Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Brasil is Booming and it’s True

I just returned from a meeting-filled week in Brasil at Oracle Open World Latin America in Sao Paulo. This event brings together the best of OpenWorld to Latin America and features the usual star studded line up of product development and customer speakers. It was also a good opportunity to meet with friends and colleagues in Latin America and Brasil and spend some quality time with them in Sao Paulo traffic!

OpenWorld in Latin America, as in San Francisco, is co-located in time with JavaOne and I must say that the level of interest in Java was truly outstanding. In many of the sessions – including Mike Lehmanns WebLogic 12c Session – there was standing room only!

In a world in which we are constantly hearing about economic challenges and sovereign debt defaults, it’s nice to visit a country where there is tremendous energy, where it’s all about optimism and growth, and where road traffic is a impediment to economic activity!

The week was filled with meetings with prospective and existing customers who wanted to know more about Exalogic.   

The meetings with existing customers included a large E-commerce site that is rolling out their ATG implementation on Exalogic;  a Co-operative Bank that is re-platforming their middleware and SOA infrastructure on Exalogic, a telematics firm that is rolling out new applications; and, many more….

Some interesting conversations I had included:

       Mobile Operator
      Traffic on their mobile data network has increased by a factor of 7x since January and they are struggling to deal with 4 million prepaid top ups per day on their pre-paid mobile infrastructure.
      Their interest in Exalogic is to re-platform their entire provisioning and billing infrastructure to cope with growth

        Holding company with business ranging from Gas distribution, to broadcasting, to Education to Retail, etc
      Experiencing performance issues today and fear for the future given their Oracle Apps / E-business suite consolidation / single instance efforts which increase volumes significantly as more and more lines of business are brought online. Increases in things like number of invoices processed expected to factor 5x over the next 12 months. Response times for price calculations for example in one business unit alone, of 54 hours were a barrier to business!
      Their interest in Exalogic is to enable them to have a consistent, high performance platform that can fulfill their response times and tps requirements as they move more and more lines of business onto their E-Business suite environment

       E-commerce site
      Who said they were experiencing 100% growth in revenues year on year and need to be able to support this growth in time for the Olympics and the World Cup
      Their interest in Exalogic is based on the need to support lower response times for E-commerce and more transactions on less hardware

       Government Tax Department
      Who extensively use both commercial and open source software and are experiencing significant scalability challenges as the number of transactions that they have to process increases
       Their interest in Exalogic is to support higher volumes for their Oracle Forms (18,000 workstations) and WebLogic / Java infrastructure

       Managed Hosting / Cloud Service Provider 
      Who has managed hosting services today, and is looking at how they can move to an outsourcing model in which they can provide Cloud Services, but also application outsourcing. Their keen interest was to understand the way in which they should proceed - whether to replicate what Amazon is doing with EC2, whether to spin up a virtualized environment for commodity hosting of windows systems, or whether to focus on a premium segment of the market for outsourcing of application infrastructure for transactional applications
       Their interest in Exalogic and Exadata is to power their platform for hosting mainstream transactional applications that run their customers business - like E-commerce, online banking, etc. 

All the conversations we had in Brasil were focused on the need to power future growth. To deal with more transactions than ever before, the need to keep control of spiraling hardware and data center footprints as part of that expansion, and to set  course for a simpler future and align applications with underlying systems. Many customers were realizing that simply virtualizing the data center is not enough for transactional applications - they need to focus on the application and choose the right infrastructure for running those applications!

One notable take away for me  - apart from the fact that it's a LOONNG way back from Sao Paulo to San Francisco - is that all my discussions at OpenWorld with customers and partners were focused on the upside potential. 

On the future. 
On powering the future 
On a future that is lined with growth
On all that is possible. 


I really enjoyed the week there - a big thank you to my host Eudis for organizing a full and productive week!

p.s. Brasil is spelt with an "S" in Portuguese!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

ExalogicTV is now Live!

OpenWorld was a fantastically busy and fun time for us - and so many innovations that were announced including Oracle Public Cloud which is built on Exadata and Exalogic.

