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!

 

 

HPE; there you go again! Part 1

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.

 

 

Intel Vendors & VMware have a Oracle Problem

Houston, we have a problem!

Intel server vendors Dell, VCE, HPE, Cisco, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Huawei, white box vendor Super Micro and any other server vendor using Intel chipsets have a problem if their customers use VMware to host Oracle Enterprise products (ie Database).

What’s “their” problem

In a nutshell, Oracle’s position is that customers running their Enterprise products like Oracle Enterprise Edition Database,  licensed by core (all cores in the server x 0.5) in a VMware environment must license every core on every server in which that Oracle workload could ever potentially reside managed by vCenter.  Server vendors, VMware, consultants and so on have a vested interest for Oracle to not do this because this Oracle tax is an extreme approach with their licensing terms that concern customers if they are running Oracle on Intel servers for fear Oracle will initiate a LMS audit leading to a substantial license settlement.

Quick Background

In my previous blog I wrote about “Intel; the Great Charade” where I discuss  each new generation of Intel processors having less performance per core than the previous generation.  As you read this and the ones referenced in this article (VCE & HoB) keep this ‘per core’ licensing approach in mind as this topic is central to how Oracle (typically) licenses its enterprise products.  For example, if a clients current server models are Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge era servers and plan to upgrade to the latest generation Broadwell you actually decrease the per core performance while increasing the number of cores per socket (if staying with the same SKU). Meaning 12 Ivy Bridge cores requires a little over 13 rounded up to 14 Broadwell cores to deliver equal performance. You don’t upgrade to get equal performance so you now have to move to a 16 or maybe 18 core SKU to gain additional socket performance or go with a higher frequency & lower core per socket SKU to obtain receive more performance per core….but now do you have enough overall performance?  To summarize my previous blog: It takes more cores from Haswell or Broadwell to equal the performance of the previous generation chips.  Since this increase in performance is at the socket and not with the core or thread (where most databases almost almost always prefer a stronger core vs more cores let alone weaker cores in a socket).  Since Oracle’s license calculation on Intel is to license all of cores in the server x 0.5 you may end up buying 1 or 2 extra Oracle licenses for every upgraded Intel server running VMware so be sure to factor that into your budget.

Who is complaining?

I could write the rest of this blog on this topic alone; around the right and wrong of Oracle’s licensing methods in VMware environments but I’ll defer to the thousands already available on this very topic.  This is not the reason I am writing this blog but to call out the self-serving and irresponsible Call-to-Action from House of Bricks and leader of a major CI player; VCE and to discuss why Oracle has no incentive to stop doing what they are doing.

Chad Sakac, the President of VCE which is the the Converged Infrastructure (CI) arm of EMC and soon Dell as the acquisition of EMC should be complete any day.  He is a regular blogger and in my opinion a master of marketing, technology & motivation.  On August 17, 2016 Chad wrote a blog titled “Oracle, I’m sad about you, disappointed in you, and frustrated with you.” in which he lays out how Intel server customers running Oracle Enterprise products, most often Oracle Enterprise Edition Database, are fed-up with Oracle’s abusive licensing tactics when Oracle Enterprise Edition products are installed and running in VMware.  He passionately pleads years of Oracle licensing frustration on behalf of clients while challenging clients to stand up to Oracle and not let them be bullied anymore.  He admits to selfishly partnering with House of Bricks (HoB), a VCE partner by funding their analysis on this situation.  HoB has been a leading voice in this fight in there own right so receiving compensation from VCE check was the proverbial icing on the cake IMHO as they were fighting the fight anyway.  What is VCE’s angle? They either have, or are losing  business due to clients fear of running Oracle workloads using VMware vSphere & vCenter.  There must be enough business at stake or EMC / VCE is desperate enough (not being critical here, just observing) to force them down this path to take such a in your face approach to Oracle.

House of Bricks, who is VCE’s partner and author of the whitepaper had a generally fair and moderated tone throughout the whitepaper.  That said, I do find they are irresponsible by encouraging VMware customers who are running  Oracle Enterprise Edition products licensed by core/processor (not socket or NUP) to run in configurations which are in direct conflict with Oracle’s standard licensing practices.  I’m not arguing the merits, fairness or legality of those licensing practices so save your comments.

Fight Mr Customer So We Can Sell You More!

Simply stated, Chad Sakac, the President of VCE and House of Bricks are actively encouraging system administrators, DBA’s and IT organizations to not only defend your use of Oracle Enterprise products in VMware environments, VMware clusters and VMware environments managed under vCenter but also to license Intel servers using sub-capacity licensing, using the BIOS to limit access to sockets or cores, only license the cores being used by Oracle.  Do these things and stand up to Oracle.  Do it for you….do it for us….just do it!  Of course, VCE funded the HoB paper but they won’t be funding your legal case (or bills) with Oracle.  All of this “encouragement” while at the same time promoting EMC / VMware / VCE products in lieu of traditional Oracle availability & replication products seems a little disingenuous…maybe….why not just keep your argument on the complaint of Oracle licensing with VMware?.  But instead, among many “do this instead of that” statements such as liminating Oracle RAC and use VMware HA and consider EMC RecoverPoint / SRDF in lieu of Oracle Active Data Guard (ADG).

Multiple agenda’s

Much of the HoB whitepaper feels like a marketing slick for EMC / VCE products. Then to have Chad be the front man out front crying on behalf of all customers seems a little too self-serving.

My Good Buddy Larry

Now back to Oracle….everybody knows I am NO Oracle fan.  A good day is any day I beat Oracle (anybody beats Oracle) or reduces their revenue.  But, with regard to Oracle’s practices on how they license their Enterprise products in a VMware environment, they have ZERO (0) motivation to loosen their licensing rules given Intel’s continued growth in the marketplace – Oracle is in the drivers seat!  Oracle wants customers to buy infrastructure from them running OracleVM with Oracle Linux hosting the Oracle software stack.  Oracle receives ALL of the Sales & Support dollars this way.  In addition to this, Oracle is predisposed to litigate.  Larry likes to fight!  HP and now HPE, SAP, Google (2 suits, going to a 3rd), Rimini Street, Oregon Healthcare, Mars and many more.  The Oracle v Mars case is a recent example of how Oracle goes after customers using their License Management Service (LMS) group to drive license revenue thru audits.  “Mars stated that Oracle was unwilling to “come to a mutually agreeable process” for completing an audit. Oracle then sent Mars a letter stating Mars had materially breached its license agreement”.  The greatest leverage clients have is to move off of Oracle products (hardware & software) to alternative solutions; specifically database variants such as IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server or Open Source alternative PostgreSQL from EnterpriseDB not to mention the many NoSQL alternatives that probably do a far better job.

