09 November 2015

Oracle Sparc M7 Innovation - Leverages “Software in Silicon”

SPARC technology plans emphasize innovation leadership, Oracle's commitment to advanced silicon and Engineered Systems

M7 - Breakthrough Processor and System Design with SPARC M7

Innovation is the life's blood of the technology industry. And technology innovation is a critical factor in business, government, and culture. Oracle is keenly aware of this innovation imperative, not only in theory but in practice, investing considerable time, effort, and resources in driving information technology and its effective implementation forward, first in software then in storage, networking, and hardware.

A significant result of this effort came to light at the Hot Chips conference in Cupertino, Calif., where Oracle disclosed technology details of its upcoming SPARC processor, known as the SPARC M7. The venue is appropriate: This year is the 26th anniversary of the semiconductor industry's showcase for innovative technology, sponsored by the IEEE's technical committee on microprocessors and microcomputers and in cooperation with the ACM's SIGARCH (Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture). This is a milestone for Oracle. With the disclosure of the M7, Oracle will have introduced six new SPARC processors in the four years since it acquired Sun Microsystems. That aggressive timeline reinforces Oracle's commitment to the SPARC architecture, to maintaining its relevance in the technology environment.

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Software in Silicon

The innovations in the new SPARC processor are of a piece with the design philosophy at the heart of Oracle Engineered Systems. It's an approach to enterprise IT architecture that fits together servers, software, and storage into a single, finely-tuned integrated system that runs applications at their optimum performance capability.

That optimization strategy is reflected in the new processor. The M7's most significant innovations revolve around what is known as "software in silicon," a design approach that places software functions directly into the processor. Because specific functions are performed in hardware, a software application runs much faster. And because the cores of the processor are freed up to perform other functions, overall operations are speeded up as well.

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The SPARC M7 design features 32 CPU cores for faster performance.

Oracle’s new SPARC M7 systems feature:

Security in Silicon, with two key new enhancements in systems design.

Silicon Secured Memory – For the first time, Silicon Secured Memory adds real-time checking of access to data in memory to help protect against malicious intrusion and flawed program code in production for greater security and reliability. Silicon Secured Memory protection is utilized by Oracle Database 12c by default and is simple and easy to turn on for existing applications. Oracle is also making application programming interfaces available for advanced customization.

Hardware-Assisted Encryption – New breakthrough performance with hardware-assisted encryption built into all 32 cores enables uncompromised use without performance penalty. This gives customers the ability to have secure runtime and data for all applications even when combined with wide key usage of AES, DES, SHA, and more. Existing applications that use encryption will be automatically accelerated by this new capability including Oracle, third party, and custom applications.

SQL in Silicon: Adds co-processors to all 32 cores of the SPARC M7 that offload and accelerate important data functions, dramatically improving efficiency and performance of database applications.

Critical functions accelerated by these new co-processors include memory de-compression, memory scan, range scan, filtering, and join assist. Offloading these functions to co-processors greatly increases the efficiency of each CPU core, lowers memory utilization, and enables up to 10x better database query performance. Oracle Database 12c In-Memory option fully supports this new capability in the current release. In addition, this new functionality is slated to be available to advanced developers to build the next generation of big data analytics platforms.

World Record Performance: Powered by the world’s fastest microprocessor, Oracle’s new SPARC M7-based systems deliver proven performance superiority with world record results in over 20 benchmarks. In addition to superior performance for database, middleware, Java, and enterprise applications from Oracle and third party ISV’s, the new SPARC M7-based systems achieve incredible performance compared to the competition for big data and cloud workloads.

“Until now, no computing platform has been able to tackle security without significantly impacting application performance and efficiency,” said John Fowler, executive vice president, Systems, Oracle. “Today Oracle is delivering breakthrough technology for memory intrusion protection and encryption, while accelerating in-memory analytics, databases and Java. Oracle’s SPARC T7 and M7 systems and Oracle SuperCluster M7 are starting a new era in delivering secure computing while increasing efficiency.”

“Oracle's core investments in SPARC M7 are delivering breakthrough capabilities for information security, database efficiency, and performance that go beyond enterprise workloads to big data and cloud. This is the most significant advancement in SPARC microprocessor and systems design in the last decade,” said Matthew Eastwood, senior vice president, Enterprise Infrastructure and Datacenter Group, IDC.

