Does your IT shop use a combination wrench?

More and more, IT shops seem inclined to consolidate and simplify their infrastructure to one platform. A mindset that all workloads can or should run on a single platform incorporated into ‘Software-defined this’ and ‘Software-defined that’.  It tantalizes the decision makers senses as vendors claim to reduce complexity and cost.

Technology has become Ford vs Chevy or John Deere vs Case International.  Whereas these four vendors each have some unique capabilities and offerings they are also leaders in innovation and reliability.  For IT shops, there is this perception that only Intel & VMware are viable infrastructure options to deploy every workload type.  Mission / Life critical workloads in healthcare, high-frequency financial transactions, HPC, Big Data, Analytics, emerging Cognitive & AI but also traditional ERP workloads that run entire businesses – SAP ECC, SAP HANA and Oracle EBS are probably the most common that I see as there are also some industry specific ones for Industrial and automotive companies – I’m thinking of Infor.

When a new project comes up, there is little thought given to the platform. either the business or maybe the ISV will state what and how many of server X should be ordered. The parts arrive, eventually getting deployed.  Little consideration is given to the total cost of ownership or the the impact to the business caused by the system complexity.

I’ve watched a client move their Oracle workloads to IBM POWER several years ago. This allowed them to reduce their software licensing and annual maintenance cost as well as to redeploy licensing to other projects – cost avoidance by not having to add net new licensing.  As it happens in business, people moved on, out and up. New people came in whose answer to everything was Intel + VMware.  Yes, a combination wrench.

If any of you have used a combination wrench,  you know there are a few times it is the proper tool. However, it can also strip or round over the head of a bolt or nut if too much pressure or torque is applied. Sometimes the proper tool is a SAE or Metric box wrench, possible a socket, even an impact wrench.  In this clients case, they have started to move their Oracle workloads from POWER to Intel.  Workloads currently running on standalone servers or at most using 2-node PowerHA clusters.  Moving these simple (little complexity) Oracle VM’s to 6-node VMware Oracle RAC clusters that have now grown to 8-nodes.  Because we all know that Oracle RAC scales really well (please tell me you picked up on the sarcasm).

I heard from the business earlier this year that they had to buy over $5M of net-new Oracle licensing for this new environment. Because of this unforeseen expense, they are moving other commercial products to open-source since we all know that open-source is “free” to offset the Oracle cost.

Oh, I forgot to mention.  That 8-node VMWare Oracle RAC cluster is crashing virtually every day.  I guess they are putting too much pressure on the combination wrench!

Oracle is a mess & customers pay the price!

Chaos that is Oracle

Clients are rapidly adopting open source technologies in support of purpose-built applications while also shifting portions of on-premises workloads to major Cloud providers like Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and IBM’s SoftLayer.  These changes are sending Oracle’s licensing revenue into the tank forcing them to re-tool … I’m being kind saying it this way.

What do we see  Oracle doing these days?

  • Aggressively going after VMware environments who use Oracle Enterprise products for licensing infractions
  • Pushing each of their clients toward Oracle’s public cloud
  • Drastically changing how Oracle is licensed for Authorized Cloud Environments using Intel servers
  • Latest evidence indicates they are set to abandon Solaris and SPARC technology
  • On-going staff layoffs as they shift resources, priorities & funding from on-premises to cloud initiatives

VMware environments

I’ve previously discussed for running Oracle on Intel (vs IBM POWER), Intel & VMware have an Oracle problem. This was acknowledged by Chad Sakac, Dell EMC’s President Converged Division in his August 17, 2016 blog in what really amounted to an Open Letter to King Larry Ellison, himself. I doubt most businesses using Oracle with VMware & Intel servers fully understand the financial implications this has to their business.  Allow me to paraphrase the essence of the note “Larry, take your boot off the necks of our people”.

This is a very contentious topic so I’ll not take a position but will try to briefly explain both sides.  Oracle’s position is simple even though it is very complex.  Oracle does not recognize VMware as an approved partitioning (view it as soft partitioning) method to limit Oracle licensing. As such, clients running Oracle in a VMware environment, regardless of how little or much is used, must properly license it for every Intel server under that clients Enterprise (assume vSphere 6+).  They really do go beyond a rational argument IMHO. Since Oracle owns the software and authored the rules they use these subtleties to lean on clients extracting massive profits despite what the contract may say. An example that comes to mind is how Oracle suddenly changed licensing configurations for Oracle Standard Edition and Standard Edition One. They sunset both of these products as of December 31, 2015 replacing both with Standard Edition 2. What can only be described as screwing clients, they halved the number of sockets allowed on a server or in a RAC cluster, limited the number of cpu threads per DB instance while doubling the number of minimum Named User Plus (NUPs). On behalf of Larry, he apologizes to any 4 socket Oracle Standard Edition users but if you don’t convert to a 2 socket configuration (2 sockets for 1 server or 1 socket for 2 servers using RAC) then be prepared to license the server using the Oracle Enterprise Edition licensing model.