Alternatives

If VCE really wanted to partner with an enterprise quality commercial-grade database technology to help clients run VMware with sub-capacity licensing for just the servers where the workloads are running and find an alternative to Oracle, they should look at IBM’s DB2 . DB2 is available in multiple editions from a free edition to Advanced Enterprise Server Edition.  What makes it different and better than both Oracle or SQL Server is that AESE, for example, includes many of the products & features that a client desires of Oracle Enterprise Edition products yet have to pay for À la carte.  DB2’s AESE cost $56,210 (list price for 70 PVU) per license which would match up against the Oracle Enterprise Edition portfolio which when you add up those products cost over $225K (Note: DB2 ESE is a level down from AESE, cost less and probably meets 90% of the customers requirements so the story just gets better).  DB2 always includes its first year of maintenance then 20% each year thereafter while Oracle always charges 22% for the first year then 22% each year thereafter.  Of course, DB2 runs 2X faster with Linux on POWER vs Intel. Clients can try it out for free in SoftLayer for 30 days running Linux on a OpenPOWER server.  Since LoP isn’t the topic of this blog, I’ll save that for another day but know that at least both Intel with VMware and IBM POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing with virtualization.

DB2-S822LC-vs-HPDL380

I didn’t write this blog to be a shill for IBM’s DB2 either, it just came to me as I was reading the HoB paper as it felt like they were trying to slyly present SQL Server as a more agreeable alternative to Oracle – maybe they are … either way thought I would mention DB2 for some balance.

There is ONE Platform …

At the end of the day, clients have a choice if they run Oracle products such as PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle Apps, Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) or standalone Oracle Enterprise products like Database, RAC, WebLogic and many others.  Clients can run Oracle on Intel with VMware then surely deal with the risk and issues discussed by Chad and House of Bricks OR clients could run Oracle on the only platform which controls Oracle licensing without all of the consternation, debate and angst; IBM POWER servers running AIX.  For those who have read this far and were begging to say “But POWER servers have a core license factor 2X of  Intel so they cost twice as much”.  Enough please! I may hire House of Bricks to write a paper to put an end to this FUD, myth and farce. With POWER8 outperforming Intel servers generally around 2X per core it eliminates this argument right here. But, since we are talking about licensing a product at the core level it is important to remember that POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing natively, without debate from Oracle.  Last and most importantly, IBM’s Power Hypervisor suite, called PowerVM manages the compute resources more efficiently where it scales the 2X performance per core advantage typically increasing it up to 4X, 8X, 12X, even 20X (your mileage will vary).  This isn’t a performance advantage as much as it is an efficiency statement.  I call it the “Total Cost of Efficiency” as it takes into account the TCA, Performance advantage & Hypervisor efficiency and depending on the discussion, years 2-5 maintenance which is TCO.  I have personally sized, architected and delivered these solutions to customers who have in turn realized these very savings.

Now the Call-to-Action!

If you believe VMware & Intel are a critical part of your business identity that make your products better then continue using them with your Oracle products. You will pay more (compared to POWER) due to lower performance & less efficiency and pay the Oracle tax.  If you view IT as an enabler to your bottom line and use the right tool for the job then give me a call as I can help you as I have helped dozens of others save $100K’s to $M’s with IBM server technology.   Oh, and for those last few sharpshooters who want to remark that IBM servers are more expensive go ahead and save your comment.  First, I’ll shut you down by comparing a proper IBM server with the class of Intel server that you present me.  Next, we won’t go the 1 for 1 server route. As I recently showed a customer a reduction of 24 x Dell servers with 596 cores or 298 Oracle licenses to 7 x POWER8 servers with 168 cores and Oracle Licenses. My 7 servers are far less expensive than your 24 servers  not to mention the infrastructure required to support it (power cables, LAN/SAN cables, switch ports, cooling, etc). What makes me different is I show you how it’s possible to save  significant money running Oracle on IBM servers. What makes Ciber different is we have an Oracle consulting practice to help you implement, migrate or optimize your environment.

Oracle’s at it again – stuffing a card up their sleeve!

Oracle continues its record of having 0 (i.e. ZERO) credibility.  How many times has Oracle been called out for publishing & making statements about competitors solutions that were just flat out wrong leading one to wonder if it is more than the standard competitor FUD and benchmark exaggerations but purposefully meant to mislead.

Take a recent Oracle blog post by @Brian-Oracle at https://blogs.oracle.com/BestPerf/entry/20160317_sparc_t7_1_oltp.  Oracle is hell bent to produce a TPC-C benchmark on a POWER8 server since IBM has not.  I do not work for IBM and have not heard any official reason but have heard they do not see TPC-C as a good benchmark of platform performance which is why you do not see any entries since 2013 by any vendor.

There is a Oracle Marketing troll who posts as @PlinkerTind for this El Reg article http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2016/04/07/open_power_summit_power9/?post_received=2834982#c_2834982 who asks what is IBM scared of.  What he fails to disclose is that IBM would love to run a Oracle benchmark on POWER8 but the software license agreements state if the product is being used for benchmark purposes it requires the approval of the owning company.  Well, Oracle doesn’t permit it except for Oracle benchmarks such as Oracle EBS.  Why would Oracle not want to let IBM conduct a benchmark using Oracle DB? Because it would show what customers see who run it and what prospects wee who evaluate it that POWER controls software licensing; Oracle, DB2, EnterpriseDB, and every other product.  Fewer servers, fewer sockets, fewer cores, etc.
Back to the Oracle blog, author writes “On a per chip basis, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 5.5 times better performance compared to an IBM Power System S824 server”.  Let’s break it down using the authors “vernacular”.  A T7-1, although it is actually 8 x quad core chiplets and not a single 32 core chip as Oracle likes to claim,  yet this author along with the other Oracle marketing trolls refer to a 2 socket S824 & S822 as a 4 chip system – essentially for the Scale-Out servers, they call each socket two chips because of how IBM builds the chip using a Dual Chip Module (DCM) vs the Single Chip Module (SCM) in the Enterprise servers.  Now,  IBM who engineered the chips says it works functionally as 1 chip in 1 socket.   (Ref: IBM POWER8 S824 Redbook http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpapers/pdfs/redp5097.pdf).

