Oracle has supercharged its 7000 unified storage line, effectively replacing two of the products and expanding the line's performance and capacity dramatically upwards. Users will get more scalability and more performance from the new line.
The new products have been rebranded too, and are known as the ZFS Storage Appliance line with four models: 7120; 7320; 7420; and 7720. The previous line had three models: 7110 scaling to 4.2TB; 7310 scaling to 192TB with a 2-node cluster option; and 7410 scaling to 576TB and again having a 2-node cluster configuration. Both the 7310 and 7410 have up to 600GB of read flash buffering and could have optional write flash buffering too. In the CPU department the 7310 could have up to two 6-core 2.2GHz Xeon processors while the 7410 could have up to four. That's the background against which the 7x20 line has been launched.
John Fowler, Oracle's Sun-inherited EVP for server and storage systems, said: “The next-generation Sun ZFS Storage Appliance product line delivers more than 2x the scale of the previous generation and increases integration with Oracle’s business-critical applications.”
The entry-level 7120 has from 12 to 120TB of capacity using 3.5-inch, 7200rpm, SAS drives. It is a single node system, with a 2U controller and 4U disk shelves, and has a 96GB write cache but no read cache. Oracle calls it an entry-level system, implying it replaces the 7110 with its now meagre 4.2TB max capacity, but that system uses 10,000rpm, 2.5-inch SAS drives and Oracle could continue offering it as a small but high-performance entry-level box, although it has no read or write flash caching.
The 7320 scales to 192TB, exactly the same as the 7310, but the 7320's read flash capabilities are radically better, with up to 4TB of read flash vs 600GB for the 7310. In the CPU department the 7310 has had a slight brain transplant to form the 7320 with the original two by 6-core 2.2GHz Xeons per controller changing to an 8-core processor complex running at 2.4GHz with up to 72GB of RAM vs the 7120's 64GB. The 7320 has the same 1U node enclosure and 4U disk shelf as the 7310 and, obviously enough, replaces it.
The 7420 is a much, much bigger beast than the 7410. It scales to 1.15PB, a little more than twice the 7410's capacity, and can have up to 32 cores running at 1.8 or 2.0GHz in its controller. The 7410 could have 24 cores spread across four 2.2GHz processors. Main memory has doubled to 512GB per node. The 7420's read flash is up to 4TB, a massive increase on the 7410's 600GB, and the write flash has gone up to 96 solid state drives (SSDs). This baby can process many, many more I/Os than the 7410 and, we reckon, replaces it. It comes as a 3U controller node with 4U disk shelves, of which there can be 24v in total, meaning a full configuration would need more than two racks.
Oracle positions the 7410 as the best price/performance box in the line, but there is another 7x20 system, intended for high capacity and data growth rates and numbered the 7720, implying it should be bigger than the 7410. It isn't in a capacity sense, scaling up from 240TB to only 720TB, using 2TB, 7200rpm, SAS drives, as the other 7x20 products do. It can have the same main memory of 512GB as the 7410, the same 4TB of read cache but fewer write flash SSDs - 24 per rack compared to the 7410's 96 maximum. In the CPU department it is slightly ahead, having 32 cores running at 2.26GHz, so where is the real meat in this sizzle?
First, clustering is standard rather than an option. The 7320 and 7420 have active-active 2-node clustering. Secondly, the 7720 is delivered as a rack, with the maximum number of CPUs and back-end I/O capabilities. OK, that's nice, but where's the 7720's real edge over the 7410? We're told the 7720 Storage Appliance provides 1.6 times better storage density than other unified storage solutions. Okay, but that's more sizzle, not steak.
Oracle's blurb (pdf) says the 7420 is "is uniquely designed for virtualised environments requiring multiple data services, and heterogeneous file sharing," and has "extreme scalability". The 7720 "features ease of deployment and industry leading storage density that is designed to fulfill the needs for the largest bulk storage and backup requirements". Only it doesn't - the 7420 holds half as much data again.
Oracle says the 7720 "also serves in mid-scale mixed workload environments". You could get pretty much the same capabilities by having a 2-node, 720TB 7410. It might appear that the 7720 should, in fact, be called the 7420 and the 7420 re-christened the 7720. Did Oracle get the product numbers muddled up?
If the 7720 simply has as better packing density than the 7420 then why is that? Why doesn't the 7420 use the same packing density?
Oracle's 7200 storage documentation says the 7720 "will initially scale to 720TB". Ah, what's going on here? If the 7720 gets higher-capacity drives in the future then they could also be used on the other 7x20 boxes. That can't be the only point of having the 7720 - can it? Is this product, with its slightly greater processing capacity than the 7420, going to be used beyond the 2-node cluster environment, say in 4-node clusters? Alternatively Oracle is going to give it an expansion rack full of disk drives to take its capacity up past the 7420's. For the moment the 7720 is a mystery product that appears to have few, if any, significant features beyond the 7420.
Back to Earth
Beyond this little conundrum the ZFS Storage Appliance line has the same hierarchical storage pools fog the 7000s, the same DTrace facilities and the same ZFS capabilities. Mark Peters, a senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, believes the 7000 Series “is time-and-market-proven, and has added scale and performance with these latest upgrades, any excuses for not taking a look are getting pretty hard to come by”.
Oracle brags that the ZFS Storage Appliance product line is the only unified storage solution that combines in-line deduplication and compression, has end-to-end data and metadata checksums, self-healing data technology and triple-parity RAID, and the industry’s fastest storage controllers with industry-leading amounts of DRAM and flash cache. All this is no doubt true. The products have been integrated with Oracle Applications, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Database, Oracle Solaris, Oracle Linux and Oracle VM, and have three data protection possibilities for Oracle Applications: Oracle RMAN, database cloning, and disaster recovery using Fusion middleware.
The 7x20 ZFS Storage Appliance products look to be a clear advance on the initial 7000 generation and should be stronger competition for other unified file and block storage products such as those from NetApp. It appears to us at The Reg that these boxes compete with the CLARiiON-type mid-range arrays but not with high-end SAN arrays such as VMAX, USP-V and DS8000.
In that area Oracle appears to believe that massively powerful, integrated IT stack boxes such as the Exadata and Exalogic are the way to go, unless the 7720 actually has a role in building out a new high-end network-access array capability that will appear over the next few months. For now it seems to us that Oracle has no product that can compete on equal terms with the VMAX, USP-V and DS8000 arrays.
No ZFS Storage Appliance pricing and availability information was supplied by Oracle. According to ESG, all models are due to be available in October, except for the 7720, which is due in November. ®