Most Wikibon practitioners that are large Oracle customers summarize their storage strategy as follows: "We buy NetApp for file and EMC for block." Oracle's strategy to gain share in the storage market is to target NetApp with its ZFS appliance line and now, with the FS-1, EMC in block-oriented workloads. We expect Oracle's recent R&D investments will help the ZFS and FS-1 products gain share in these two important market segments. Oracle's obvious challenge is to facilitate the growth of these new systems such that they can offset the overall decline in the legacy Sun storage business. Regardless, Oracle in the fall of 2014 has a much more competitive storage lineup than it did two years ago.
The new Oracle FS1-2 Flash Storage System is like no other array on the market. Oracle applied 5 million lines of code supporting the core quality of service (QoS) technology from the acquisition of Pillar to 64-bit Oracle Linux on the common Oracle storage controller and disk drive enclosure technology base to serve the high-end Oracle enterprise market.
The FS1-2 is well designed to support Oracle environments. The fundamental unit of management is small (640k), and allows good fine-grained control of of on-line application performance. The tiering quality-of-service technology (QoS) comes from the Pillar acquisition and is excellent. It allows low-overhead migration of small blocks of data from up to four tiers. The Pillar technology also has a unique capability of putting priorities on every IO. This allows priority to be given to IOs from (say) a business critical application to be bumped up the IO queue ahead of IOs from (say) a lower priority batch job. This feature, named QoS Plus by Oracle, is a unique capability (SolidFire's quality of service being the closest in function) and highly suited to running Oracle application suites.
Also unique in the ability to define application profiles within the array. The FS1-2 comes with pre-defined profiles that provide tuned and tested storage optimization for Oracle Database and key enterprise applications such as Oracle Financials. Also included are some non-Oracle applications such as Microsoft Exchange. This allows "1-click" provisioning to optimize flash performance and manage Oracle applications with a minimum of administration. The profiles disaggregate database components such as index files, database tables, archive logs, redo logs, control files, and temp files, so the automatic provisioning automatically optimizes Oracle Database performance. No detailed knowledge of the database components is required. New application profiles can be added to the FS1-2, existing ones can be modified, and all profiles can be exported to other Oracle FS1-2 systems. This allows a powerful standardized storage provisioning system across multiple data centers.
The FS1-2 supports a T10 Protection Information (T10 PI), previously known as the Data Integrity Field (DIF), which is an important standard that supports the industry’s commitment to end-to-end data integrity validation. T10 PI prevents silent data corruption, ensuring that incomplete and incorrect data cannot overwrite good data, and “silent corruption” will be identified on reads. T10-PI is the “gold standard” for data protection in an IT eco-system. T10-PI uses an 8 byte metadata tagging field on each 512 byte data chunk to prevent any silent corruptions. The data protection information generated by Oracle Automatic Storage Management (ASM) is validated first by the host operating system, then by the HBA (initially Emulex LightPulse 8 Gb, and coming soon all others), and finally by Oracle FS1-2 Storage System, ensuring protection through the I/O stack – from application to the drive itself.
The FS1-2 (along with other only Oracle storage) supports the Oracle Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC), which allows variable and high levels of compression. This is very useful for many data warehouse and analytic workloads. The uptake of HCC has been limited for Oracle because most online workloads are row based, and HCC can have a negative performance impact. Standard data reduction (DRe) compression is usually more effective on database (row and column) driven data than other data but often not used on disk-based systems because of the potential increase in reads and writes. All Flash Array vendors have provided good inline compression techniques for databases in general and other workloads, and recently DRe appliances have been announced which allows compression on traditional storage arrays. The business case for compression is very good on flash storage, both on AFAs (e.g., EMC XtremIO, IBM Flashsystem, Pure Storage etc.) and flash storage on traditional storage arrays. The FS1-2 does not currently offer general compression for row-based Oracle or other workloads.