So, the Oracle blog authors says the SPARC  32 core chip, by HIS words is 5.5X better performance than the POWER8 S824 server. Thus, 6 cores vs 32 cores or 5.33X.  6 cores because Oracle is comparing Chip to Chip.  Thus, they consider it reasonable and credible to compare their 32 core SPARC T7 chip vs a 6 core POWER8 chip.  That is so disingenuous.
Next, the author chose the 24 core S824 running at 3.52 GHz vs the 4.13 GHz T7-1. Why didn’t Oracle pick the 16 core S824 running at 4.15 GHz?  That way they could call it a 4 chip, 2 socket with 4 cores per chip system vs Oracle’s 32 core, single socket, single chip (that is really 8 x quad chiplets) system. Using the 16 core S824 would give the SPARC T7-1 server 2X more cores allowing for easier extrapolation?  Oracle did set the ASMI mode to favor performance but it is the 2nd best option to use (there is a better option but since Oracle doesn’t know the platform they either chose not to or didn’t know what to select). Even with this set, their is still a clock frequency discrepancy.  Now, I’m not hung up on the clock frequency because most Intel servers have lower clock frequency.  Unlike Intel which cannot run all of their cores at the higher clock frequency like POWER there are times when the clock frequency comparison being made is vastly different can’t be helped.  That’s not the case though with POWER.  IBM offers servers ranging from 3.0 to 4.35 Ghz making it easy for them to choose one that makes the comparisons as close as possible.

Next the author says “On a per core basis the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 3% better performance per core compared to an IBM Power System S824 server.”. I’ll just refer to the above paragraph where the T7 clock frequency was running 17% higher.  Then he says “At the system level, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 1.4 times better performance compared to the IBM Power System S824 server.”. 24 cores times 1.4 = 33.6……hmmm. You tested a 1 socket vs a 2 socket server running with a 17% higher clock.  I point out the 1 vs 2 socket server because with POWER  processors I would expect a single socket to be slightly better performing than a 2 socket than a 4 socket than a > 4 socket server.  Taking into account other factors that do not require the memory & I/O provided by those extra sockets.  Again, if they want to test on a per core basis that can be done with any system. If they wanted to test on a per socket basis then do it with the T7-1 and even use the S824 but only use 12 cores.  Otherwise, compare a T7-2 vs a S824 which would be 64 vs 24 cores.

Read the comments for an article about POWER9 at AnandTech http://www.anandtech.com/show/10230/ibm-nvidia-and-wistron-develop-new-openpower-hpc-server-with-power8-cpus-nvlink.   Look for comments by @Brutalizer who is an Oracle Marketing troll.  He gets crushed by the the commenters as they rightly point out that Oracle ran the Oracle benchmark on the POWER8 server with no disclosure on the full details of how the server was configured; How many DIMMs were used?  Filling all 16 DIMM slots makes a difference than just 8 or 4 DIMMs since all 3 configuration options can achieve the configured 512 GB Ram. Although a few tunables were disclosed as if to demonstrate that Oracle made an effort to give the POWER server a fair shake, I question the ones used. I won’t disclose what I would have done differently as I like that Oracle looks like petty fools in their effort to show Oracle on POWER8 performance. If they were interested they would authorize IBM to run their own benchmark – or accept my POWER challenge where we run a customers workload on each of our servers.  Alas the cowards have yet to acknowledge it let alone accept it.

The lesson I hope readers learn from my blog is not that Oracle software and hardware products are bad, they are not at all.  However, they have this seemingly uncontrollable need to overstate and mislead customers by any effort to get customers to consider and god forbid buy their products.  Yes, in this poker game we all play there is bluffing and smart play but with most vendors it is within the rules.  With Oracle they always seem to have a card stuffed in their sleeve as they seem incapable of competing fairly making them resort to unscrupulous behavior such as the Oracle blog.

P.S.  I do not accept any of the results obtained by Oracle testing the S824.  If IBM conducted the same test running Oracle with AIX on POWER8 I am confident the results would make the S824 look far better than stated by Oracle.  One can only draw the conclusion that Oracle optimized their T7-1 to achieve the most favorable results.  IBM should have the same opportunity.  Of course, my Power challenge to Oracle is the real-world test using actual customer data.  Maybe this blog will get Oracle to man-up!

Shiny objects & Distractions

Yet another blog on the non-stop marketing tactics by Oracle where they attempt to deflect attention on their many product weaknesses and try to create differentiation where there is none.

This latest attempt by Oracle has them promoting the performance of Oracle 12c over SAP HANA for the SAP Business Warehouse Enhanced Mixed Workload benchmark also known as BW-EML.  Oracle promotes this claim at https://www.oracle.com/corporate/features/oracle-powers-sap.html with a whitepaper posted at http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database/in-memory/overview/benefits-of-dbim-for-sap-apps-2672504.html available for download as a pdf.

Oracle is known for making wild claims only supported by marketing claims and “Oracle internal tests”.  This is important to understand as these claims may entice customers to consider products that have not undergone any critical analysis.  One example is Oracle’s Exadata product. The Exadata name has become synonymous with Oracle’s family of integrated appliances that include discrete solutions: database, application  and data warehouse. The Exadata database solution  has zero published benchmarks yet the web is riddled with claims by Oracle on its superior performance over competitive offerings. Oracle is now claiming they have submitted their Oracle 12c in-memory database results to SAP for review and publishing for the BW-EML benchmark which SAP has yet to do.

It appears since SAP has chosen to not publish Oracle’s 12c result that Oracle is taking matters into its own hand to publish their BM-EML result since SAP is not. I have no knowledge if SAP is choosing to sit on the results but I do know this; the reason you see very few industry benchmarks on non-Oracle systems using Oracle database (enterprise edition) is for the same reason Oracle is accusing SAP of doing.  As part of Oracle’s end user license agreement they require any user who publishes performance results to submit the results to Oracle for review and approval.  If Oracle does not approve the result that user / vendor cannot publish it.  A good example where Oracle has limited their competition from publishing benchmark results using Oracle database is with the SAP Tier-2 Sales & Distribution benchmark.  Benchmark results are available at http://global.sap.com/solutions/benchmark/sd2tier.epx.  I checked yesterday (Sept 19th) and could not find any current results using Oracle Enterprise Edition database on any non-Oracle or non-SPARC servers (ie Fujitsu has results on their SPARC servers) since a HP result from around 2008.