Douglas Phillips who recently joined the team from VmWare kick started out ExalogicTV channel on youtube. It features some interesting 3 minute videos - well worth a look if you want to hear about Exalogic from those of us that are working on it!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Keste's Exalogic Solution Center Launch: How I Heard Engineered Systems Explained a Different Way!

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Dallas to be the guest of honor at Keste’s Exalogic Solution Center. This marked a special occasion for us – Keste is the first North American partner to setup a solution center for Exalogic. This marks an important juncture in the adoption of Exalogic: an ecosystem of Systems Integrators and Hosting companies are steadily ramping up Exalogic competencies to enable Oracle customers to adopt Exalogic (and Exadata for that matter). At the event, I got the opportunity to meet with Oracle customers across a range of industries – from transportation to healthcare to financial services. The audience at the event were all eager to understand how they could leverage Oracle’s Engineered Systems (Exalogic and Exadata) to improve application performance and throughput with the lowest TCO. I am quite confident they walked away with a much better idea of how they could leverage these technologies next time they do a software project with Oracle middleware or Oracle Applications, when they upgrade their existing custom or packaged Oracle Applications, or when they do a hardware refresh.

While at Keste for the ceremonies for the Opening of the Solution Center, I spent some time with Vince Casarez, a colleague for many years, and a name with which most people that have been involved with Oracle Middleware during the last 10+ years are very familiar. Vince is now SVP of technology at Keste. He talked me through how he explains the optimizations in Exalogic and Exadata in layman terms.

I am quite (and intimately) familiar with the results that our customers and prospects have been achieving with Exadata and Exalogic. For example, an online banking system for which response times have been improved by 10x and throughput increased by 3x, or a large logistics customer for whom response times were reduced by 4x and throughput by 3.8x, or a large Chinese telco for whom Exalogic + Exadata are delivering 12x to 22x performance improvements. However, when customers ask HOW these results are being achieved, I talk about the proprietary chipset we have in our I/O fabric, the SDP optimizations that we have implemented for connecting Exalogic to Exadata, the parallel muxer in WebLogic, and the threading architecture for WebLogic on Exalogic. While all of these technical capabilities surely contribute to the performance and throughput gains customers are seeing with Exalogic, they are not necessarily easy to explain.

Vince had a really simple way of explaining how Exalogic and Exadata manage to deliver performance breakthroughs. I won’t spoil the story for you: go and listen to his video on youtube.

You may be asking who is Keste? Keste is a systems integrator focused on Oracle technologies in High Tech and Industrial Manufacturing, Telecom, Oil and Gas, and Healthcare verticals, with a particular emphasis on Fusion Middleware (WebCenter, ADF, SOA, etc) and Oracle Applications such as E-Business Suite and Siebel. Keste has built its reputation on being at the leading edge of Oracle and Industry breakthroughs such as designing complex order to cash solutions for mass customization, adopting ADF as a core framework standard long before it was a standard, and appears to be continuing this thirst for being first in new technologies with the purchase of their own Exalogic Elastic Cloud machine and the release of their Cloud-based engineered solutions practice which is largely powered by Oracle Exalogic and Exadata. Keste first showed up on Oracle’s radar with their telco solution which they designed and built using nearly every module in the FMW suite and a highly complex transaction portal powered by Oracle E-Business Suite Configurator, built largely on Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF).

So what is driving systems integrators and solution providers such as Keste to invest in Exalogic and Exadata? Simply put Oracle partners are seeing the tremendous opportunity to help Oracle customers leverage Oracle’s Engineered Systems such as Exalogic and Exadata to recreate the way their do IT, to deliver applications that run faster, that achieve better throughput and the lowest cost per transaction.

Keste is the 13th partner owned and operated Exa Center of Excellence (CoE) location and the 1st partner in the USA to showcase the Exastack combination of Exalogic and Exadata in their new, state of the art data center located in Dallas, TX. Exa CoE facilities can consistently be leveraged by customers and Oracle’s sales force alike to accelerate sales, incubate new opportunities and showcase partner developed solutions offerings. The Solution Center and Exalogic demo ground in Dallas are open and available for demos, customer workshops, and POCs (or to just help close) for both customers and Oracle (!). Keste anticipates the Solution Center will be a fantastic resource for Oracle customers and prospects. To arrange tours or book the center, please contact Neil Conklin at 214 778-2124 (neil.conklin@keste.com).

