Replacing old database servers (project check list)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We are currently in process of replacing our old database servers with new ones. During the evaluation process we’re checking various technical solutions to find the best option in terms of price/performance.

For me, real life experience is the most important when we are talking about database server performance so I’ve posted question on Oracle-L lists to get some answers about noted servers and performance.

DBA’s from Oracle-L lists helped me a lot. Thanks guys!

As replay to my question David Robillard posted answer that is worth publishing on this blog. It is nicely summarized project check list that can be used as a template when evaluating various technical solutions in or outside world of Oracle.

We will surely use this check list in our projects :-)

What to look for when buying (database) servers.

Hello Marko,

> we're considering to replace our SunFire v490 servers with newer generation
> of Oracle SUN or IBM servers.
> Our current configuration is:
> 2x SunFire v490 , 4GB RAM , 2 (1x dual-port HBA) x 2Gb FC
> 2x SunFire v490 , 8GB RAM , 2 (1x dual-port HBA) x 2Gb FC
> Do you have any experience with Oracle M-Series SPARC servers or x86 Sun
> servers running as database servers?

Yes indeed :)

> We were checking Intel 7500 X4470 and Sparc VII+ M4000 servers as replacement
> for our SunFire v490's.

Both CPU architectures can run your type of workload, that's for sure.
What you need to look out for is (but not limited to)

a) Budget.
b) Server's RAS & Virtualization features.
c) Server's technical specs.
d) Employee technical knowledge in hardware and software.
e) Data center system's homogenization.

So if we go into more detail for each bullet point, we have...

-- a) Budget.

This is a very important starting point in which you need to check: 1.
Oracle software licenses, 2. Oracle hardware cost of purchase, 3.
Oracle software and hardware maintenance costs and 4. electrical and
HVAC costs.

1. Oracle software licenses.

Make sure to check with your Oracle database friendly salesman. I
don't know if this is still the case, but the Oracle license cost for
an x86 CPU was not the same as for the SPARC achitecture. Count the
number of cores and run the numbers with your Oracle software
representative. Unless things have changed since the aquisition of Sun
by Oracle, you might be in for a little surprise.

2. Oracle hardware cost of purchase.

The X4470 and M4000 machines are probably not the same price up front.
And you might not be able to get the same discount on both
architectures. Make sure to talk with your IHV or Oracle hardware
technical representative to see what configuration of each system is
adequate for your workload and then get a price for both system types.
There could be a big difference.

3. Oracle software and hardware maintenance costs.

Depending on the type of hardware, your Oracle software licenses might
be different. So is the maintenance contract on the hardware itself.
Make sure to check those two over a period of 3 to 5 years and compare
the TCO at the end of the system's life cycle. Again, that can be
quite significant. Considering your pay around 20 % annually of the
total cost of purchase on the Oracle software licenses, if they're
more expensive up front, they're going to be a lot more expensive
after 5 years. I'm not sure about the 20 %, so check this number with
your Oracle sales rep.

4. electrical and HVAC costs.

Check the electrical specs for both systems. Keep in mind that you
need to feed these machines power to make the run and more power to
cool them. Since they probably won't have the same requirements, make
sure to check this with your data center specialist to see how much
money it will cost to run those systems? Again, run those numbers up
to 3 or 5 years and compare them.

-- b) Server's RAS and Virtualization features.

The M-series is packed with RAS features. Especially if you run
Solaris on them. Compare those features with what the X-series
platform offers you. The M-series also has built in hardware
virtualization with logical domains and such. In an Oracle database
scenario, are those important? For example, you could decide to assign
a single CPU/memory board for OLTP and perform a dynamic domain change
to add the other CPU/memory board for backup or batch jobs. Will you
be using RAC? Don't forget to ask your Oracle software and hardware
reps to know if you can run RAC in logical domains and/or Solaris

Make a side-by-side comparision and see what is an added-value to your
organisation and what is simly a nice to have. See if the price
difference is worth the features?

-- c) Server's technical specs.

The M4000 machine can use up to 256 GB while the X4470 is limited to
64 GB. Is that interesting to you? Of course most of us would you
benifit from a very big SGA, but does it makes sense to pay for the
M4000 and 256 GB if your workload is happy with a 10 GB SGA that fits
into both hardware platforms?

The Intel 7500 CPU is most probably faster then the SPARC64 VII+ for
single threaded applications. But the SPARC architecture is probably
better wth multi-threaded applications. Check your SQL code and see if
you would benefit from one or the other. Ask your Oracle hardware rep
for Oracle benchmarks on both architectures and try to compare apples
to apples.

The X4470 is a 3 U machine while the M4000 requires double that. Do
you have enough space in your data center racks to have the new
machines online while the old ones are still there? You will need it
in order to have a smooth transition of your old production machines
to the new ones.

-- d) Employee technical knowledge in hardware and software.

Your team of sysadmins and DBAs have obviously been working with
Solaris + SPARC for a few years now. Are they familiar with Linux +
x86? Or Solaris + x86? They are not the same. Even Solaris SPARC vs
Solaris x86 is not the same. If you have all your operating practices
documented on Solaris + SPARC, are you ready to update all those to
another OS? Will you need to send sysadmins to Oracle university to
learn about Solaris x86, the new M4000 or the X4470? Don't forget to
factor these into the overall price of the solution too. You talked
about IBM machines. Will they be running AIX or Linux? Consider that
the IBM POWER systems running AIX are *very* different then the Oracle
SPARC systems running Solaris. Both are very good products, but be
ready for a big learning curve if you switch from one to another.

IMHO you should stick to what you know and comfortable with. In this
case this is Solaris SPARC. But the price might be prohibitive. If you
need to switch to Solaris x86, consider training your staff to Linux

-- e) Data center system's homogenization.

What do you have in your data center? Only Sun Oracle hardware or a
mix of many vendors? It's a lot easier to handle a single vendor then
three to four different ones. Plus the spare parts are easier to stock
and share between the machines of an identical vendor. You also have
an easier time to manage the service contracts from one or two vendors
then three of four. If your team is trained on Sun and Oracle
procedures and hardware, be wary of moving to IBM. It's a lot
different and the learning curve is steep. Keep in mind that it's also
more expensive and more difficult to keep and find trained sysadmins
on different OSes and platforms. Think of what your job offer would
look like if you need to hire another sysadmin. The more product you
have, the more difficult it will be to find qualified sysadmins. Not
to mention that they might ask for a higher salary :)

> Do you think that Intel 7500 X4470 is strong enough to handle workload of two
> SunFire v490 servers?
> Same question related to Sparc VII+ M4000 server - can this server handle
> workload of two SunFire v490's?

Again, ask your Oracle rep these questions. I'm pretty sure the answer
is yes, both machines can support your workload. But at what speed?
And at what cost?

Finally, make sure you have fun! That's a very nice project you have there :o)





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