EMC and Pillar to boost Oracle performance of disk arrays

EMC Corp. and Pillar Data Systems Inc. are pitching methods to boost performance of storage arrays running Oracle, coinciding with the Oracle OpenWorld show this week in San Francisco.

EMC is pushing a services assessment for the deployment of Oracle on solid-state drives (SSD) for Symmetrix customers, while Pillar is unveiling an Oracle application profile for its Axiom arrays to automate quality of service (QoS) for the database.

Also at Oracle OpenWorld, Hewlett-Packard launched the HP StorageWorks All-in-One (AiO) SMB system for Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) on Linux.

EMC: Best practices for storing Oracle data on SSDs

“Storing Oracle data is one of the most common use cases for solid-state drives,” said Bob Wambach, senior director of Symmetrix product marketing for EMC. EMC services engineers have co-authored a white paper with Oracle about best practices for storage performance with SSDs in database environments. EMC is willing to apply that knowledge for a fee in customers’ shops by performing an assessment of the database profile using Oracle’s Automatic Workload Repository.

The Oracle reports show that the entire database should be on solid-state media to save the power, cooling and floor space taken up by many short-stroked hard drives. Some EMC customers have also found that a small percentage of the disks on their Symmetrix arrays were absorbing a large percentage of the I/O load from the database.

“The assessment is meant to identify data that is missing cache on both the Oracle server and the Symmetrix array, and to keep it from going to physical disk for I/O,” Wambach said. “Even reducing 10% to 20% of the overall I/O to disk can boost database response times more than 50%.”

Symmetrix arrays also offer QoS features, but they’re relatively simple, and Wambach said there isn’t integration in this release between DMX-4 SSDs and QoS.

Pillar: Automated, granular QoS using hard drives

Pillar’s storage performance strategy revolves around application-aware storage, allowing customers to set up provisioning and QoS templates for applications like VMware and Exchange on its disk arrays. So it’s not surprising that the storage company funded by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is adding an application profile for Oracle based on API integration with the database.

“Through API integration with Oracle applications, we can carve up the [database] kernel, as well as the application stack, and assign each to a different QoS or tier of storage,” said Bob Maness, Pillar vice president of marketing. The new Oracle application profile allows the database to be separated into control files, redo logs and into the application stream, as well as into scratch or swap space.

The array would then keep the application stream at the highest priority for a better response from the Oracle server and keep scratch space at the lowest archive tier. Pillar tiers storage between classes of Fibre Channel and SATA disk, as well as within disk by placing the highest-priority data on the outer tracks of a hard disk.

“It’s folded into our software and can be exported between existing Pillar systems,” Maness said. Further QoS integration with common business intelligence, data warehousing and content management applications is planned.

SSDs and tuned disk placement makes even more sense

How about a combination of the EMC and Pillar approaches? A storage architect for a major telecom running petabytes of EMC storage on short-stroked Symmetrix disks to support Oracle said Pillar-style automation of data placement will be necessary for SSDs to become more prevalent in shops like his. “That kind of assessment has to be automated because it changes in our environment over time,” said the storage architect, who does not have permission from his company to speak to the press. “A one-time assessment could mean that you spend a lot of money and still not end up being happy.”

He’s waiting for solid-state media to drop the “drive” aspect — “Putting flash behind a hard drive connection is sort of like a virtual tape interface for disk-based backup; it makes it easier to adopt, but long-term there’s no need for it,” he said. “It shouldn’t be thought of as Tier 0 disk but Tier 2 memory.”

Pillar’s position on SSDs is that they have more value placed closer to the server’s PCIe bus than behind a storage controller. However, Gartner analyst Dave Russell said don’t count out Pillar from supporting SSDs on its arrays down the road. “Someone who doesn’t have a certain feature or technology might say it’s not required,” Russell said. “It wouldn’t be shocking if later, Pillar said SSD technology has been hardened, and they’ll support it on their roadmap.”

HP puts NAS, SAN on blade for RAC

The HP AiO system for RAC on Linux has an average list price of $50,000. The AiO is a combination iSCSI SAN and NAS system in an HP BladeSystem c3000 enclosure, and can be expanded by adding enclosures, servers, or disk.