Updated the 10th of June, 2022: add PMEM option on X9-2L.

Introduction

It’s been nearly 3 years that Oracle Database Appliance X8-2 reached the market, and in 2022 it’s still a great performer. But now it’s time for a refresh: X9-2 specs have just been published by Oracle, and machines should be soon available. So what’s new?

What is Oracle Database Appliance?

ODA, or Oracle Database Appliance, is an engineered system from Oracle. Basically, it’s an x86-64 server with a dedicate software distribution including Linux, Oracle database software, a Command Line Interface (CLI) and a Browser User Interface (BUI). The goal is to simplify database lifecycle and maximize performance.

Changes on the hardware side

If you remember, ODA X8-2 was available in 3 flavors:

  • X8-2S with 1 CPU, 192GB of RAM and 2x 6.4TB NVMe SSDs
  • X8-2M with 2 CPUs, 384GB of RAM and 2x to 12x 6.4TB NVMe SSDs
  • X8-2HA with 2 nodes (similar to X8-2M without the disks) and one or two disk enclosures with various configurations (SSDs or spinning disks)

Obviously, previous Intel Xeon Gold 5218 is replaced by a more modern CPU, the Xeon Silver 4314 with basically the same number of cores (16) and a slightly upgraded base speed (2.4GHz). According to Intel’s specsheets, there is not that many differences between these two, apart from a bigger cache, a 10nm vs 14nm technology, but you may also notice a lower maximum frequency down from 3.9GHz to 3.4GHz. In the real world, don’t expect something really significant on the CPU side.

Internal SSDs for system are surprisingly smaller than previous generation, from 480GB to 240GB. It shouldn’t be an issue because Oracle software now mainly resides on ACFS volumes and no more on local disks.

X9-2S will replace X8-2S with a nice upgrade of base memory from 192GB to 256GB, upgradable with a single expansion to reach 512GB. X9-2S is still limited to 2 data disks without any expansion, thus limited to small needs.

X8-2M is not replaced by another M iteration, but a new X9-2L instead. This name is much more suitable for this very capable model, which fit for 80% of our customers. Basically, X9-2L is very similar to X8-2M apart from an upgraded base memory (512GB) and maximum memory (1TB).

For these 2 models, X9-2S and X9-2L, disks are slightly bigger compared to old generation, from 6.4TB to 6.8TB. Only X9-2L could go beyond 2 disks and up to 12 disks for a maximum raw capacity of 81TB. But as for CPUs, it shouldn’t change anything when sizing your new ODA infrastructure.

X9-2HA is not that different compared to X8-2HA, there is still a High Performance (HP) version and a High Capacity (HC) version, the first one being composed of SSDs only, the second one being a mix of SSDs and HDDs. Only the HC get a storage bump thanks to bigger HDDs: from 14TB to 18TB each.

Regarding the network interfaces, nothing is new here. You can have up to 3 of them (2 are optional), and you will choose for each between a quad-port 10GBase-T (copper) or a two-port 10/25GbE (SFP28). Remember that SFP28 won’t connect to 1Gbps fiber network.

What’s new regarding the 19.15 software bundle?

As you may know, latest software bundle 19.15 associated with this new piece of hardware is for X9-2 as well as for the older ODAs, so everyone will benefit from this software update (oldest supported ODA is X5-2).

The most important new feature brought by this new version is the “Data Preserving Reprovisioning”. Everyone working on ODA since years know how it’s sometimes tough to patch an ODA, and quite long if you need intermediate patches. For sure you could always do a reimaging, but all databases need to be restored. This new feature mix both advantages: patching is non-destructive, reimaging is clean. Why not reimaging without erasing the data disks? This is now possible and it may replace traditional patching for good.

The other improvements are:

  • more flexibility on memory size for DB Systems, if you use these cloud-like virtualized databases
  • OVM to KVM migration, for those still using not yet migrated virtualized ODAs
  • Data Guard configuration registration, if you manually configured Data Guard and would like to register this configuration in the ODA registry as if it were created with odacli

What are the differences between the 3 models?

The X9-2S is an entry price point for a small number of small databases. The X9-2L is much more capable and can get disk expansions. Even a big infrastructure with hundreds of databases can easily fit on several X9-2L. The third one is for RAC users, because High Availability is sometimes mandatory. The disk capacity being much higher, big infrastructure can be consolidated with a very small number of HA ODAs.

ModelDB EditionnodesURAMRAM maxRAW TBRAW TB maxbase price
ODA X9-2SSE2/EE12256GB512GB13.613.619’980$
ODA X9-2LSE2/EE12512GB1024GB13.681.632’400$
ODA X9-2HA HPSE2/EE28/122x 512GB2x 1024GB4636883’160$
ODA X9-2HA HCSE2/EE28/122x 512GB2x 1024GB39074083’160$

Which one should you choose?

If your databases can comfortably fit in the S model, don’t hesitate as you will probably never need more. ODA X9-2S is the perfect choice for those using Standard Edition 2. Take a second one with Dbvisit Standby and it’s a real bargain for a disaster protected Oracle database environment.

Most interesting model is the new L, like the M was before. L is quite affordable, and extremely dense regarding the TB available (81TB in 2U). And it’s upgradable in case you don’t buy it fully loaded at the beginning.

If you still want/need RAC and the associated complexity, the HA is for you and will leverage your Enterprise Edition databases with their options.

Don’t forget that you should better order at least 2 ODAs for Disaster Recovery purpose, using Data Guard (EE) or Dbvisit Standby (SE2). Disaster Recovery setup is nowadays mostly used for non-Disaster Recovery scenarios: patching with minimal downtime, server maintenance, load balancing, …

My personal thought: I would prefer 2x ODA X9-2L compared to 1x ODA X9-2HA. NVMe speed, no RAC and single box is definitely better. And extreme consolidation may not be the best solution.

PMEM option for X9-2L

X9-2L also brings a unique feature for even better performance level: a Persistent MEMory option of 128GB. PMEM is a non-volatile memory faster than NVMe. This option is only available from factory as these memory modules are soldered on the motherboard of the appliance. PMEM option is rather costly, but if highest level of performance is needed, it may worth the extra cost.

What about the licenses and the support?

ODA is not sold with the database licenses: you need to bring yours or buy them at the same time. With Standard Edition 2, you’ll need 1x license per ODA S and 2x per ODA L. 4x licenses are required for HA model but it does not make sense using SE2 and X9-2HA.

If you’re using Enterprise Edition, you’ll need at least 1 license on a S and M models (2 activated cores) and at least 2 licenses on HA (2 activated cores per node). Enabling your EE license on a ODA will actually decrease the number of cores on the server to make sure you are compliant but it doesn’t prevent you to use unlicensed options. You can also use CPU pools to keep remaining CPUs available for other purpose, running application VMs for example.

Regarding the support, as other hardware vendors you’ll have to pay for your ODA to be supported, in case of hardware or software failure. 1st year of support will usually be part of your initial order but is not included in the server price.

Support for the database licenses is the same as the other platforms. Don’t forget that only 19c databases are now supported with Premier Support.

Conclusion

ODA X9-2 is a little bit disappointing when looking at the specs but X8-2 was already perfectly balanced. So this refresh is nice and small improvements are welcome. Prices are not much higher compared to X8-2 prices 2 years and half ago, this is something everyone will appreciate.

When comparing software features, improvement is much bigger. Oracle made a huge work on this part: ODA is now a real appliance with distinctive features compared to other on premise solutions. And this can be seen among our customers: most of those using these engineered system renew their old ODAs with newer ones.


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by
Jérôme Dubar