26 March 2013

Business Intelligence on an Appliance?

Business Intelligence on an Appliance?

DBA Consulting likes to inform you about Bi Appliances. There are several of these appliances. Oracle has it Exalogic and IBM his Pure Systems Analytics series and Microsoft has several Appliances on offer with its software on Dell, HP Appliance racks. There is a constant battle for the fastest Appliance and the most flexibility and virtualization possibilities. It depends on your goal and size of your BI solution what your first choice of Appliance will be. In this blog a small comparison of possibilities of the relatively new IBM Pure System Analytics (a new version of the Netezza product) and Oracle Exalogic are compared.

In one sentence Oracle Exalogic is a rack of up to 30 compute nodes mounted in a rack with InfiniBand backplane and ZFS storage, where each compute node has 2 Intel Xeon x86 CPU’s with 6 cores each. This means that a full rack has a total of 360 cores. All of these individual servers are interconnected with each other via InfiniBand networking with the ability to connect together up to 8 racks of Exalogic or Exadata on one InfiniBand network. Each of these 30 servers has 96 GB of RAM and 64 GB of SSD. Additionally the rack has 60 TB of SAS disk storage to be shared between those 30 servers.

Unlike traditional hardware, customers don’t have the flexibility to select the components they need in this hardware configuration, except to buy a (1) quarter of the rack, (2) half rack, or (3) full rack. Recently Oracle added a forth option – you can now buy one eights of a rack (I guess not a lot of customers went for the full package).

In 2012 IBM has really changed the game by introducing a new kind of integrated system.

IBM PureApplication System comes from the factory with virtualization, cloud software, and middleware, and also operating system hypervisor images installed and configured. By design, its “smarts” include the capabilities found in the IBM Workload Deployer (IWD), with built in redundancy to avoid a single point of failure. 
After you power on the PureApplication System, you can start using all the default patterns provided onboard with the IWD or create your own patterns in minutes and quickly deploy them into compute nodes within the PureApplication System. There is no need to install an operating system or WebSphere Application Server, DB2, WebSphere Extreme Scale or other IBM middleware. All of those components are already configured as patterns and are ready for deployment. When you deploy patterns, the system will place them on the most appropriate compute nodes, considering current workload, CPU, network and memory utilization, as well as other factors for optimal placement of components.
No longer need your deployment? You can easily delete it with a single click. The system will remove all related resources, including virtual guests for database, caching servers, application server, HTTP server and other related resources even if they all run on separate compute nodes. You can also schedule automatic removal of the deployed configuration after a certain period of time – just to make sure that those test environments do not sit there forever doing nothing. What is even better is that PureApplication System provides self-service user portal with an access control list so that those who are authorized can deploy their applications and patterns from the simple browser-based user interface (or make an API call) and not even have to bother the IT department for deployment or installation help.
In contrast, Oracle Exalogic does not come with any middleware installed. The user must log in to the Oracle Software Delivery website, download the correct version of Oracle Fusion Middleware, and install and configure all of it from scratch on the selected Exalogic compute nodes. User must be aware of the workload on the system and manually pick appropriate compute nodes for installation and deployment. One must also install all of the appropriate prerequisite software, JDK, database, fixes, and updates for the WebLogic and other Fusion Middleware components – all manually. There is an option to use command-line installers if you need to install WebLogic on many compute nodes, but you have to create the scripts and you have to run them manually for each compute node that needs to be provisioned.

Here is an excellent six-minute video overview of the new IBM PureApplication System by Jason McGee.

Here is the summary of comparison of Exalogic and IBM Pure System Analytics.

Here is a quick summary comparison of IBM and Oracle systems that are approximately similar in compute power, however if you look at specifics, you will notice that in every case IBM configuration has more speed, storage, capacity:

* – please note that the cost of both systems above is calculated using list prices and includes comparable software configuration.

* – HDD space is a usable capacity after formatting, not raw capacity as it ships (IBM’s raw capacity is 80 TB, Oracle provides 60 TB raw capacity).

As you may have noticed, the PureApplication System has newer generation processor, more cores in large configuration, significantly more RAM per compute node, more HDD space, more SDD space, yet it uses less power and cost almost half of what Exalogic system when you factor in the cost of the software. I was quite conservative with the cost calculation and gave Oracle some slack to reduce their already astronomic cost.

For the cost comparison I have used US list prices (no vendor discounts assumed). The cost for both systems includes hardware cost plus the license cost of the software for the application server and the database assuming that about two-thirds of the system runs the application server and about one-third runs a database. I will discuss cost comparison in much more detail in a future post. In the meantime, please send me email if you would like to understand the pricing comparison in details.

Not shown in the table above is the High Performance configuration of the IBM PureApplication System, that has to have more than one Exalogic boxes to match its power, but is delivered in a single rack by IBM:

Does this mean that this is the final story, no far from it. There is constant competition by IT vendors and Oracle has since added a virtualization option and a new version of Exadata X3 and some other improvements can be expected. 

But so far it looks at present we can conclude that IBM with over 100 years of business machines can still be regarded as the pioneer and has a advantage over Oracle on specs and performance.  This competition will continue and we can say that expertise in house at the customer site and BI needs do continue to be important points in the decision process of what vendor product to choose. Please contact DBA Consulting for more information on this subject.

Drs. Albert Spijkers
DBA Consulting
web:            www.dbaconsulting.nl
blog:            DBA Consulting blog
profile:         DBA Consulting profile
email:          info@dbaconsulting.nl



  1. Now everyone have to concentrate on quality instead of quantity and create unique and readable content instead of publishing same content in many places to get rankings.

    Ryan Chute

  2. Love your blog! I've been doing a lot of research into Business intelligence and BI applications, this has really helped. Thanks!