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An Oracle server – How Fast for £1,000 July 27, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Architecture, performance, Testing.

Question? How fast an Oracle server can you create for £1,000 pounds?

{I’d really appreciate feedback and suggestions on this particular post}

The power of domestic PCs continues to grow, with four-core chips become pretty much standard and starting RAM looking more like 4GB than 2GB, with 8GB quite reasonable. So, how quick an Oracle server can you make based on a domestic PC? After all, those of us who play with Oracle in our spare time tned to use such machines and, in fact, they are often not far off what are our smaller servers at the office really are. When I worked at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, we had to make our IT budget pounds go a long way. We were, after all, a charity with a limited budget but also a scientific organisation with a huge demand for data and processing. So we used a lot of cheap kit.

I’m seriously thinking of giving this a go. I need a new PC anyway and so I am willing to use it, at least initially, to see what can be done.

If I do this, I’m going to need to set some boundaries on the exercise. How about:

  • The oracle licence is being ignored in the cost {and please, I don’t need to be told how the licence can be more than the hardware costs!}. OS cost is though.
  • I am not aiming for enterprise-level resilience, so I am not going to consider hot-swappable components, dual redundant power supplies or things like that.
  • I am going to use new kit, so no scavenging or buying second-hand. It must all be easily available and repeatable.
  • I will use local storage in the server or connected to ports available on the server.
  • It will support a database of 1TB in size {yet to be designed}.
  • Oracle v11. Enterprise edition but nothing special like TimesTen or Exadata (unless Oracle are willing to sell me an Exadata box for a grand, then I’ll consider it).
  • I’m not considering backup and recovery performance {and this would be a serious oversight if this was a real system, but most places have central backup/recovery facilities}.

I would also have a few other things to decide.

The main one is “Do I use Linux or Windows?” Yes, you are all probably shouting “Linux!!!” but I have never been a Linux sys admin (I was an incredibly poor HP-UX system admin for 3 months though) so it will take me more time to deal with issues under Linux - in work situations I have always had access to people who know all this stuff to sort out issues but in this case I will be doing this on my own. On the other hand, you can just chuck Oracle on a standard windows box and it works, and as a rule hardware just works under Windows. If I decide to use USB3 ports, for example, is it going to be a major pain getting drivers under Linux? But then if I want the fastest oracle box under a grand why would I slow it down with windows and spend money on the licence? I just want the box to run Oracle and a workload.

The second “software” decision is, how do I measure performance? I think I could be getting to grips with Dom Giles’ excellent Swingbench {BTW, nice tag line on that page, Dom :-)}. But it runs on Java and guess what boys and girls? I’ve never been a Java developer. How limited are my skills! So that would take some of my precious spare time up too.

I’d love feedback on this, I’d love to know what hardware suggestions you would make, what you think about the overall idea, what else I need to consider to make the tests valid… I have a few ideas already for the hardware architecture and the intention would be to try lots of things but I’ll save that for a second post. After all, if I get no feedback I might just spend the money on a gaming machine and a week’s walking in the Lake District instead.

And if anyone want to help with the cost, please send cheques to….


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