The Intel server vendors and VMware have a different interpretation on how Oracle should be licensed.  I’ll boil their position down to using host or cpu affinity rules.  House of Bricks published a paper that does a good job trying to defend Intel+VMware’s licensing position. In their effort, they do show how fragile of ground they sit on with its approach  highlighting the risks businesses take if they hitch their wagons to HoB, VMware & at least Dell’s recommenations.

This picture, which I believe House of Bricks gets the credit for creating captures the Oracle licensing model for Intel+VMware environments quite well. When you pull your car into a parking garage – you expect to pay for 1 spot yet Oracle says you must pay for every one as you could technically park in any of them. VMware asserts you should only pay for a single floor at most because your vehicle may not be a compact car, may not have the clearance for all levels, there are reserved & handicapped spots which you can’t use. You get the idea.

oracle_parking_garage

It simply a disaster for any business to run Oracle on Intel servers. Oracle wins if you do not virtualize, running each on standalone servers.  Oracle wins if you use VMware, regardless of how little or much you actually us.  Be prepared to pay or to litigate!

Oracle and the “Cloud”

This topic is more difficult to provide sources so I’ll just stick to anecdotal evidence. Take it or leave it. At contract renewal, adding products to contracts or new projects like migrating JD Edwards “World” to “Enterprise One” or a new Oracle EBS deployment would subject a business to an offer like this.  “Listen Bob, you can buy 1000 licenses of XYZ for $10M or you can buy 750 licenses of XYZ for $6M, buy 400 Cloud units for $3M and we will generously throw in 250 licenses …. you’ll still have to pay support of course. You won’t get a better deal Bob, act now!”.  Yes, Oracle is willing to take a hit for the on-premises license revenue while bolstering their cloud sales by simply shuffling the Titanic deck chairs. These clients, for the most part are not interested in the Oracle cloud and will never use it other than to get a better deal during negotiations. Oracle then reports to Wall Street they are having tremendous cloud growth. Just google “oracle cloud fake bookings” to read plenty of evidence to support this.

Licensing in the Cloud

Leave it to Oracle Marketing to find a way to get even deeper into clients wallets – congratulations they’ve found a new way in the “Cloud”.  Oracle charges at least 2X more with Oracle licenses on Intel servers that run in Authorized Cloud Environments (ACE). You do not license Oracle in the cloud using the on-premises licensing factor table.  The more VM’s running in a ACE,  the more you will pay vs an on-premises deployment. To properly license an on-premises Intel server (remember, it is always an underlying proof that Oracle on POWER servers is the best solution) regardless if virtualization is used, assuming a 40 core server, would equal 20 Oracle Licenses (Intel licensing factor for Intel servers is 0.5 per core). Assume 1 VMware server, ignoring it is probably part of a larger vSphere cluster.  Once licensed, clients using VMware could theorectially run Oracle as many VM’s as desired or supported by that server. Over-provision the hell out of it – doesn’t matter. That same workload in an ACE, you pay for what amounts to every core.  Remember, if the core resides on-premises it is 1 Oracle License for every 2 Intel cores but in a ACE it is 1 OL for 1 core.

AWS
Putting your Oracle workload in the cloud?  Oracle license rules stipulate if running in AWS, it labels as vCPU’s both the physical core and the hyperthread. Thus, 2 vCPU = 1 Oracle License (OL). Using the same 40 core Intel server mentioned above, with hyperthreading it would be 80 threads or 80 vCPU.  Using Oracle’s new Cloud licensing guidelines, that would be 40 OL.  If this same server was on-premises, those 40 physical cores (regardless of threads) would be 20 OL ….. do you see it?  The licensing is double!!!   If your AWS vCPU consumption is less vs the on-premises consumption you may be ok. As soon as your consumption goes above that point – well, break out your checkbook.  Let your imagination run wild thinking of the scenarios where you will pay for more licenses in the cloud vs on-prem.

Azure
Since Azure does not use hyperthreading, 1 vCPU = 1 core.  The licensing method for ACE’s for Azure or any other ACE if hyperthreading is not used, 1 vCPU = 1 OL.  If a workload requires 4 vCPU, it requires 4 OL vs the 2 OL if it was on-premises.

