Driving Database Innovation Down the Stack: Oracle Database and Linux

Oracle x86 servers are the building blocks for Oracle’s engineered systems such as Exadata. These engineered systems run Oracle Database and Oracle Linux and are highly optimized to work together and provide unique features and benefits. For example, there is code in Oracle Linux and Oracle Database to make it run faster on Oracle x86, and there are firmware enhancements embedded in the server that make Oracle x86 the best x86 platform for running Oracle Database.

Oracle made these enhancements as part of the work to build engineered systems, but you can still take advantage of many of these features outside of engineered systems, if you are running Oracle Database and Oracle Linux on Oracle x86.

To understand how Oracle engineers its x86 servers to be the best for Oracle software, let’s first talk about Oracle’s overall design approach for building x86 systems. Oracle strives to make the most reliable, enterprise-grade servers because we know that this is what Oracle’s database customers want and expect.

Oracle x86 servers are built using Intel Xeon processors, Intel chipsets, Intel NICs, and Intel SSDs.  Oracle and Intel have a shared vision of creating the highest-performance, lowest power, and most reliable servers. Oracle collaborates with Intel to drive performance and reliability improvements at the component level to provide improved RAS features.  Oracle also adds hundreds of firmware extensions to the storage subsystem and BIOS to ensure optimal database robustness.

In addition to the reliability built into each server, there is additional reliability that is engineered into Oracle Database when running on Oracle x86.  This extra robustness comes from the process by which Oracle software is developed, tested, and deployed.

Oracle runs its own product development IT infrastructures on Oracle x86.  In other words, software engineers developing Oracle Database write and unit test their code on Oracle x86, and Oracle Database builds are tested on a farm of Oracle x86 servers.  Running Oracle Database and Oracle Linux on Oracle x86 is also a combination that Oracle uses to run its own cloud business, processing 3.2 billion business-critical database transactions per hour in Oracle’s Hosted cloud.

Through all of this additional testing and internal use of Oracle Database on Oracle x86, we uncovered many corner-case bugs in our storage subsystem, in our BIOS, and in other subsystems.  And we worked through and fixed all of these bugs prior to general release. What this means is that customers running Oracle Database on Oracle x86, whether as part of an engineered system or a stand-alone server, are going to see fewer problems, less downtime, and reduced operating expenses.

Oracle and Intel not only collaborate closely to build servers but also to make sure that Oracle Database has maximum performance with Intel Xeon processors.  For example, Oracle and Intel worked together to accelerate encryption and decryption by three times by using AES-NI, improve the performance of checksum calculations in Oracle Database 12c by 40 percent, and add NUMA optimizations to improve locking by over 50 percent.

With the new Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family, Oracle will refresh its two-socket product line to take advantage of the improved performance, additional cores, and power savings.  Oracle’s new Sun Server X4-2L server will support the fastest Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family while also supporting over 50 TB of internal storage in only 2 rack units.  And using Oracle’s Sun Flash Accelerator PCIe cards, Oracle Database I/O service times can be made fifteen times faster.

The net results from hundreds of firmware enhancements, hundreds more improvements to Oracle Linux, server components engineered for reliability and performance is a server that is designed for Oracle Database at all levels.  And there are many more enhancements in the pipeline to further integrate hardware and software to provide a unified Red Stack.

Josh Rosen is a Principal Product Manager for Oracle’s x86 servers, focusing on Oracle’s operating systems and software.  He previously spent more than a decade as a developer and architect of system management software. Josh has worked on system management for many of Oracle's hardware products ranging from the earliest blade systems to the latest Oracle x86 servers.