Inline de-duplication is the other data reduction technique. In general de-duplication is less useful in database environments, which have few identical blocks of data. However, de-duplication is used extensively on many all-flash arrays (e.g., EMC XtremIO, Pure Storage etc.) to reduce the cost of flash and does give some benefit. The FS1-2 does not currently offer such a capability; this is not so important in a database environment when all the FS1-2 tiers are deployed, as the reduction in cost from the hard disks will more than compensate for the non de-duplicated flash tier. The FS1-2 can be configured as a standalone all-flash array (AFA), with up to 912 terabytes of capacity flash or 228 terabytes of performance flash. Wikibon would recommend that the FS1-2 AFA be configured with two performance tiers, allowing for a lower cost of flash and compensating for the lack of DRe functionality.
The lack of DRe capabilities on the FS1 are less important for Oracle-only workloads. However, the FS1 is a well designed array that can be deployed across many workloads. To broaden the attractiveness of the FS1, Wikibon recommends that Oracle either develop in-house DRe (compression and de-duplication) on the FS1-2, or work with vendors such as Permabit with its SANblox to develop a DRe appliance for the FS1-2, especially when used as an AFA.
Oracle's Data Protection manager automates the creation of application consistent clones for Oracle database applications on the FS1 (and Windows applications supporting VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Services)). Application consistent recovery enables much more aggressive RPO and RTO SLAs.
In general, Wikibon believes that the Oracle FS1-2 Flash Storage system is well balanced and is outstanding in an Oracle application environment. The addition of multiple automated tiering support including performance and capacity flash will be a major contributor to decreasing the cost of storage and automating the storage admin workload.
Oracle FS1-2 Specifications
The main features are:
- Small unit of control over data (640K blocks are used to create heat maps).
- FS1-2 Priority-In-Priority-Out Queue - allows business value of application to be included as part of an SLA.
- Tiering system (Up to 4 tiers, not all tiers have to be there):
- Performance Flash,
- Capacity Flash,
- High Performance Disk,
- Capacity Disk.
- T10 Data Protection against silent corruption;.
- Oracle HCC (Hybrid Columnar Compression) support.
- Storage Domains support - up to 64 “virtual systems” to support secure Multi-tenant environments.
- Application Profiles with “1-click” smart auto provisioning of databases and applications.
- Good VMware support, with support for SRM, VASA and VAAI.
- ASM support.
- Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager.
- Base & Performance controllers FS1-2 has 4 Intel E5-2620 CPUs (24 cores, 2.0 GHz ), with either:
- 64 GB RAM cache/16 GB NV-DIMM or,
- 384 GB RAM cache/32 GB NV-DIMM.
- Neat NV-DIMM flash-backed DRAM storage for use with fast writes.
- Automation for the creation of Application Consistent Clones for Oracle DB’s and Any Windows application that supports VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Services) through Data Protection Manager.
- Optional Synchronous & Asynchronous Replication (Oracle MaxRep Replication Engine):
- local and remote locations, including many-to-one, one-to-many, and multihop replication,
- Support for multiple recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs), and,
- Application-consistent recovery options restore applications to a consistent point.
- Maximum 30 Drive Enclosures on FS1-2.
- Maximum Capacity All-flash 912TB.
- Maximum Performance All-Flash Array 228TB.
- Maximum Capacity Disk 2,880 TB.
Wikibon believes that Oracle has future plans to support 16 nodes and expand multi-protocol support to include InfiniBand (allowing integration with the Exadata series).
Action Item: The Oracle FS1-2 Flash Storage system is engineered specifically for Oracle software and uniquely optimized for both performance and cost, depending on the workload. With built-in orchestration, the array is designed to speed deployment dramatically and simplify ongoing tuning. In addition, secure multi-tenant domains together with extremely high levels of storage allocation granularity support a unique business-led QoS. The FS1-2 is aggressively priced, and there is a lot to the FS1-2 that will appeal to application heads, DBA's and storage pros alike. It should be included in Oracle system RFPs.
Footnotes: Tables 1 & 2