Three excellent references to review. The first is Oracle’s Cloud licensing document. The second link is an article by Silicon Angle giving their take of this change and the last link is for a blog by Tim Hall, a DBA and Oracle ACE Director sharing his concerns. Just search for this topic starting from January 2017 and read until you fall asleep.

Oracle
Oracle offers their own cloud and as you might imagine, they do everything they can to favor their own cloud thru licensing, contract negotiations and other means.   From SaaS, IaaS and PaaS their marketing machine says they are second to none whether the competition is SalesForce, Workday, AWS, Azure or any other.  Of course, analysts, media, the internet nor Oracle earnings reports show they are having any meaningful success – to the degree they claim.

Most recently, Oracle gained attention for updating how clients can license Oracle products in ACE’s as mentioned above.  As you might imagine, Oracle licenses its products slightly differently than in competitors clouds but they still penalize Intel and even SPARC clients, who they’ll try to migrate into the cloud running Intel (since it appears Oracle is abandoning SPARC).  The Oracle Cloud offers clients access to its products on a hourly or monthly in a metered and non-metered format on up to 4 different levels of software. Focusing on Oracle DB, the general tiers are Standard, Enterprise, High-Performance and Extreme-Performance Packages. Think of it like Oracle Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, EE+tools, EE+RAC+tools.  Oracle also defines the hardware tier as “Compute Shapes“. The three tiers are General Purpose, High-Memory or Dedicated compute

Comparing the cost of an on-premises perpetual license for Oracle Enterprise  vs a non-metered monthly license for the Enterprise Tier means they both use Oracle Enterprise Edition Database. Remember a perpetual license is a one-time purchase, $47,500 for EE DB list price plus 22% per year annual maintenance.  The Enterprise tier using a High-memory compute shape in the Oracle cloud is $2325 per month.  This compute shape consists of 1 OCPU (Oracle CPU) or 2 vCPU (2 threads / 1 core).  Yes, just like AWS and Azure, Intel licensing is at best 1.0 vs 0.5 for on-premises licensing per core. Depending how a server might be over-provisioned as well as the fact an on-premises server would be fully licensed with 1/2 of its installed cores there are a couple of ways clients will vastly overpay for Oracle products in any cloud.

The break-even point for a perpetual license + support vs a non-metered Enterprise using High-memory compute shape is 30 months.

  • Perpetual license
    • 1 x Oracle EE DB license = $47,500
    • 22% annual maintenance = $10,450
    • 3 year cost: $78,850
  • Oracle Cloud – non-metered Enterprise using High-Memory shape
    • 1 x OCPU for Enterprise Package for High-Compute = $2325/mo
    • 1 year cloud cost = $27,900
    • 36 month cost: $83,700
  • Cross-over point is at 30 months
    • $79,050 is the 30 month cost in the Cloud
  • An Oracle Cloud license becomes significantly more expensive after this.
    • year 4 for a perpetual license would be $10,470
    • 12 months in year 4 for the Cloud license would be $27,900
    • Annual cost increase for a single cloud license over the perpetual license = $17,430
  • Please make your checks payable to “Larry Ellison”

Oracle revenue’s continue to decline as clients move to purpose-built NoSQL solutions such as MongoDB, RedisLabs, Neo4j, OrientDB, Couchbase as well as SQL based solutions from MariaDB, PostgreSQL (I like EnterpriseDB) even DB2 is a far better value.  Oracle’s idea isn’t to re-tool by innovating, listening to clients to move with the market. No, they get out their big stick – follow the classic mistake so many great clients have done before them which is not evolve while pushing clients until something breaks.   Yes, Boot Hill is full of dead technology companies who failed to innovate and adapt. This is why Oracle is in complete chaos.  Clients beware – you are on their radar!

 

 

C is for Performance!

E850C is a compact power-packed “sweet spot” server!

“C” makes the E850 a BIG deal!

IBM delivered a modest upgrade to the entry level POWER8 Enterprise server going from the E850 to the E850C.  The new features are seen with the processors, memory, Capacity on Demand and with bundled software.

The most exciting features available with the new E850C, which by the way comes with a new MTM of 8408-44E, are with the processors.  You might think I’d say that but here is why the E850C is the new “sweet spot” server for AIX & Linux workloads that require a mix of performance, scalability and reliability features.

A few things that are the same on the E850C as it was the E850.