Oracle is trying to convince SAP customers their 12c database product is relevant for in-memory Business Warehouse workloads. They further tout superior performance with a 2 socket X5-2 server using Intel’s Haswell E5_v3 chipset totaling 36 cores.  Oracle typically achieves higher results by throwing significantly more cores and memory than required by competitors and definitely not by innovation; whether that competition is IBM POWER or Intel.  One of Oracle’s “Go to” tactics is to mask and manipulate the details  stating things like “Our (Oracle) 8 processor beats IBM’s 8 processor by 2X”.  We saw that when they compared their SPARC T5-8 to a Power7+ 780 server. Of course, the devil is in the details and those details are this.  Oracle historically refers to their chips as sockets and  processors (ie the full chip that plugs into the motherboard socket) and this is whats used in published results.  They use these names interchangeably.  IBM tends to use socket when referring to a model of server such as “The S824 is a 2 socket server” or “The E850 is a 4 socket server”.   In almost all cases they refer to performance results using cores or processors which are used interchangeably. IBM tends to use chip or socket synonymously and cores or processors as the component that makes up that socket/chip.  Using Oracle terminology, the T5-8 system is configured with 8 processors of 16 cores each totaling totaling 128 cores.   This specific  IBM Power7+ 780 server only has 32 cores though yet Oracle chose to compare their 128 core server to it.  Why are you asking? This model of Power7+ server uses a 4 core per socket configuration.  Each server chassis of which it can scale from 1 to 4 chassis scales from 4 to 16 sockets or 16 to 64 cores.  This is how Oracle marketing claims 8 socket vs 8 socket which they publish their results.  As you can see though, they do not divulge to the reader that it is really 128 SPARC cores vs 32 Power7+ cores.  They leave it to the reader and consumer to figure this out taking no responsibility that they are intentionally trying to deceive and distort the facts.

With this Oracle 12c result for the SAP BW-EML benchmark you will note several areas of omission and possible deception. They do not publish any pricing data for using the in-memory feature. Using list price will easily run close to $200K per core and of course depends on whether a few features are chosen or not.  Oracle claims their 1 server with 36 cores beats all others by 2X.  They state in the whitepaper this one server is actually one of 8 database servers in the Exadata X5-2 appliance and not a single 2 socket 36 core standalone server. This is very important to understand as it drives up the software by a factor of 8.  There are a few ways to reduce their Oracle licensing but this is not disclosed and I would argue not likely used.  Since the server used is part of a 8 node Exadata, it would require software be licensed for 8 servers times 36 cores times the Intel licensing factor of 0.5.  This equals 144 Oracle licenses which is multiplied by the licensing cost (let’s just use $200K list price for easy math – it is what it is and is not entirely fixed) $200K which comes to a grand total of $28,800,000. Yes, that is $28.8M USD. Of course, Oracle charges an annual maintenance fee that is 22% times the license price. For this example the customer would pay $6,336,000 per year and every year.

Next, Oracle claims to have used just 1 x 36 core X5-2 server for this workload yet it also has the storage that comes with the 8 server solution. They could have just as easily used their standalone X5-2 server in their attempt to achieve these results. Furthermore, why did they not use the 2 node Oracle Database Appliance (ODA)?  It seems obvious they need the full Exadata infrastructure which heavily relies on SSD based PCIe adapters to achieve the desired performance.  The SSD heavy architecture has become the default configuration on Exadata from previous solutions which relied on high capacity but slower 10K rpm HDD as it delivers higher performance and higher margins.  Don’t forget Oracle shifts some of the database processing and subsequent cost from the DB servers to the storage servers then charge $20k per disk…yes, I said per “disk”.  Suckers line up to the left and those who have done their homework are already running Oracle workloads on IBM’s Power servers.

SAP has been clear in their roadmap.  They are moving toward an architecture developed around HANA.  I can’t blame Oracle entirely for touting their product as a viable database alternative.  IBM’s DB2 with BLU technology is a superior product to Oracle Database Enterprise Edition that runs even faster on Power8 (over SPARC & Intel) and is even less expensive.  Yet, IBM has posted an SAP HANA result running Linux on POWER8 servers for the BW-EML benchmark.  If customers wants to see how DB2 on Power8 performs, they are welcome to view the SAP Tier-2 S&D Benchmark mentioned above for results that are 2X+ greater than Intel and anywhere from 3-4X greater than SPARC per core. Customers are absolutely free to choose Oracle or DB2 for their BW workloads but if they plan to stay with SAP for the long term they are probably investigating, evaluating if not implementing HANA technologies already.

The way Oracle could impress SAP shops would be to publish a HANA result on their infrastructure solutions.  They could always use that opportunity to co-sell the benefits of their own software solutions as better alternatives but as usual, they bust-out on stage holding up their shiny object making  wild claims in their non-stop attempt to distract customers.

I’ll close with this. As part of their performance claims they state they achieve 2X more navigation steps using a single 36 core Oracle X5-2 servers (remember it is really 1 of 8 DB servers + all the storage servers). Glad to see Oracle trying to compare per core performance.  I’ll be on the look out for other examples of their newly found realization that performance and cost is largely dependent on per core performance and not just the sum of excessive cores like the T5-8 or M6-32.  Expect the SPARC M7  with 32 sockets of 32 cores per chip to be released in 2016.  It’s really 8 clusters of 4 core chiplets or essentially two of the old Sun ROCK chips IMO.  The latency due to traffic across the interconnects for coherency and data will be unbelievable (horrible). Would not be surprised that for the few benchmarks they do publish that they M7 models with fewer chip to minimize the cross chip penalty.  Then again, they may go with the 1024 core model hoping it can best a 192 core Power8 E880 servers.  I’m guessing it will be close.

Are you keeping score?

However, unlike Oracle and Intel, who in their own ways are both becoming very rigid and proprietary. IBM is going in the opposite direction by actually opening up their own technology as well as embracing the open source community.