Balanced Design Principles: The new SPARC M7 processor is the design center of the new line of SPARC M7 systems that scale from 32 to 512 cores, 256 to 4,096 threads and up to 8 TB of memory. Oracle’s SPARC M7 chip is a 4.1 GHz 32-core/256-thread processor that addresses the most demanding workloads with a balanced high performance design across all factors of memory, IO, and scalability. In addition, Oracle has improved every other aspect of the design compared to previous generation designs resulting in increased single-thread performance and reduced latency.

Technology That Delivers: Oracle’s new SPARC M7 systems deliver outstanding security and performance as demonstrated by a new world record result for the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark for database and Java(1). Oracle has run this benchmark fully encrypted to demonstrate the levels of security, efficiency, and performance that SPARC M7 delivers. Two SPARC T7-1 servers, fully encrypted, are faster than the second best result from a pair of four-processor IBM Power8 systems, running the same workload unencrypted. Oracle’s SPARC M7 TeraSort benchmark results prove superiority over IBM for running Hadoop, while also utilizing SPARC M7 encryption acceleration with negligible performance impact. One SPARC T7-4 with 128 cores using an AES-256-GCM encrypted file system is 3.8x faster than an unsecure 8-node IBM S822L Power8 cluster with 192 cores(2). Customers can now run workloads fully encrypted with greater efficiency and without performance penalty.

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For example, one of the most exciting innovations in the M7 processor is known as its in-memory query acceleration engines. These design-specific units take over certain data-search functions from a database query, and those functions then get processed at a very high rate of speed. This dedicated functionality makes database queries perform much faster.

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Such query acceleration "is done in a different way than anyone has done it before," said David Lawler, Oracle senior vice president for system product management and strategy. The M7 incorporates up to eight in-memory query acceleration engines.

Another significant M7 innovation is a feature known as application data integrity. This software-in-silicon functionality ensures that an application is able to access only its own dedicated memory region. This lets software programmers identify issues with memory allocation, which is advantageous in several ways.

Oracle expects it to dramatically improve the speed of Oracle's software development, and the resulting product quality, and that customers will benefit by running applications with memory that is always protected in production.

Also, it serves as a security feature. "If one particular piece of code is trying to read the data from another, the chip would stop it," said Renato Ribeiro, Oracle director of product management for SPARC Systems.

And because it is hardwired into the processor, the data integrity functionality does not affect the performance of the application. "It has next to no overhead".

Ideal for Exadata X5-2

Oracle has been shipping an Oracle Exadata configuration that runs Oracle’s T and M-series (SPARC) microprocessors for more than 2 years. This database machine is called Oracle SuperCluster.

Technically, SuperCluster has always included every single Exadata feature of note. This is because every SuperCluster configuration is built around the same Exadata Storage Servers and InfiniBand switches that are used in every other Exadata system configuration.

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Performance Boosts

Another innovation available on the new processor involves the ability to decompress data at very high speed (100 GB/sec). This is important especially in connection with Oracle's innovative in-memory database functionality.

Database performance is improved when the data being used can be loaded directly into server memory, which eliminates the latency in transferring data from external storage. However, to fit a large amount of data into server memory it must be compressed, and then decompressed on every database query. That decompression takes time and sucks up valuable processor resources—a classic bottleneck.

To address that constriction, Oracle engineers have incorporated a decompression acceleration engine onto the M7 processor. This hardwired unit runs data decompression at the full speed of the in-memory database: 100 GB/sec. That's equivalent to 16 decompression PCI cards, or 200 CPU cores.

Another improvement in the M7 related to performance involves communication between two computers. Known as extreme low latency fabric for memory sharing, this hardware interconnection provides for messaging with sub-microsecond latency, which translates to "memory access across two machines as if it were local" . This helps the performance of computers in a cluster.

Finally, the M7 processor features 32 cores in its design, which ups the processing horsepower from its predecessor, the M6, which has 12 cores. Less an innovation than a process improvement, it nonetheless affirms Oracle's commitment to making SPARC the most powerful processor in the industry.

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Co-engineering Advantage

With its SPARC architecture, Oracle has an advantage over other enterprise vendors in that it can do engineering work at all levels of the computing stack: processor, operating system, middleware, database, applications, even software tools, specifically Java.

The SPARC M7 processor benefitted from that co-engineering, designed from the start with input from both Oracle's hardware engineers and its software developers. That approach is what enabled the innovative "software in silicon" strategy to come to fruition. "We looked at all of our software and identified the things that were the hardest" and then incorporated those into the processor.

The SPARC M7 is scheduled to be available sometime in calendar year 2015. Oracle intends the industry at large to benefit from its work. "We plan to make these functions available to other software vendors that would like to take advantage of them".

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