Exadata Re-Racking Service

I’ve heard from a few sources now that Oracle is offering a new Exadata Re-racking service for quarter and half racks. The idea, as I understand it, is that if you have your own rack equipment in your data centre and don’t want to use the rack that Exadata comes preinstalled in, you can pay an extra fee for Oracle’s Advanced Customer Services engineers (a fine bunch of people I must say!) to re-rack it. It appears that the machine is delivered to your data centre and then ACS will disassemble it at your site and reassemble it in your rack.

There appear to be some caveats, such as a pre-installation survey to check that your rack kit is suitable and a ban on putting anything else in the same rack. Also, since you cannot have this with the full rack I presume that this would preclude you from upgrading to a full machine in the future – at least not without having to relocate the kit, which I guess means downtime. I must stress that I don’t have the exact details, so talk to your friendly local Exadata sales rep if you want to know.

What I will say is that in all my time at Oracle the idea that customers could not re-rack the Exadata component servers was one of the few rules which was set in stone. Many customers asked, but all were told no. So what’s changed?

If you ask Oracle I am sure they would say that they are “listening to customer demand” and being “flexible”. On the other hand surely there must be some who will see this as a simple case of abandoning a principle in order to increase the attraction of Exadata and get more sales.

I’d love to know what happens to the empty Exadata rack once the kit has been moved. I’ll start checking to see if they appear on eBay…

The History of Exadata

I’ve been working on a timeline for the history of Exadata, starting with the HP Oracle Database Machine and working through to the X2 series.

It’s interesting to see how Oracle’s presentation of the product has changed over time, particularly the marketing messages.

Also, if you didn’t know better you would probably think that Engineered Systems were something Oracle had been planning for years. But the original plans for the Oracle Database Machine were to allow multiple vendors and ports of the storage software, basically an open architecture.

Things have changed a lot since then…

Oracle minimises the Exadata minimal pack

As of Exadata Storage Software version 11.2.3.1 released in March 2012 the “minimal pack” has now been deprecated. This is a component of the storage server software patch which is actually applied to the database servers in order to bring them up to the same image version.

Those who have been patching Exadata for a while now may remember the days when the database servers were patched using the ironically-named “convenience pack”. At some point in 2011 that was renamed to be the minimal pack. Well now it is gone entirely, to be replaced with a yum channel on the Unbreakable Linux Network.

There appears to be a channel per software version, e.g. exadata_dbserver_11.2.3.1.0_x86_64_base.

In a way that sounds like a better solution – but it does of course mean some logistical changes if you are going to do it the way Oracle suggests. For a start you will need the database servers to have direct network access to the repositories on the ULN. Or failing that you may need to create your own mirror repositories somewhere on the internal network and point the Exadata machines at those.

One thing which isn’t made explicitly clear in the patch readme for 11.2.3.1 is that this will update the kernel on the X2-2 to 2.6.18-274… meaning your database servers are effectively moving from Oracle Linux 5 Update 6 to Update 7. The X2-8 on the other hand updates to 2.6.32-300.

It’s also interesting to note that Oracle is still persisting with the 2.6.18 Red Hat compatible kernel on the X2-2 database servers despite the 2.6.32 Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) being out for years. In fact there’s even a UEKv2 out now.

Another thing I notice is that those customers who were brave enough to choose to run their Exadata database servers on Solaris 11 Express have now been served a desupport notice and have six months to upgrade to Solaris 11 proper. It’s not a drastically difficult upgrade to perform but I’m surprised about that six month limit, it seems a little unfair considering the one year grace period customers usually get with database patchsets.

Analysing Oracle Exadata

I’ve been working on a document recently which describes Exadata and examines its strengths and weaknesses. I have uploaded a number of the sections of the document as pages to this site – they are listed as tabs under the Oracle Exadata menu here.