Are you keeping up with all of the changes taking place with IBM’s Power portfolio over the last 2 years?  How could you as there have been so many changes to just about every area on the platform.  Just in case, let’s review some of the features and changes.  Now, since I don’t work at IBM, don’t have a magic 8 ball or a direct line to Doug Balog, IBM’s Power General Manager there is a chance I will get something wrong and I’m sure I’ll leave a few things out.  What I will do though, is not talk about any upcoming products – which between you and me – They will be freakin awesome!

  • Power8 processors support both Big Endian and Little Endian
  • Little Endian offerings are with Linux: RedHat 7.1, SUSE 12 & Ubuntu 14 & 15
  • Big Endian offerings are AIX, IBM i as well as Linux (SUSE 11 & RedHat 6.5 & 7.1)
  • PowerVM supports both BE and LE Operating Systems (concurrently)
  • IBM introduced an alternative hypervisor to PowerVM; an open source alternative based on KVM
  • PowerKVM on Scale-Out models support both BE and LE Linux
  • Still supports the use of VIOS for PowerVM environments with HMC enhancements
  • Uses Kimchi to manage PowerKVM environments
  • SR-IOV adapters (finally) available
  • Nice set of quad port Ethernet (2×10+2x1Gb) adapters available for AIX & Linux workloads
  • 40 Gb RoCE adapters
  • PowerVC based on OpenStack replaces Systems Director (portions of it)
  • PowerVC integrates with VMware’s vRealize allowing it to manage & provision Power Systems
  • Gen 2 of a Converged solution called PurePower using S822(L) servers + V7000 + Mellanox switches
  • 2X performance increase over Power7. Greatest increase that I recall from 1 gen to the next
  • 3X greater memory bandwidth for Scale-Out over Power7/7+ Entry servers
  • Just under 2X greater memory bandwidth for Power8 Enterprise vs Power7/7+ Enterprise servers
  • 3X greater I/O bandwidth for all Power8 servers over all Power7/7+ servers
  • 2X more L2 cache
  • Addition of L4 cache
  • SMT8 that is dynamic per VM unlike Intel with their static 2 way Hyperthreading
  • Up to 1 TB Ram per socket
  • Centaur buffer supports DDR3 & DDR4 memory
  • Scale-Out servers (S & L models) use Enterprise Memory just like the Enterprise servers
  • Significantly more Fault Isolation Registers & Checkers
  • Significant reliability enhancements to processor, cache, memory & I/O subsystems
  • Gen3 I/O Drawers with more PCIe slots per drawer
  • Gen3 PCIe slots (x8 & x16) in all servers
  • Available split backplane in ALL Scale-out servers – YEAH!
  • Significant increase in the number of internal Scale-Out server disk slots: 8 – 18 slots
  • 6 or 8 x 1.8″ disk slots (model dependent) using IBM’s Award Winning (Is it?) Easy Tier
  • Hot swap PCIe slots in ALL models
  • Scale-Out internal disk RAID cache increased from 175 MB in Power7 to 7 GB
  • PowerVM, PowerKVM and RHEV hypervisor options
  • Bare-Metal server option (certain models)
  • Enhanced Voltage Regulator Modules (VRM)
  • Enhanced EnergyScale
  • Some models lowered their software tier from Large to Medium and Medium to Small
  • Some servers received improved warranties
  • Power Enterprise Pools with Mobile Cores & Mobile Memory
  • Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL’s) on E850, E870 & E880
  • L model servers that use PowerVM is called PowerVM Linux Edition equivalent to Enterprise Edition
  • Supported with SAP HANA
  • All non-L models supported with EPIC
  • All Enterprise servers supported with EPIC
  • Delivering roughly 2X performance increase over Intel Haswell EP/EX processors
  • Power8 has 3X greater memory bandwidth than Intel Haswell EP memory in Lock-Step mode
  • Power8 has 2.5(ish) greater memory bandwidth than Intel Haswell EX memory in Lock-Step mode
  • Power8 has 2X greater L1 cache
  • Power8 has 2X greater L2 cache
  • Power8 has 2.5X greater L3 cache
  • Intel has no L4 cache
  • Intel has significantly fewer Checkers
  • Intel does not use anything similar to Fault Isolation Registers
  • Intel 1 & 2 socket servers do not support Machine Check Architecture (MCA)
  • Only Intel 4 socket & greater servers support Machine Check Architecture (MCA)
  • Intel rates their memory capabilities in performance mode which has limited RAS capability
  • For Intel to increase memory resiliency, must use lock-step mode which decreases performance
  • For Intel to increase memory resiliency, can use memory mirroring reducing memory capacity by 1/2
  • All Power8 servers have at least 1 Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI)
  • Several CAPI solutions are available today with more coming (very soon – that’s the only hint)
  • Using IBM’s Advanced ToolChain delivers an enhanced SDK & GCC delivering increased results
  • IBM optimized software stack for Power8 delivering greater results per core
  • Optimized ISV stack for Power8 delivering greater results per core
  • ISV’s like MariaDB, WebFocus Express, Redis Labs, ColdFusion, EnterpriseDB, Magento
  • ISV’s like McObject, Veristorm, HelpSystems, SugarCRM, Zato, OpenPro and many more
  • Guaranteed utilization levels from 65 – 80% depending on the model
  • Backbone of Watson
  • Supports Apache Hadoop & Apache Spark
  • Supports BigInsights
  • Supports internal disks for Big Data
  • Supports superior BD storage option using Elastic Storage Server: S822L & GPFS Native Raid
  • Run DB2 10.5 with BLU Acceleration 2X faster than Intel
  • WebSphere & Cognos faster
  • SPSS faster and many more
  • 150+ members in OpenPower Foundation
  • Blue badged Power based solutions
  • Non-blue-badged Power based solutions available
  • PowerVP is awesome
  • Virtual HMC is coming (was a IBM SOD)

I tried to create an exhaustive list to make the point that IBM is investing, engineering and building game changing technology to help customers solve real solutions. However, unlike Oracle and Intel, who in their own ways  are both becoming very rigid and proprietary.  IBM is going in the opposite direction by actually opening up their own technology as well as embracing the open source community.  The list of ISV’s, the use of OpenStack, the use of a open source hypervisor and the most recent announcement whereby VMware’s vRealize will be able to provision & manage Power Systems is a testimony to the change taking place within IBM and with customers.  Expect more of the above and more beyond this. Expect it to blow your mind.

