Oracle Implements Xserve RAID Internally; Endorses Apple [UPDATED]

Oracle today endorsed Appleis Xserve RAID as one of a handful of storage solutions supported and recommended for its Resilient Low-Cost Storage initiative (RLCS). In addition, the company announced that it had chosen Xserve RAID to expand its own storage network using RLCS.

In a briefing with The Mac Observer (TMO), Alex Grossman, Director of Hardware Storage for Apple, said that using Xserve RAID, Oracle had quadrupled the number of users it could support on its storage network for 1/3 the cost of the Fibre Channel storage solution originally considered, something confirmed by Oracle in a white paper for Oracle OpenWorld.


RLCS is an Oracle-specific low-cost storage array, which is effectively a form of grid storage. Rather than using a monolithic storage solution (such as a high performance storage tier), grid storage allows a network approach that distributes data flow across a number of smaller hard drives. This is similar to grid computing which distributes computational tasks across a number of computers instead of relying on a mainframe or other single computer solution.

Oracleis RLCS certifies a low-cost storage array for use with Oracle 10g. Oracle is specifically targeting RLCS for use with data warehouses, low volume databases, and Flash Recovery Areas (lower-volume data flow across a database).

One of the advantages of grid storage is that serial ATA-based hard drive arrays can be used, a much cheaper solution than using monolithic storage solutions. In addition, such solutions are more easily scalable as more Xserve RAIDs can be added to the grid as needed.

Apple Performance

Appleis Alex Grossman told TMO that Apple and Oracle worked for a year on certifying Xserve RAID with RLCS. This is a comparatively quick process, especially when considering that Apple has been in the Enterprise storage business for less than two years.

Mr. Grossman said that initial testing by Oracle led to some incredulity on the kinds of performance numbers that they were seeing from the Xserve RAID because serial ATA arrays had historically not performed as well as Xserve RAID was performing.

"We gave Oracle some performance numbers," said Mr. Grossman, "and they said iNo way.i We told them to test it themselves, and they came back to us and said iWe need to run these numbers again, because theyire way too good.i"

Repeated testing, however, backed up both Appleis performance claims and Oracleis own initial testing. According to Mr. Grossman, this caused Oracle to take a new look at ATA-based storage solutions, including Appleis Xserve RAID, which is what gave birth to notion of low-cost storage for Oracle databases.

Mr. Grossman says that Appleis approach to making the Xserve RAID as good as it could be for work in such environments as media servers, streaming servers, and video work matched the same kinds of needs that a large database storage solution needed.

Apple was able to enhance that performance further in the Xserve RAID upgrades that were announced in October of this year -- the Xserve RAID units announced at that time included specific enhancements for Oracle 10g.

Apple, the Enterprise storage player

The end result is that Appleis Xserve was one of only a handful of storage solutions endorsed by Oracle, along with such Enterprise stalwarts HP, NetApp, EMC/Dell and Engenio. Perhaps more importantly, at least from Appleis perspective, Oracle chose the Apple solution for its own needs, an important endorsement for a company that is still wedging its foot into the Enterprise and IT door.

"When you think about it, Apple has been in the storage business since January of 2003," Mr. Gossman told TMO. "When you think about storage, you think about EMC, AEC, the two biggest storage vendors in the world....and hereis little Apple in there. And you say ithatis great,i but what does that mean?"

What it means is that Apple is suddenly a player in a new market, which means potential new revenue for a company that needs new markets to grow its computer business. The Enterprise market, however, is one that until recent years has strongly resisted any and all efforts to have anything with an Apple logo on it on the company network. At most, creative departments, and more recently rogue IT admins who began using PowerBooks as mobile Unix platforms, were the lone Apple bastions in most major companies.

Oracle opens IT doors for Apple

"The most significant thing to me," said Mr. Grossman, "is that Oracle had to choose storage for their internal development. They could have chosen anything they wanted internally, and they chose to deploy Xserve RAID."

That makes Oracle Appleis first customer for RLCS, a very important proving ground. Many IT decisions are made not according to what is the best solution, but rather what is the safest decision for those executives, an extension of the "Nobody was ever fired for choosing IBM" mindset. Now Apple can point to Oracle itself for a successful implementation of Xserve RAID for an Oracle 10g database.

Fortunately for Apple, Oracle isnit being shy about its feelings of that implementation. In a white paper released for Oracle OpenWorld, Oracle said:

The per mega-byte cost of this low-cost storage grid is about three times lower than that of the Fibre-based array that was originally considered. The time required for backing up the database onto the Flash Recovery Area has remained the same and the low-cost storage grid has been stable and easy to administer. This low-cost storage implementation has been so successful, both in terms of manageability and performance, that Oracle is rapidly expanding its plans for deploying low-cost storage across multiple divisions and types of applications.

Those words will make many in the IT world sit up and take notice.