10 September 2003 Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has predicted that half of the company’s 200,000 database customers will move to a grid computing architecture within the foreseeable future, convinced of the cost, performance, scalability and reliability benefits of the new and radical computing model.
Addressing a capacity crowd of more than 10,000 at the company’s OracleWorld conference in San Francisco, Ellison outlined the components of its new Oracle 10g database offering.
Oracle 10g is designed to enable organisations to construct networks of pooled, low-cost server and storage devices that can be automatically ‘provisioned’ to meet the changing workload demands of different applications and databases.
“With 10g we are not talking about a cluster of two or four or eight processors, but 64 or 128 or more servers and the ability to throw [those resources at different workloads],” said Ellison. “The price/performance difference [compared to running centralised Unix or mainframe servers] is thirty to one. You have to be really willing to pay more to run slower.”
In a direct assault on IBM and vendors of high-end Unix servers, he urged customers to abandon large servers and transfer their workloads to grids of hundreds of low-cost, single or dual-processor Intel servers running the Linux operating system.
To facilitate such a move, he said, Oracle has addressed some of the major technical challenges that have prevented the spread of application, database and storage over networks of devices.
“First, we had to create the illusion for application programs that they were running over one big machine [and not hundreds of small ones],” he said. “The enterprise grid runs any application today — SAP, PeopleSoft, your own applications — without changing anything. And it runs them more reliably, less expensively and faster,” he claimed.
Enhancements to the company’s two-year old Real Application Clusters (RAC) software tackle that, although at this stage clusters of applications and databases have to run on a homogeneous base — either Linux, Windows or Unix.
RAC also provides reliability, he stressed, ensuring that if one of the servers fails its workload is moved elsewhere — “typically with the user seeing no interruption or in the worst case 10 to 12 seconds.”
Alongside RAC, is the key ability to manage applications, databases and storage. “If you don’t have tools to manage and provision over the grid, then the labour costs will simply outweigh the hardware savings,” Ellison said. A new module, Grid Control provides that ability to automatically balance the load.
But in order to solve some of the technical challenges of grid, Oracle has had to expand its horizons. Throwing down the gauntlet to rival companies also working to provide various aspects of server and storage virtualisation and provisioning, Ellison claimed that with 10g, “all the pieces are there. Third party software is not required; in fact it’ll slow [your grid] down.”
Among those new aspects is a grid-centric storage management suite; an identity management tool than provides single sign-on across all applications on the grid; and an applications performance monitoring and diagnostics tool.
Although 10g will not be generally available until the end of 2003, early users are already reporting impressive results. Ellison cited the example of entertainment software provider Electronics Arts which has moved the highly popular online version of its Sims game from a centralised server to a grid of ‘Lintel’ machines. “They are getting 30,000 SQL calls per second,” he said. “Don’t try that on your mainframe at home, kids.”
With some degree of hyperbole, Ellison tried to cast the launch in a historical light, suggesting that grid is the first really new approach to enterprise computing since the birth of the IBM System/360 mainframe in 1964.
“Over the last 40 years in enterprise systems the quest has been to build bigger and bigger computers,” he said. That era is over. “I believe this is the dawn of the information age, not the end of it.”