I may come back over time and enhance this list if I get froggy.  Of course, if you are a customer you could always invite me to speak with you and I would be happy to discuss any and all of this.

What would you like to see in addition to the extensive list above?

Tired of Oracle’s exorbitant pricing? Try IBM’s DB2 v10.5 on Power8!

Feeling choked by Oracle licensing costs? Understand the game the industry uses to mislead consumers to buy more hardware and software vs the only platform that controls server and software cost proliferation.

Why do so many customers get drawn into the Oracle camp? I do not want to take anything away from the Oracle technology right now – we can have that discussion on another day.  Right now, my inaugural blog is about the cost and packaging of Oracle products – primarily Oracle database products.

Are customers getting tired of the Oracle bullying and overpricing?  Just yesterday I spoke with a customer discussing the benefits of DB2 v10.5 and Power8 technologies.  I shared experiences and successes of other customers discussing how it was common for x86 workloads to require 10X more cores compared to Power servers.  This of course directly impacts the TCA / TCO in that it is about 5X less expensive to run Oracle software on Power – you don’t hear this from Oracle sellers and yo wouldn’t expect x86 sellers to say it but they say other things like Power is so expensive – oh, and that it is going away …. so you had better buy x86 and Linux (Oracle Linux of course).  This particular customer I was talking with is now running Oracle on x86 now claiming it is killing their budgets.  They add a new workload and they have to add more servers which means more Oracle licenses.  Upgrade the servers from Sandy Bridge technology to Ivy Bridge and all they do is add more cores but little performance.  Of course, this adds more Oracle licenses and cost – Larry has a mortgage to pay….on 19 or so Malibu homes!

I have a large customer who is seeing upwards of 70% compression in their DB2 v10.5 environment – up from 60% when they first migrated from Oracle several years ago.  It reduced their licensing and maintenance cost significantly not to mention the cost of storage and storage expansion.  They have said it has given their DBA’s a quality of life they never had before. Their enterprise database environment is more stable now than it was before when running Oracle.

What is amazing is when you look at all of the technology that comes with DB2 Advanced Enterprise Server Edition (AESE) which would be in the class of product like Oracle Enterprise Edition but includes all of the features that you pay for with Oracle.  Plus, DB2 also includes the first year of maintenance with each year afterward just 20% not 22% like Oracle which you pay in the first year as well as the cost of all the software licenses.  Oracle will say that AESE is more expensive but the reality is they charge based on PVU which is 70 for a 2 socket, 100 for a 4 socket (this would be equivalent to the 1.0 for Oracle if normalized) and 120 for the Enterprise class servers (6 & more sockets whether x86, SPARC or Power).  This PVU rating system is designed to charge based on the consolidation and feature capability.  The best way I can say it is that the 2 socket is Entry Level, the 4 socket is mid-range and the high-end is like the Lexus of servers in that you expect significant RAS, performance, consolidation, virtualization and other features not found on the smaller models.

You calculate the cost by taking the  number of cores needed for the workload times the PVU rating times the PVU cost of the product, in this case DB2 AESE v10.5.  Oracle is different as they favor platforms that are either their own servers or servers like x86 that use more software licenses – that’s a company you can trust!

DB2 includes their version of RAC, Active Data Guard, Compression, Tools, Tuning and many more items not to mention IBM’s column in-memory product called BLU — all of the items that you pay for with Oracle but are included with DB2 v10.5.

See the complete feature list for AESE at the following link to compare each DB2 v10.5 Edition.  From the Advanced Enterprise Server Edition discussed here to the Community Express Edition.

Example List of Features:

  • DB2 Database Partitioning Feature
  • IBM DB2 pureScale Feature
  • Row Compression
  • Adaptive Compression
  • Intelligent Mining
  • Workload Management
  • Continuous Data Ingest
  • Change Data Capture (CDC)
  • Unstructured Text Analysis
  • Cubing Services
  • Accessing federated data in DB2 for i or DB2 for z data servers
  • Accessing federated data in non-IBM data servers, except accessing federated data in Oracle databases through SQL Warehousing Tool
  • SQL Replication with DB2 for i or DB2 for z data servers
  • SQL Replication with non-IBM data servers
  • Column-organized tables
  • HADR
  • DB2 Connect
  • Cognos
  • Infosphere
  • Memory / sockets / cores / storage – unlimited
  • DB2 Governor
  • DB2 Advanced Copy Services
  • DB2 merge backup
  • Oracle compatibility
  • Query parallelism
  • Replication Tools
  • Spatial Extender
  • Time Travel Query
  • And more …

DB2 has different pricing model options – by core using PVU’s, by the size of the database regardless of the number of cores and even RVU which is to tie the number of licenses required, measured in RVUs, to the utilization of the software or the resources the software manages.

to tie the number of licenses required, measured in RVUs, to the utilization of the software or the resources the software manages. – See more at: http://blogs.flexerasoftware.com/elo/2011/05/is-ibm-ditching-the-processor-value-unit-pvu-software-license-metric.html#sthash.GGdDp6Hv.dpuf.  They also have a COD feature which lets you buy DB2 license for use on a daily basis so you don’t have to buy them forever like Oracle – that is a great feature.

HADR which is DB2’s improved version of Active Data Guard (ADG).  It is no cost if the remote site is “cold”.  It requires a token 100 PVU licenses at the remote site if “warm” and if the site is “Hot”, it would require full licensing.  Oracle charges full licensing for warm and hot.

The DB2 AESE licenses also come with 5 licenses of Cognos, 10 licenses of Infosphere and “Use Limited” DB2 Connect licenses.

When Oracle DBA’s are emotionally ready to set aside their feelings (I love Ford) and ready to test drive a Chevy they will find that it is nearly identical and can begin administering a DB2 environment immediately.

Taking these database benefits that come with DB2 v10.5 and factoring in the cost benefits listed below why would customers A) Consider Oracle database  B) Continue using Oracle database?

The following table which I borrowed from the blog of Connor O’Mahony shows all of the tremendous features that are included in the AESE version of v10.5 which also includes the first years maintenance.  When maintenance starts in year two it is just 20% vs 22% for Oracle.

