cores, 40GBe Infiniband intra-appliance communication, an integrated storage appliance, a 4TB read cache, a 72GB write cache, can hold 40TB of SAS disks and 1 TB of Flash drives, and most impressive of all, 2.8 TB of DRAM. Like the Exadata box, the new Exalogic platform starts out life as a ¼ rack, and can be scaled up to 8 full racks; it can run Oracle Virtual Machines on either the Linux or Solaris OS. Ellison also stressed that this computing power was dramatically less expensive than comparable technology (e.g. $1.075M for an Exalogic server vs. $4.44 M for an IBM Power 795 server). As Ellison likes to put it: “If you want to run faster, then you simply have to spend less money.”

Ellison’s other really big announcement of that evening was the release of the Oracle Unbreakable Linux Kernel. It appears that Oracle simply got tired of identifying bugs to the folks over at Red Hat in their own Linux kernel – Ellison said some bug fixes had not been acknowledged for over four years! – and it had driven Oracle to offer a divergent Linux kernel. Though Oracle will still support RHEL and OEL, of course, this new kernel will allow them to implement crucial bug fixes to the Linux kernel more quickly, and to offer code that will be able to take advantage of the newer Exadata and Exalogic architectures.

Larry’s second keynote on Wednesday afternoon revealed the release of the Solaris 11 operating system and the release of MySQL 5.5. While perhaps not as exciting and flashy as the Exalogic platform release was, SAs and DBAs have been waiting for some time to find out whether Oracle’s promises to continue to support the Solaris OS and provide upgrades of MySQL would hold true to the promised course.

Not to be left out, Mark Hurd, the latest addition to the Oracle executive team, announced a newly expanded and upgraded version of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine, the X2-8, which features 128 CPU cores and over 2 TB of DRAM and 5.3 TB of what Oracle calls flash cache for processing database workloads, especially if they are “hybrid” or workloads of combined OLTP and DSS processing. The X2-8 is so named because there are actually 16 servers contained within: two database servers and 14 Exadata Storage Servers.

… And What Oracle DBAs Had To Say

Whenever I encountered an Oracle DBA who had a few moments between technical sessions, I asked them for a few of their strongest impressions from the keynotes, announcements and presentations they attended. Here’s a brief summary of what they told me.

Exadata? Cool! Exalogic? Wow! Now … Exawhy? The new Exalogic “cloud in a box” and the upgrades to the Exadata Database Machine are certainly fascinating and interesting concepts. There’s no doubt that the Exalogic appliance line is a major step forward in bringing a stable version of cloud computing one step closer to reality. However, many of the Oracle DBAs I spoke with don’t seem convinced that they’re necessarily options for their organizations. One of the major strengths that Oracle proposes as part of its Exadata / Exalogic strategy – the concept of “one throat to choke” when something isn’t working right – didn’t seem to resonate with many of the DBAs and SAs I spoke with. Many IT shops appear to be reluctant to put “all their eggs in one basket” with Oracle; instead, they’d rather play off EMC, Hitachi, Oracle, HP, and even Microsoft against each other during the software and hardware bidding process to get the best deals.

Got Technology? Not (Necessarily) Here. Several Oracle DBAs I spoke with told me that in their opinion, the detailed technical content we’ve all taken away from past OpenWorld conferences appeared to have been reduced dramatically. It seems that Oracle has “dumbed down” the presentations to appeal more to IT managers than to Oracle DBAs, which is why many of interviewees commented that fewer of their DBA and SA colleagues seemed to be in attendance. Perhaps this is actually a vicious cycle: DBAs aren’t showing up for the presentations because the level of technical detail desired isn’t there, which results in Oracle changing its strategy to attract more IT management, which means the technical detail continues to be reduced.

Oracle 11g has arrived at last. It sure appears that many DBAs are just beginning to transition to Oracle 11g, even though it’s been available for almost two years. In addition, if prior Oracle Database release patterns hold true, Oracle 10g will almost certainly approach the end of its support life cycle in the next several months as Oracle 12g appears. And many DBAs I spoke with are now much more interested in Oracle 11g because they need to upgrade their 9i databases (yes, there are still quite a few of them!) before support for Oracle evaporates.

Storage is becoming more of a concern than in the past. Surprisingly, DBAs are interested in hearing more about solid state (“flash”) drives than I’ve ever experienced, and they are concerned about how much of an advantage it can yield them, but not sure where their biggest bang for their buck will come from. Indeed, as my current article series on Oracle I/O performance tuning will show, implementing flash drives is not as trivial a matter as it might seem, and may actually yield little advantage if the database application workload can’t take advance of SSDs.

Oracle Application Release 12 (R12) upgrade vs. migration is a big concern. Many presentations were focused specifically on this topic, and many offerings were aimed directly at helping current and potential customers to decide if it was more effective to upgrade their Oracle R12 applications or perform a complete migration.

Finally, a personal note: Even though I regularly cycle about 20 miles a day and was helping an Oracle Platinum Partner show its wares on the exhibition floor, for some reason I wasn’t chosen to tag along with Lance Armstrong, the seven-time consecutive winner of the Tour de France, as he did a bike-along with several Oracle partner members on Tuesday morning. Lance was encouraging conference attendees to promote “green” activity, like commuting to work via cycling. Now if I can just get the State of Illinois to make it legal to ride my Specialized CrossTrain on the expressway for part of my daily 30-mile round trip commute …

» See All Articles by Columnist Jim Czuprynski

Jim Czuprynski
Jim Czuprynski
Jim Czuprynski has accumulated over 30 years of experience during his information technology career. He has filled diverse roles at several Fortune 1000 companies in those three decades - mainframe programmer, applications developer, business analyst, and project manager - before becoming an Oracle database administrator in 2001. He currently holds OCP certification for Oracle 9i, 10g and 11g. Jim teaches the core Oracle University database administration courses on behalf of Oracle and its Education Partners throughout the United States and Canada, instructing several hundred Oracle DBAs since 2005. He was selected as Oracle Education Partner Instructor of the Year in 2009. Jim resides in Bartlett, Illinois, USA with his wife Ruth, whose career as a project manager and software quality assurance manager for a multinational insurance company makes for interesting marital discussions. He enjoys cross-country skiing, biking, bird watching, and writing about his life experiences in the field of information technology.

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