Monday, 21 February 2011

Why Engineered Systems?

It’s been barely three months since the launch of Oracle’ Exalogic Elastic Cloud (Exalogic for short). It thus seems like an opportune moment to evaluate the implications and repercussions of this in the context of the industry

Let’s take the most discussed point off the table for the moment: that of Private Cloud versus Public Cloud and whether such a thing as the Private Cloud actually exists. Unfortunate for the dogmatic among us with their fair share of tunnel vision, surveys reveal that most Enterprises and Agencies are proceeding on a strategy of marrying the best of both worlds – leveraging the Public Cloud where it makes sense, e.g. for testing and development, tactical / one off applications, seasonal workloads, and cloud bursting to name a few – and focusing on building Private Clouds to run their mainstream IT. So let’s think about that mainstream IT equation – where engineered systems such as Exalogic and Exadata squarely fit. Exadata for database online transaction processing and data warehousing, and Exalogic Elastic Cloud for running mid-tier and packaged applications.

When Larry Ellison in 20 April 2009 announced the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, he coined the term “Engineered Systems”. At the time, not many in the industry really had an understanding of what this would actually mean (I hasten to say that some within Oracle may not have either). Of course, putting software and hardware together into an appliance form that is easily configured for operations is all good, but many in the industry really didn’t comprehend the extent to which the term “engineered” would drive product innovation both in software and in hardware. A year later the value proposition around Engineered systems is becoming clear. Some people seemed to get it early on.

What does it mean to engineer a system? Is an Engineered system just pre-loaded software on a server to be used as an appliance or is it more than the sum of its parts? Finally, which Engineered systems are the right ones to build Private Clouds? Let’s take these questions in turn.

What does it mean to engineer a system?

An engineered system is typically something that provides out of the box capabilities and does away with as much building, configuring and maintaining of systems as possible – activities that have to be done by IT. Not only is this task repetitive, error prone and time consuming, but it is also very costly. What is typically done by IT today? Look at the 19 item laundry list that a customer recently shared with me. Of course this is probably one of the reasons that it takes IT a while to gets systems up and running:

Do it Yourself IT

  1. Assess application requirements
  2. Research available component technologies and vendor products
  3. Identify all software components and evaluate compatibility, drivers, etc.
  4. Obtain server, storage, network and other components from vendor(s) for trial use
  5. Assemble hardware components, including network design
  6. Install base software components (sufficient to test networking)
  7. Test physical system, working with vendor(s) to identify defects
  8. Obtain patches/fixes for identified defects from vendors and deploy to test system
  9. Deploy/install patches or new hardware
  10. Repeat 7-9 until stable
  11. Deploy upper-stack (application or application-server complex)
  12. Test upper stack
  13. Obtain patches/fixes for identified defects from vendors and deploy to test system
  14. Deploy/install patches or new hardware
  15. Repeat 12-14 until stability and performance goals have been met
  16. Finalize supply chain (vendor price negotiations, component EOL practice, etc.)
  17. Fully document platform state and platform-specific operating/maintenance procedures, vendor support engagement practices and internal triage protocol
  18. Move the system from test/development to production
  19. Start over when someone changes the application requirements, when a key vendor product is discontinued or EOL prematurely, when a key component vendor is no longer viable

While putting things together from scratch seems like an odd thing to do now, we have been doing this in IT for quite some time. Doesn't make much sense to build your own car "one piece at a time" does it?

Is the Whole more than the Sum of the Parts?