Functionality DB2 Advanced Ent. Edition Price
Core Database DB2 Enterprise Server Included
Data Compression Storage Optimization Included
Disaster Recovery HADR Included
Advanced Security Adv. Access Control Included
Data Partitioning Table Partitioning Included
Administration Optim Database Admin. Included
Development Optim Development Studio Included
Performance Tuning Optim Performance Manager Included
Cluster pureScale Included
Active/Active Rep. Q-Replication with DB2 Included
Column Organized BLU Included
Total $66,800

The following table shows the equivalent products from Oracle.  Note how most of them have an associated cost plus their 22% maintenance cost just to buy the license.  UPDATE: Aug 02, 2014 (Adding details for Oracles In-Memory feature) The latest feature which adds cost is the Column organized feature  called “In-Memory” that is built-in to Oracle  Enterprise Edition database.  Even though it is built in to Oracle Enterprise Edition like BLU is to DB2, Oracle charges and licenses separately at $23,000 per core or with the first years maintenance of 22% that would make it $28,060 per core – ouch!   Looking at my original statement prior to this update which follows is that it is both prophetic but sad as I was spot on.  “One thing we know is that it WILL cost money plus 22%!  Larry has to buy airplane fuel for his airline in Hawaii and that’s not cheap!”.

Functionality Equivalent Oracle Software Price
Core Database Oracle Enterprise Edition $57,950
Data Compression Advanced Compression $14,030
Disaster Recovery Active Data Guard $14,030
Advanced Security Label Security $14,030
Data Partitioning Partitioning $14,030
Administration Oracle Enterprise Manager No charge
Development Internet Dev Suite $7,076
Performance Tuning Diagnostics Pack $6,100
Cluster Oracle RAC 28,060
Active/Active Rep. Golden Gate $21,350
Column Organized In-Memory $28,060
Total $204,716

With the cost for all of these “Add-On’s” that many customers use, especially on x86 servers and for sure on Oracle’s ExaData product, Oracle is now just 3X more expensive than DB2.   But, each year the annual maintenance cost will be more; $36,916/core for Oracle vs $13,360/core for DB2.  Looking at your server options to increase the efficiency of the software investment there are two options – x86 and Power.  I am not a “Z” guy so feel free to tell me it is a viable option as well – I’m happy to learn more on this.

Oracle will claim SPARC but they have a hodge podge of virtualization and a history of changing platforms. T5 is a respectable chipset but unless Oracle can drive significant revenues with the platform I am not sure it has a long term future.  I see them mostly using SPARC and Solaris for it’s “mindshare”…it’s fanboi’s – hey, I’m a Solaris fan by the way.  I worked at Sun for 10 years and was an instructor in the U.S. Army at Ft Huachuca focusing on SunOS and Solaris in the mid 90’s.  Oracle’s focus (today) is on producing inexpensive white box x86 servers as a delivery vehicle for voluminous quantities of expensive software.  They recently entered into an agreement with Dell where I expect Dell to begin providing their no-innovation x86 servers to Oracle as part of that partnership.  Win-win for both as Oracle can shed any engineering and manufacturing cost while Dell increases their volume business.

Intel’s x86 with Linux delivers improved stability and scalability for an otherwise deficient platform compared to the Power platform.  Where Linux makes x86 better, Power makes Linux better for example.  Although Linux is an option on Power running in both Big Endian (right ordered) and now Little Endian (left ordered or traditional x86) modes – Oracle does not run with Linux on Power.  DB2 does but does not yet deliver the BLU functionality.   The traditional commercial operating systems are IBM i (OS/400 – the original integrated system) and AIX.  Both of these OSes provide enhanced security, scalability, virtualization and tighter integration with the platform – makes sense since IBM owns the IP for all of it.  Unlike x86 where the chipset comes from Intel, motherboard from a vendor, SAN adapter from a vendor, Ethernet card from a vendor, OS from a vendor, virtualization from a vendor, HA from a vendor, so on and so on.  Do they work – usually but commodity means their tolerances have to accommodate a multitude of vendors, chipsets and other technology nuances.  Probably runs great most of the time but when it does not it may be a fire drill to get 10 vendors together on a call to troubleshoot.

Oracle charges for all cores on x86 times a licensing factor of .5.  On Power, you only pay for the cores used for Oracle times a licensing factor of 1.0.  Oracle isn’t afraid to manipulate these factors to benefit their sales efforts as seen by them lowering a T series generation to .25 and increasing Intel Itanium from .5 to 1.0.  Even while they claim to have the “World’s Fastest Processor” with the T5 which is a joke and a perfect example of the smoke and mirrors perpetrated by the massive Oracle marketing machine they have not increased it to 1.0 for example to match Power if it is so powerful.  The licensing factor table is either based on a foundation of trust or mistrust.  I’ll let  you decide for yourself which it is.

I will spend more time on future blogs discussing the efficiency of Power servers that contribute to licensing differences between x86 that I have  seen having a core ratio of 10:1 in but more likely 4:1 is common.  Yes, 100 x86 cores to 10 Power cores.  It’s based on the workload, utilization and architecture in the end.  Depending on the server which is hosting that workload like a enterprise class Power7+ 780 this is not just plausible but demonstrable.  With Power8, which was just introduced this past June 2014, it is delivering roughly 2X the performance per core over x86.  I say roughly as there are several key benchmarks like TPC, SPEC, Oracle, SAP, Linpack and others.  I like the SAP S&D 2 Tier benchmark as it tends to exercise the server with a load often similar to customer workloads.

I will purposely not cite the exact numbers – go look them up. I have looked at them 10,000 times.  I just want to give you the general numbers. IBM released a 24 core Power8 result in April 2014 which is a 2 socket server that delivered around 21,000 users and ~115,000 SAPS.  Not bad. NEC released a 60 core Intel Ivy Bridge EX E7 v2 result which is a 4 socket server that delivered 20,800 users with 114,700 users.  The Power8 has 60% fewer cores but comparable results.  There are also other 60 core results from IBM, Dell, Cisco, HP, etc that have more users and SAPS.  Not a whole lot more but more.  The point is that Power8 is a beast.

If we were to use the performance results above from the SAP benchmark for Oracle there would be 60 x86 cores and 30 Oracle licenses.  Take 30 x $204,716 = $$6,141,480.  For the Power server, there are 24 Power8 cores and 24 Oracle licenses.  Take 24 x $204,716 = $4,913,184 which is $1.2M less for Power8.  One point of clarification is on the Power server. If you are not running Oracle RAC the cost would be the cost of the database only at $57,950 per core which lowers both the TCA and TCO even more.  Example of 24 licenses: 24 x $57,950 = $1,390,800.

