Oracle says with S7 it can offer SPARC performance at x86 prices

Oracle ready to ship products based on the new processor

Oracle has introduced a range of new hardware for in-cloud and on premises deployment based on a new SPARC chip, the S7, that it says offer SPARC processing power and features at a price point normally associated with x86 architecture.

SPARC is a RISC-based chip architecture introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1987 (Oracle acquired Sun in 2010). The S7 is a 4.27GHz, 8-core/64-thread processor; a low-powered version of the M7 processor introduced in 2015.

“For the first time now we have SPARC available in multiple expressions, regardless of where a customer is at,” Marshall Choy, Oracle’s VP of product development, told Computerworld Australia.

“For the DIY, build-your-own solution architecture customer we have complete building blocks and servers. For customers looking for a higher degree of integration and simplification of the infrastructure who still want to deploy on-premise we have the MiniCluster engineered systems.

“And for customers who want to deploy SPARC as a cloud service and forego managing infrastructure in their own data centre, we have the cloud service.”

The new S7 based products are Oracle Cloud Compute public cloud platform services, based on S7 hardware; the Oracle MiniCluster S7-2 Engineered System and Oracle SPARC S7 servers. Oracle Engineered Systems are pre-integrated packages of processors, storage and networking.

Choy said the S7 chipset had been designed, like the M7, to handle horizontal workloads such as Hadoop-based data analytics but with a number of innovations to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

“We have integrated the same software and silicon functionality as the M7 so there is no compromise around security and data analytics acceleration, and we have also further integrated board level components such as memory controllers and I/O controllers,” he said.

“That has increased our memory bandwidth per core, and reduced memory access latencies. We have also increased the processor core frequency. Fewer parts on the motherboard means fewer parts we have to purchase.

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“That has enabled us to provide systems that achieve commodity x86 economics but without compromising on the enterprise-grade features we are bringing down from the M7. We think that makes a very interesting value proposition for the customer.”

Choy said the S7-based systems could deliver 50 to 100 per cent better per-core performance than x86 across a wide range of workloads. “For an OLTP database workload we are looking at about 1.6 times better per core performance efficiency. Java is about 1.7 times better.”

However, he said that where the S7 architecture excelled most over x86 was in encryption.

“Our vision is that, for ourselves and our customers a high performance, fully-encrypted cloud should be a reality,” Choy said. “With x86, the performance requirements for that would have entailed the purchase of significant extra hardware.”

He said Oracle had verified the encryption capabilities of the S7 architecture using the SPECj enterprise 2010 benchmark: “We have run this benchmark twice, unsecured and fully-secured end-to-end. The performance difference was less than two percent. We think that is very important for the cloud.”

Choy added: “Without performance penalty we can fully encrypt a live virtual machine running a hot workload and protect the data in that virtual machine while it is in transit from one physical host to another with no performance loss. Only Oracle SPARC can do that.Not other platform does that today. This is really important today with security being a top level concern.”

Choy said S7 based products and services could be ordered now, but shipping times varied by country. No beta customers have been named, but Choy said one of them was already working to move its entire workload to the S7 architecture.

“One beta customer is a Linux and x86 user with a very heavy analytics workload,” he said. “The CTO told me that, based on what he believes is going to happen over the next several years, [S7] is a no-brainer and he is working in my labs today to port his apps onto the S7 platform.”

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