In a previous life I was the Exadata UK Team Lead within Oracle Advanced Customer Services. I spent a lot of time installing, patching and generally talking about Exadata for UK customers, as well as training other Oracle engineers to support it. I also used to deliver high-level Exadata training to Oracle sales and delivery staff and the management teams – I wrote a presentation which involved hauling members of the audience up on stage and getting them to throw coloured plastic balls around to demonstrate the way that Smart Scan works. You had to be there.
I know Exadata very well, both from the technical perspective and also in terms of what it’s actually like to try and implement at a customer site. I have the utmost respect for the people in the Oracle Development organisation that created the product – and an equal amount of respect for those hardy souls in the Oracle Support and ACS organisations that go out there into the battlefield and perform miracles on a daily basis.
I love the Exadata product. I think it’s very clever and a real example of innovative thinking. However… I do have a couple of issues with it. Firstly I disagree with the strategy of describing it as an OLTP solution, or as a Database Consolidation solution. It was designed as a Data Warehousing solution and that is what it is, in my opinion. I cannot see how it can be accurate to describe it as “the strategic platform for all workloads“.
Secondly, I believe that one of the fundamental drivers behind Exadata’s most heralded feature “Cell Offload Processing” was the slow speed of disk. Flash memory products, such as those made by my employer Violin Memory, make those slow disk speeds a thing of the past. I guess time will tell on that one.
And finally, the marketing of Exadata leaves me feeling slightly embarrassed. With thanks to Kevin Closson, here is just one of many great examples:
Manufacturing resource planning (MRP) processes runs significantly faster. To quote Garmin, “Each day at 19:00 M-F we run the Garmin TSO/PMA Certification Set program. Before Exadata, the program took an average of 5 hours and 2 minutes to run. After Exadata, the program regularly takes 1 hour 25 minutes. By my calculations, that is a 475% improvement.”
Reducing the runtime from 5 hrs 2 mins to 1 hr 25 mins is a 72% improvement. That is a fantastic achievement, truly an impact to be proud of. Why describe it as a 475% improvement? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
(And you know, it’s not just Oracle that does that – I see it increasingly in our industry: “By adopting technology X we were able to achieve a 50000X performance increase”. I haven’t been able to check all of Violin’s collateral so for all I know we might even do it too. Here’s what I think: publish the underlying facts and let them speak for themselves.)
After leaving Oracle I wrote a blog series called “The History Of Exadata” which outlines how the database machine initially came to the market and describes the underlying hardware and software technologies.
You can also find any blog posts tagged with Exadata by clicking here.