Update: Added a table to make the values above easier to visualize

table-1

table-1a

BUT….But, that isn’t the real story is it?  Is it Oracle?  Is it x86 sellers?  I’m about ready to tell the big secret here to bust this open – this will be bigger than when Geraldo opened Al Capone’s safe with America watching in 1986.  The real story is based on the architecture of the solution.  Customers do not and would not deploy a single x86 server.  They are inherently unreliable lacking serviceability features.  They depend on software clustering like Oracle RAC to compensate for their deficiencies. This means more servers, more hardware like adapters, switches, switch ports, software, maintenance, rack space, cooling, advanced skills, etc, etc.

For the above x86 pricing example, that means there would be 2 x 60 core servers totaling 120 x86 cores or 60 Oracle licenses (are you sitting down?).  That is 60 x $204,716 = $12,282,960.  Oh My Gosh!  Seriously!!!  2 little old x86 servers that are supposed to be inexpensive!  Good enough technology!  The next part of the secret is that Power servers are inherently reliable and serviceable.  You typically do not need multiple servers as it is more common to deploy them in standalone configurations for each workload.  Yes, businesses will decide to invest and use something like PowerHA which can be around $3,000 per core vs Oracle RAC at $23,000 per core (that is without the 22% annual maintenance) but even if we double the Power8 number that makes it $9,926,368.  Note the delta between the x86 and the Power8 Oracle pricing is starting to grow – and this is just for presumably 1 workload – okay, maybe 2 (lots of factors here).  Not a stick of hardware has been bought yet.

table-2

table-2a

As Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story is that the Power8 server won’t license all of those cores but the x86 will.  That is how it is done.  For the Power8 server, they will be sized for the workload – pick a number – let’s say 50% representing a 50% utilization.  That is 12 cores are licensed for Oracle out of the 24 active in the server.  That is now $2,456,592 per server.  Note: Remember if you are using just 1 Power server, with no RAC and there are just 12 Oracle licenses it would be 12 x $57,950 = $695,400.  If you used Oracle RAC though, that brings the cost to $4,913,184 for both servers.  I don’t suggest using RAC if high availability is needed unless you have an availability requirement around 5 minutes or less.  PowerHA can support 5 minutes and less but if 5 minutes is the most your business can tolerate then RAC may be required.  If 5 minutes or more is fine then PowerHA is an extremely mature, robust product that is easily deployed with lots of available skills – look for online resources from Shawn Bodily and Michael Herrera.

Vendor

# of x86 servers

Total # licensed Cores in Solution

1st Year Oracle TCA

Total 1st Year Oracle TCA

X86

2

60

$6,141,480

$12,282,960

Power

2

24

$2,456,592

$4,913,184

Difference

$7,369,776

The saving grace for x86 is that Power is expensive, right?  That is what is written all over the blogs!  Some x86 or software seller is out there right now claiming this so it must be true. Or, they could be ignorant of the facts, lying or both – I’m going with both as I have actively seen / heard it.  This is unfortunate as I try to have a sense of humor with my work even though I am passionate but as a Christian I also must live my life with balanced scales (Proverbs 11 or 20 – take your pick) which is frustrating to work in a industry built on exaggeration that encourages overstating capabilities just to get a purchase order.

Reality is – since Power7 the price / performance for Power has gone down.  Price went down 1/2 while performance went up by 4.  Not 4X per core but by form factor.  With Power6, what was a 16U server with 16 cores is now with Power7 a 2U or 4U server with 16 cores.  That previous 16U server could now provide 64, 96 or even 128 cores.  Performance did go up per core as well – depends on what model we are comparing what to what. Not relevant right now.  With Power8 we are seeing even more performance in a footprint.  That 2U and 4U server are now delivering up to 24 cores for the entry level models while performance per core is also up almost 2X over Power7 with the cost down even more.  With the Linux only models on Power8 they actually have x86 price equivalency.  The models that run Oracle which implies AIX are “price comparable” to x86.  When you see the pricing of Oracle above, the cost of the servers begin to be less significant.  What is the price of that 60 core x86 server?  I’d estimate the Power8 server is about the same price or maybe 25 – 40% more.  Depends if it is a blade product where some of the server cost is shifted out of the blade into the chassis. Power pricing includes the OS and virtualization whereas often the cost of x86 is viewed just at the hardware cost of acquisition.  With x86, if you need to add more workloads what will you do?  Add 2 more servers and $10M more in Oracle licensing costs + 22% for maintenance every year for the rest of your life – Larry needs a new yacht – every year!  With the Power8 server, you could add another 12 core workload on the same server.  So, you don’t HAVE to buy another server, you can provision the new workload in minutes AND the software licensing is significantly less.

Back to DB2, if you look at using DB2 instead of Oracle on the Power8 server you will get more performance per core which means you probably won’t need 12 cores but maybe 6, 7 or even 8.  But, for purposes of our discussion let’s stay with 12.  12 x $66,800 = $801,600.  If you choose to use clustering like RAC then go with DB2’s pureScale which is actually more reliable, scalable and efficient and included.  So, the cost for 2 servers is $801,600 x 2 = $1,603,200.  (I should add that the DB2 pricing for this 24 core model should actually be less since this pricing is built on a PVU rating of 100 whereas the 2 socket 24 core server has a PVU rating of 70.  That is less than the cost of a single server running Oracle.  Plus, the annual maintenance is just 20%.  Now, you can replicate the database using HADR’s log shipping feature that is included with the DB2 license to something like a IBM Managed Solution Provider. This cost would be $66,800 for 100 PVU’s.

table-3

table-3a

*Reminder the pricing used here relies on a normalized PVU value of 100 to make it comparable to Oracle’s license factor of 1.0 for Power. The 2 socket server used in the table above would actually have a PVU rating of 70 which would lower it’s license cost even more increasing the delta between DB2 and Oracle.

What I hope you get out of my inaugural blog is that you don’t have to continue feeding the Oracle machine unless that is what you want – if so that is fine.  If you want options, then consider DB2.  Either way, there is only 1 platform to run your enterprise workloads that scale-out or scale-up with maximum efficiency, security, performance, reliability, availability (hold on – not done yet), serviceability, portability, flexibility, value and quality of service – Power servers.