  • Classified as a “small” tier server
  • Available with a 3 year 24 x 7 warranty
  • PVU for IBM software is 100 when using AIX
  • PVU for IBM software is 70 when using Linux
  • Supports IFL’s or Integrated Facility for Linux
  • Offers CuOD, Trial, Utility and Elastic CoD
  • Does NOT offer mobile cores or mobile memory (boo hiss)
  • Does NOT support Enterprise Pools (boo hiss)

The original 8408-E8E aka E850 was available with 32 cores at 3.72, 40 cores at 3.35 and 48 cores at 3.02 GHz, initially support 2 TB of DDR3 memory and eventually up to 4 TB of DDR3 of memory.  Using up to 4 x 1400W power supplies, due to its dense packaging what it did not offer was the option to exploit EnergyScale allowing users to decrease or increase the processor clock speeds.  The clock speeds were capped at their nominal speeds of 3.72, 3.35 and 3.02 GHz not allowing users to select if one of several options from do nothing to lower or increase based on utilization or lower to a set point and more importantly, increase to the higher rate.  This is free performance – rPerf in the case of AIX.

Focusing on the processor increase, because who the hell wants to run their computers slower, the E850C has a modest increase ranging from 2.5% to 4.6%.  I say modest because the other POWER8 models range from 4% up to 11% <play Tim Allen “grunt” from Home Improvement>.  This modest increase doesn’t matter because the new C model delivers 32 cores at 4.22 nominal increasing to 4.32 GHz, 40 cores at 3.95 nominal increasing to 4.12 GHz and 48 cores at 3.65 nominal increasing to 3.82 GHz.  These speeds are at the high end for every Scale-out server and consistent with on part with the E870C/E880C models.

Putting these performance increases into perspective; comparing nominal rPerf values for the E850 vs E850C show this: 32 core E850C with an increase of 59 rPerf. 40 core E850C with an increase of 88 rPerf and the 48 core E850C delivering a rPerf increase of 113.  By doing nothing but increasing the clock speed, the 48 core E850C is delivering an rPerf increase equivalent to a POWER6 570 with 16 cores.

It hasn’t been mentioned yet but the E850 & E850C uses a 4U chassis. Looking at the 48 core E850C just mentioned, it delivers an rPerf level of 859. Compare this to the 16U POWER7+ 770 (9117-MMD) with 64 cores that delivers only 729 rPerf or going back to the initial 770 model 9117-MMB with 48 cores in a 16U footprint delivering 464 rPerf. Using the MMD values, this is a 4:1 footprint reduction, an 18% increase in rPerf with a 25% reduction in cores – why does that matter? Greater core strength means fewer OS & virtualization licenses & SWMA but more importantly – less enterprise software licensing such as Oracle Enterprise DB.

IBM achieved this a couple of ways. Not being an IBMer, I do not have all of the techniques but by increasing the chip efficiency, increasing the power supplies to 2000W each and moving to DDR4 memory which uses less power.

What else?

Besides the improvement in clock speeds and bumping memory to DDR4, the E850C reduces the number of minimum active cores. Every E850C must have a minimum of 2 processor books; 2×8, 2×10 or 2×12 core  while only requiring 8, 10 or 12 cores being active depending on the model of processor book used.  The E850 required all cores in the first 2 processor books to be active. This change in the E850C is another benefit to clients to get into the “sweet spot” server with a lower entry price.  Same memory activations of 50% of the installed memory or 128 GB whichever is more.

A couple of nice upgrades from the E850 that are now standard. Active Memory Mirroring and PowerVM Enterprise Edition are now standard while still offering a 3 year 24 x 7 warranty (except Japan).

The E850C does not support IBM i, but it does support AIX 6.1, 7.1 and 7.2 (research specific versions at System Software Maps) and the usual Linux distro’s.

Software bundle enhancements over the E850 are:

  • Starter pack for SoftLayer
  • IBM Cloud HMC apps
  • IBM Power to Cloud Rewards
  • PowerVM Enterprise Edition

Even though it isn’t bundled in, consider using IBM Cloud PowerVC Manager, which is included with the AIX Enterprise Edition bundle or à la carte with AIX Standard Edition or any Linux distro.

In summary

The E850C is a power-packed compact package. With up to 48 cores and 4 TB Ram in a 4U footprint, it is denser than 2 x 2U S822’s with 20 cores / 1 TB RAM or the 1 x 4U S824 with 24 cores / 2 TB RAM.  Yes the E870C with 40 cores or the E880C with 48 cores, both with 8 TB of RAM in a single node still require 7U to start with.  If clients require the greatest scalability, performance, flexibility and reliability they should look at the E870C or E880C but for a lower entry price that delivers high performance in a compact solution the E850C delivers the complete package.

