Alternatives to Oracle Hardware Platforms – Part 2

In the 2nd part of this two-part mini-series, I plan to cover how LinuxONE is a credible alternative to Oracle Exadata. If you want to read part 1 of the blog series where I covered the demise of Oracle’s SPARC based Solaris systems then check it out here.

The myth that continuing to invest in Exadata systems is more prudent than an investment in IBM LinuxONE has been around since the launch of LinuxONE in 2015. I speak to clients daily about how they are needing to digitally transform and reduce per-core software costs and Oracle’s profile as the largest expense in their budget looms large in a lot of these discussions. A key part of this discussion is the significant software costs that follow Exadat’s around wherever they land. Whether this is driven by choices about OS strategy with Oracle Autonomous Linux or Oracle’s approach with their clients is also up for discussion as Oracle’s pivot to the cloud is leading to a forced march on its client.

In my many conversations with clients numerous factors that go into clients’ infrastructure buying decisions, especially when you factor in the adoption of hybrid multi-cloud. I firmly believe that IBM LinuxONE is ultimately a more open, flexible, and future-oriented platform than Exadata, and I hope the comments in this blog will lead you to the same conclusion.

Strategic Imperatives

In the dynamic world of 2020, clients are making more rapid and urgent changes to their infrastructure and compute strategies. As part of this renewed focus companies are making strategic investments in many different areas to help drive their strategic imperatives, and technology platform choice is an ever-increasing thread in those decisions. Companies today are considering investments in:

  • Cloud, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud
  • Migrating from single-purpose appliances systems to open source cloud-native applications
  • Containerized microservices
  • Digital transformation
  • Kubernetes
  • Open Source

In the context of this decision-making framework, what sets IBM LinuxONE apart from single-purpose appliances such as Exadata is the platform’s ability to incorporate differentiated hardware and the powerful combination of Open Source. Let’s examine each platform in more detail.

Oracle’s Engineered Systems – Exadata

Exadata is a scale-out, commodity Intel x86-based appliance running Oracle Autonomous Linux, Oracle’s own in house developed Linux Operating System. As an engineered system it is solely designed to run Oracle databases and, more specifically, perform scan-oriented data query functions. The singular design of Exadata means it is not designed for online transaction processing (OLTP), and most of the features that Oracle goes to great lengths to describe as its “secret sauce” have little or no benefit for these vital workloads. Oracle is on the 8th generation of the Exadata so they are trying hard to get this approach to stick.

Exadata is strategic to Oracle because it’s the hardware underpinning of the Oracle database on its public cloud offering, its Oracle Cloud At Customer offering and solutions a customer can buy to run Oracle workloads on-premises.

Here are some considerations:

Software costs. When organizations invest in an Exadata solution the primary role of this platform for Oracle is to drive Oracle’s software license revenue. Hardware Total Cost of acquisition (TCA) may be slightly less than LinuxONE initially, however, the overall TCO over a 3-5 year time horizon can be significantly higher. Factor in the consolidation ratios of LinuxONE where a LinuxONE core can do the work of 10 Exadata cores, savings of 30-505 on per-core software licensing rapidly become apparent.

Processor performance. Exadata relies on commodity general-purpose Intel chips for its hardware roadmap, these typically run at 2-3 Ghz. IBM LinuxONE uses the world’s fastest commercially available chip at 5.2 Ghz and has a huge almost 1TB cache nest that surrounds the processor. This doesn’t even begin to cover the dedicated I/OS subsystem that surrounds a LinuxONE core and offloads this I/O workload from the general processor.

Storage Costs. Storage in an Oracle Exadata is solely able to be used by the Exadata so deeming it single purpose. Then when you factor in the triple replication mandated in Exadat for resiliency the costs can mount up and fast. LinuxONE doesn’t need triple replication even for HA/DR configurations so the costs are contained and multi-use storage connected via a SAN is a happy side-benefit.

