Updated Sept 05, 2016: Split the blog into 2 parts (Part 2). Fixed several typo’s and sentence structure problems. Updated the description of the Superdome X blades to indicate they are 2 socket blades while using Intel E7 chips.
It must be the season as I find myself focused a bit on HPE. Maybe it’s because they seem to be looking for their identity as they now consider selling their software business. This time though, it is self-inflicted as there has been a series of conflicting marketing actions. From what they say in their recent HPE RAS whitepaper about the poor Intel server memory reliability stating in the introductory section that memory is far and away the highest source of component failures in a system. Shortly after that RAS paper is released, they post a blog written by the HPE Server Memory Product Manager stating “Memory Errors aren’t the end of the World”. Tell that to the SAP HANA and Oracle Database customers, the latter which I will be discussing in this blog.
HPE dares to step into the lion’s den on a topic with which it has little standing to imply it is an authority how Oracle Enterprise software products are licensing in IBM Power servers. As a matter of fact, thanks to the President of VCE, Chad Sakac for acknowledging that VMware has a Oracle problem. On August 17th, Chad penned what amounts to an open letter to Larry & Oracle begging them …. No, demanding that Larry leave his people alone. And, by “his people”, I mean customers who run Oracle Enterprise Software Products licensed by the core on Intel servers using VMware.
Enter HPE with a recent blog by Jeff Kyle, Director of Mission Critical Solutions. He doesn’t distinguish if he is in a product development, marketing or sales role. I would bet he it is the latter two as I do not think a product developer would put themselves out like Jeff just did. What he did is what all Intel marketing teams and sellers have done from the beginning of compute time when the first customer thought of running Oracle on a server that wasn’t “Big Iron”.
Jeff sets up a straw man stating “software licensing and support being one of the top cost items in any data center” followed by the obligatory claim that moving it to an “advanced” yet “industry-standard x86 servers” will deliver the ROI to achieve the goals of every customer while coming damn close to solving world hunger.
Next is where he enters the world of FUD while also stepping into the land of make-believe. Yes, Jeff is talking about IBM Power technology as if it is treated by Oracle for licensing purposes the same as an Intel server, which it is not. You will have to judge if he did this on purpose or simply out of ignorance. He does throw the UNIX platforms a bone by saying they have “excellent stability and performance” but stops there as only to claim they cost more than their Industry standard x86 server counterparts.
He goes on to state UNIX servers <Hold Please> Attention: For purposes of this discussion, let’s go with the definition that future UNIX references = AIX and RISC references = IBM POWER unless otherwise stated. As I was saying, Jeff next claims AIX & POWER are not well positioned for forward-looking Cloud deployments continuing his diminutive descriptors suggesting proper clients wouldn’t want to work with “proprietary RISC chips like IBM Power”. But, the granddaddy of all of his statements and the one that is complete disingenuous is: <low monotone voice> “The Oracle license charge per CPU core for IBM Power is twice (2X) the amount charged for Intel x86 servers” </low monotone voice>.
In his next paragraph, he uses some sleight of hand by altering the presentation of the traditional full List Price cost for Oracle RAC that is associated with Oracle Enterprise Edition Database. Oracle EE DB is $47,500 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1. Oracle RAC for Oracle EE EB is $23,000 per license + 22% maintenance per year, starting with year 1. If you have Oracle RAC then you would by definition also have a corresponding Oracle EE DB Licenses. The author uses a price of $11,500 per x86 CPU core and although by doing he isn’t wrong per se, I just do not like that he does not disclose the full license cost of #23,000 up front as it looks like he is trying to minimize the cost of Oracle on x86.
A quick licensing review. Oracle has an Oracle License Factor Table for different platforms to determine how to license its products that are licensed by core. Most modern Intel servers are 0.5 per License. IBM Power is 1.0 per License. HP Itanium 95XX chip based servers, so you know also has a license factor of 1.0. Oracle, since they own the table and the software in question can manipulate it to favor their own platforms as they do, especially with the SPARC servers. It ranges from 0.25 to 0.75 while Oracle’s Intel servers are consistent with the other Intel servers at 0.5. Let’s exclude the Oracle Intel servers for purposes of what I am talking about here for reason I said, which is they manipulate the situation to favor themselves. All other Intel servers “MUST” license ALL cores in the server with very, very limited exceptions “times” the licensing factor which is 0.5. Thus, a 2 x 18 core socket would have 36 cores. Ex: 2s x 18c = 36c x 0.5 License Factor = 18 Licenses. That would equal 18 Oracle Licenses for whatever the product being used.
What Jeff does next was a bit surprising to me. He suggests customers not bother with 1 & 2 socket Intel “Scale-out” servers which generally rely on Intel E5 aka EP chipsets. By the way, Oracle with their Exadata & Oracle Database Appliances now ONLY use 2 socket servers with the E5 processors; let that sink in as to why. The EP chips tend to have features that on paper have less performance such as less memory bandwidth & fewer cores while other features such as clock frequency are higher, a feature that is good for Oracle DB. These chips also have lower RAS capabilities, such as missing the MCA (Machine Check Architecture) feature only found in the E7 chips. He instead suggests clients look at “scale-up” servers which commonly classified as 4 sockets and larger systems. This is where I need to clarify a few things. The HP Superdome X system, although it scales to 16 sockets, does so using 2 socket blades. Each socket uses the Intel E7 processor, which given this is a 2 socket blade is counter to what I described at the beginning of this paragraph where 1 & 2 socket servers used E5 processors. The design of the HP SD-X is meant to scale from 1 blade to 8 blades or 2 to 16 sockets which requires the E7 processor.
With the latest Intel Broadwell EX or E7 chipsets, the number of cores available for the HD SD-X range from 4 to 24 cores per socket. Configuring a blades with the 24 core E7_v4 (v4 indicates Broadwell) equals 48 cores or 24 Oracle Licenses. Reference the discussion two paragraphs above. His assertion is by moving to a larger server you get a larger memory capacity for those “in-memory compute models” and it is this combination that will dramatically improve your database performance while lowering your overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
He uses a customer success story for Pella (windows) who avoided $200,000 in Oracle licensing fees after moving off a UNIX (not AIX in this case) platform to 2 x HPE Superdome X servers running Linux. This HPE customer case study says the UNIX platform which Pella moved off 9 years ago was actually a HP Superdome with Intel Itanium processors server running HP-UX. Did you get this? HP migrated off their own 9-year-old server while implying it might be from a competitor – maybe even AIX on Power since it was referenced earlier in the story. That circa 2006 era Itanium may have used a Montecito class processor. All of the early models before Tukwila were pigs, in my estimation. A lot of bluff and hyperbole but rarely delivering on the claims. That era of SD would have also used an Oracle license factor of 0.5 as Oracle didn’t change it until 2010 and only on the newer 95xx series chips. Older systems were grandfathered and as I recall as long as they didn’t add new licenses they would remain under the 0.5 license model. I would expect a 2014/2015 era Intel processor would outperform a 2006 era chip, although if it would have been against a POWER5 1.9 or 2.2 GHz chip I might call it 50-50 J .
We have to spend some time discussing HP server technology as Jeff is doing some major league sleight of hand as the Superdome X server supports a special hardware partitioning capability (more details below) that DOES allow for reduced licensing that IS NOT available on non-Superdome x86 servers or from most other Intel vendors unless they also have an 8 socket or larger system like SGI – oh wait, HP just bought them. Huh, wonder why they did this if the HPE Superdome X is so good.
Jeff then mentions an IDC research study; big deal, here is a note from my Pastor that says the HPE Superdome is not very good; who are you going to believe?
Moving the rest of the blog to Part 2.