 

Not on the Dell/EMC Bandwagon. More of the same. OpenPOWER changes the game!

Reading articles about the two companies consummation on 9/7/16 around social media yesterday, one would think the marriage included a new product or solution which was revolutionizing the industry.  I haven’t heard of any but  I do know that both companies have continued to shed employee’s and sell off assets not core to the go-forward business to capture critical capital to fund the massive $63B deal.  They will also continue to evaluate products from both Dell & EMC’s traditional product portfolios to phase out, merge, sell or kill due to redundancies and other reasons.  It just happens. For them to say otherwise is misleading at best.  Frankly, it hurts their credibility when they deny this as there are examples already of this occurring.

Going forward I do not see how the combined products of Dell, which at its core sell commodity Intel servers that are not even best of breed, but rather the low-cost leader paired with the high-end products from EMC, which had high development cost will be any different on 9/8/16 than it was on 9/6/16.  EMC’s problem of customers moving away from the high margin high-end storage systems to the highly competitive, lower margin All Flash Array products will not be any better for the newly combined company.  This AFA space has many good competitors who offer “Good Enough” features that can offer clients 1) Lower cost 2) Comparable or better features 3) Not a tier-1 player who some customers resist due to feeling they overpay for the privilege to work with them.

About 2 years ago, EMC absorbed VCE with its Converged infrastructure called vBlock, a term I argue it is not but instead is a Integrated Infrastructure built on VMware, Cisco UCS and EMC Storage.  VMware & EMC storage offer nothing unique. UCS is unique in the Intel space but with the messy split from the VCE tri-union and now VCE who is placing a lot of emphasis on their own hyper-converged offerings as well as products from Dell due to this new found marriage.  It only makes sense to de-emphasize Cisco from a VCE solution and start promoting Dell products.  This goes from using the leader in Intel blade solutions to the “me-too” Dell products which is average in a field of “Good Enough” technology whose most notable feature is its low cost.

As I listen to the IBM announcement today that include 3 new OpenPOWER servers I can’t help but wonder how much longer Dell’s low cost advantage will remain.  Not sure what they will use for SAP HANA workloads requiring > 4 socket Intel servers since HPE just bought SGI, primarily for its 32 socket Intel server/technology.  I guess they could partner with Lenovo on their x3950 or with Cisco on their C880 which I believe they actually OEM from Hitachi. Dell servers are woefully inadequate with regard to RAS features; not just against POWER servers but even against other Intel competitors like Lenovo (thanks to their IBM purchase of xSeries), Hitachi and Fujitsu who all have stronger offerings relative to what Dell offers.   RAS features simply cost more which is why you didn’t see IBM with its xSeries, Hitachi or Fujitsu be volume leaders. This is also why you are seeing more software defined solutions built to mask hardware deficiencies. This in itself has its own problems.

Here is a quick review of today’s announcements. The first server is a 2 socket 2U server built for Big Data hosting 12 internal front facing drive slots.  The next server is a 2 socket 1U server offering almost 7K threads in a 42U rack.  It provides tremendous performance for clients looking for data-rich and dense computing.  The 3rd server is a 2 socket 2U server that is the first commercial system to offer NVIDIA‘s NVLink technology connecting 2 or 4 GPU’s directly to each other as well as to the CPU’s.  Every connection is 160 GB/s bi-directional which is roughly 5X what is available on Intel servers using GPU’s connected to PCIe3 adapter slots.

openpower_family_sept2016

These OpenPOWER systems allow clients to build their own solution or as part of a integrated product with storage and management stack built on OpenStack.  Ideal for Big Data, Analytics, HPC, Cloud, DevOps and open source workloads like SugarCRM, NoSQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL (I like EnterpriseDB for support) or even IBM’s vast software portfolio such as DB2 v11.1.

Pricing for the 3 new OpenPOWER models as well as the first 2 announced earlier in the year is available at Scale-out Linux on page. I recently did a pricing comparison for a customer with several 2 socket Dell servers vs a comparable 2 socket S822LC.  Both the list and web price for the Dell solution were more expensive than OpenPOWER.  The Dell list price was approximately 35% more and the web list price was 10% more and I was using the price as shown on the IBM OpenPOWER page provided in the link in this same paragraph.  Clients looking to deploy large clusters, compute farms or simply want to start lowering infrastructure cost should take a hard look at OpenPOWER.  If you can install Linux on an Intel server,  you have the skills to manage a OpenPOWER server.  Rocket Scientist need not apply!

If you have questions, encourage you to contact your local or favorite business partner.  If you do not have one, I would be happy to work with you.