Hardware Cost. Exadata is not cheap, not even by a long shot. An Oracle Exadata system can run into hundreds of thousands for small configuration and millions for larger configurations. If you dig deep into the Exadata pricing as of April 2, 2019, hardware represents about 3% of the acquisition cost of an Exadata Engineered system. So what makes up the other 97% I hear you ask? SOFTWARE !!! or put another way contributions to Larry Ellison racing yacht hobby! To be more specific (and less impassioned) the other 97% covers the cost of software licenses and maintenance.

IBM LinuxONE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux

The powerful combination of IBM LinuxONE and the marketing leading Linux distribution from Red Hat is becoming the default choice for clients looking to migrate from Oracle Exadata. As clients look to transform away from single-purpose platforms they are looking for new platforms that deliver on the mission-critical requirements of performance, availability, scalability, and security. LinuxONE is designed to deliver just this and when coupled with the Open Source ecosystem of Red Hat provides a winning combination for clients.

Key points to consider:

  • When you run Oracle on LinuxONE you typically need a 10th of the number of cores that you do to run a comparable x86 based environment. This leads to significant savings in Oracle per-core licensing.
  • Oracle’s installed base on the LinuxONE chip architecture running Red Hat is large and loyal and has been a critical revenue stream for Oracle. In fact in may clients LinuxONE is the core of Oracle’s estate.
  • For the past 15 years+, Oracle has released versions of its software for LinuxONE, Exadata and x86 within weeks of each other. So clients can with confidence be on the latest version and all the rich features that come with the newest platform.
  • IBM LinuxONE has achieved the highest server reliability rankings when compared to all x86 servers according to ITIC’s 2020 Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability survey. That same ITIC report found that security and data breaches are now the top cause of concern for clients. (This matches what I am hearing from clients daily). The ITIC report did not show any security breaches for LinuxONE and 18 in the last year for Oracle.

Which platform represents the better investment, and why? 

Given the strong interest in cloud, Linux, and open-source today, I believe IBM LinuxONE represents a better investment than Oracle Exadata. While existing Exadata customers may continue to invest in Oracle systems when they need replacement products or extra capacity while they plan a migration to another platform, IBM LinuxONE is a more robust investment for those looking toward a more open-source future. Migrating from Exadata to LinuxONE is a very viable option for clients that want to transform and modernize their infrastructure.

An investment in Exadata requires a strategic commitment to Oracle database, and many clients are trying to migrate away due to high costs, dissatisfaction with Oracle’s support, and a desire to take advantage of many excellent open-source alternatives such as PostgreSQL, Mongo DB etc…

Unlike Exadata on-premises where software license costs are high, IBM LinuxONE provides an open architecture allowing clients to choose how and what to deploy workloads in their data centers. LinuxONE also offers the best open infrastructure for running mission-critical workloads including; MongoDB and PostgreSQL amongst others, and the applications that drive them, something you can’t do on an Exadata as it only runs Oracle databases.

When Oracle Cloud is part of the client’s cloud strategy, the client gets Exadata by default, and it seems unlikely that AWS, Google, and others will adopt this technology. LinuxONE, on the other hand, is available in the IBM public cloud as a range of services called Hyper Protect where DBaaS is an option with PostgreSQL and MongoDB.

LinuxONE: The superior choice 

IBM LinuxONE is better aligned with the technology investment strategies companies need to make today than Oracle Exadata. Clients are keen to look at platforms that don’t that lock them into an Oracle solution that can only run Oracle databases and the Oracle Cloud at Customer stack. LinuxONE is an open source-based powerhouse and leverages industry-leading technology and the power of Linux.

As clients evaluate different technologies based on how well they align with their strategic imperatives many are finding IBM LinuxONE a superior option that will help them achieve a significantly better ROI and without the vendor lock-in. For anyone looking to migrate from Exadata to a more cost-effective solution, LinuxONE is a proven mission-critical choice.

To find out more about LinuxONE go here.