An engineered system combines network, storage, compute and software in a pre-optimized stack that enables IT to cut the time to deploy from months to hours, reduces errors and enables IT personnel and resources to be put to higher value work. You may recognize some precursors to the current generation of engineered systems – Oracle’s Exadata and Exalogic - in the form of Cisco’s Unified Compute System (UCS) and HP with Bladesystem Matrix, and reference configurations, and the V-Block coalition. Of course while the product may be fine, I am not sure how you can actually make a coalition work in the IT business. For one thing, I have heard numerous concerns from customers around accountability: who is accountable to the customer out of the coalition members? EMC? Cisco? Vmware? A reseller?

Systems such as these bring together the building blocks from a hardware perspective to provide a hardware platform for shared infrastructure: bringing together storage, network and server virtualization. They certainly take some of the work out of building IT environments and enable more efficient use of hardware resources through sharing.

The one area that they don’t address is that of configuring the application environments – databases, middleware, packaged and custom applications. These systems consist of multiple software components that need to be configured, typically with high availability, and managed for application-level SLAs.

So while other engineered systems only address the stack up to the operating system level, Oracle’s Engineered systems are designed to deliver all the capabilities required to run an end application – whether it’s a database as a service or data warehousing capability – in the case of Exadata – or an entire Java EE application environment – in the case of Exalogic. Does this really matter though? Cannot you get most of the IT benefits by using other engineered systems and leaving every departmental IT organization to build out and operate their own application stacks themselves?

Which Engineered system is most compelling?

Not all engineered systems are created the same. To see why this is the case, let’s look at some of the results that Oracle’s customers have been achieving with Exadata:

- “With our migration to Exadata V2 we've seen a 17x performance improvement, having made no changes to our application”

- "We implemented it in a record four days from delivery prior to Christmas to provide a dev/test environment to a number of projects," a statement from the bank said….. The machine will enable the Commonwealth Bank to provide database as a service”

- One customer saw processing time drop from 3.5 hours to 27 minutes, while another customer saw a performance boost of 300x - Piper Jaffray

Of course there is a reason why customers are experiencing greater than 10x improvements. The reason that they are able to achieve some outstanding results with Oracle’s Exadata is that the database is designed to work differently in Exadata to take advantage of capabilities such as flash and storage servers. The way that some of these capabilities are leveraged is quite unique – for example the storage servers in Exadata are capable of executing simple database operations – which enables operations such as tables scans to be carried out in parallel! (For those of you that are really curious – this is analogous to a map/ reduce approach).

Can UCS, Bladesystem Matrix, or V-Block deliver such break through capabilities or performance or throughput?


For more on Exadata, take a look at this Information Week interview with Andy Mendelsohn.

Oracle’s engineered system for running application logic is Exalogic, which is designed with four key focal areas in mind:

1) To provide an optimized environment for running Java / Java EE / WebLogic Server applications orders of magnitude faster than comparable hardware

2) To provide an optimized environment for running any application running or leveraging Oracle Fusion Middleware faster with better service levels (for those that know Oracle’s middleware this really is a corollary of #1 above)

3) To provide an optimized environment for running Oracle applications (E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, etc) with improved performance and manageability

4) To deliver the benefits of consolidated infrastructure (storage, network, compute) that competitive solutions offer for running other packaged or custom applications

In the case of Exalogic – our engineering team has spent more than 100 man years looking at WebLogic Application Server and numerous hardware configurations to figure out how to get more speed and throughput out of Exalogic – capabilities such as GridLink for RAC, JDBC over SDP and a parallel muxer and many more are the way in which Exalogic can also deliver breakthrough performance for applications.

While many “Engineered Systems” deliver some level of engineering to deliver on consolidated infrastructure, Oracle is the only vendor that can turn this into reality by optimizing all the application level software as well to deliver IT cost savings and unprecedented performance and SLAs that no one else can.

Hence, should you be considering evolving your data center to a Private Cloud, there are few choices that deliver IT cost savings and application performance and unmatched service levels. If you want to keep both your IT budget and your business users happy, there are, in fact only two options, and they come as a pair.

It seems that it’s not just we that think that Oracle has a compelling value proposition for the data center. Take a look at this report from Credit Suisse!

The Engineered System that is the most compelling is one that optimizes the entire application stack and integrates it with a balanced hardware environment.

For more about Exalogic and Exadata – take a look at Oracle.com.