White Paper - Oracle Exadata Appliance

  1. What is an Oracle database appliance?

  2. What’s the Business Reason?

  3. Is Oracle Exadata an appliance?

  4. The Value of Oracle Exadata

  5. Conclusion

What is an Oracle database appliance?

 When one thinks of an Appliance what comes to mind are refrigerators, iPads, Ovens, and Smartphones. And what makes each of these appliance, so popular and part of our daily life is the "ease-of-use" approach. 

Cisco was first in the electronics industry to come with the terminology Appliance. It all started with the router.The guys at Cisco were trying to simplify the use of the router, which used to be a Unix operating system with routing software. The Cisco router pretty much defined the idea of a true appliance.

The challenge for Oracle was to bring the inherently complex world of Oracle database with the "ease-of-use" approach of appliances. We are going to explore whether Oracle Exadata is an appliance that is easy to operate, require little maintenance and like refrigerator does its job which in this case is run database at extreme performance levels.

Oracle Exadata is a database appliance with support for both OLTP (transactional) and OLAP (analytical) database systems.

What’s the Business Reason?

Oracle Exadata users can expect a benefit in five key areas: Support,  Business Intelligence (OLAP), Batch Processing, Data Center Consolidation, and Transactional System (OLTP).


  •  The Exadata hardware all the way to the software comes from Oracle because of which customers get full end-to-end support, so there’s no finger-pointing between vendors, with the customer stuck in the middle.

Oracle Exadata provides a single handshake and a throat to throttle when it comes to support.

Transactional Systems (OLTP)

  • Oracle Exadata Database Machine X4 is the firm’s fifth iteration of the product. According to Oracle, it quadruples the amount of flash capacity available, speeding up performance of OLTP-oriented workloads through a mix of bigger physical flash storage and high-speed flash compression.

  A single Exadata rack can now house up to 88TB of user data in flash, meaning firms can  host the majority of their OLTP databases completely in flash.

  • Random I/O rates needed for OLTP have also increased to 2.66 million 8K database reads and 1.96 million writes per second, which Oracle says is an improvement of almost 100 percent.

Business Intelligence/Data warehousing (OLAP)

  • Query huge volumes of data at speeds you never thought possible

  • New flash-caching algorithms mean tables that are larger than the available flash are now automatically partially cached in flash and read concurrently from both flash and disk to speed up the throughput.

  • Return results up to 20 times faster, enabling better business decisions

  • Simplify and reduce data warehousing cost by up to 70%

Batch Processing

  • Deliver greater storage performance improvement and cost savings through compression

  • Greatly increase bulk load times increasing the freshness of data

Data Center Consolidation

  • Improve the performance and scalability of systems by an order of magnitude

  • Oracle said that firms can easily consolidate hundreds of databases into a single rack, for lower costs. Exadata can also now transparently prioritise requests from database servers, through network adapters and network switches, to storage and back, and ensure that network-intensive workloads such as reporting, batch and backups do not delay time-sensitive workloads.

  • Consider Enterprise Manager Performance Packs to further manage data center functions through one central control panel

Is Oracle Exadata an appliance?

The folks at Cisco made the following argument: We do not need all of the infrastructure of UNIX to do routing. A UNIX box does many things. A router truly does one thing: Networking. We could make a dramatically simplified device which would be able to do routing really well, at a much lower cost than a UNIX box. Based upon this idea, an appliance has the following characteristics:

  • Extremely simple interface. Should be vastly simpler than doing it the non-appliance way. i.e. a Cisco router is vastly simpler than running routed on a UNIX box.

  • A single purpose. The device must be dedicated to doing one thing, but doing it extremely well. Like the way, a Cisco router is much better at doing routing than a UNIX box running routed. By dramatically reducing the number of functions the device performs, you also dramatically reduce the amount of code that must be run on the device. This leads to the next feature of an appliance which is:

    • Vastly reduced cost.

    • Transformative technology. An appliance, if it is truly an appliance, becomes the obvious and natural way to do things. Within a very short period of time after introducing the router, Cisco controlled the router market. They completely displaced the previous way of doing routing.

By any reasonable measure, Oracle ExaData fails all of these tests:

  • It has as complex an interface as any Oracle database server (which is to say it runs the most complex and expensive piece of software ever written for general purpose use). Certainly not appliance-like.

  • An Oracle ExaData rack contains general purpose compute servers, which can be used to run basically anything you want. You can load any Oracle application on it certainly, and no-one would claim that an Oracle database server is an appliance!

  • Oracle ExaData is manifestly more expensive than a normal, open-systems database server, and vastly more expensive (assuming intelligent management) than using VMware vSphere for virtualizing Oracle database servers.

  • Oracle ExaData is possibly addictive in the Big Blue sense, but it is certainly not a transformative technology in the same way that a Cisco router, iPad, iPhone, or such is. It is very fast, no question.

The Value of Oracle Exadata

Oracle’s Exadata and Exalogic systems are more expensive and provide less performance and interconnectivity, writes Wikibon Co-founder and CTO David Floyer in “The Limited Value of Oracle Exadata”, the first of two new Alerts on the products.  In the second, “Oracle Exadata and Exalogic Sales Not Meeting Expectations”,  he adds that they do not appear to be selling nearly as well as Oracle would have people believe.

Floyer’s analysis of Exadata vs single SKU appliances from other vendors show that Exadata’s total cost including maintenance, software, and hardware totals $7,960,000 while single SKU appliances have a total average cost of $4,206,500, making Exadata 83% more expensive.

Credit: David Floyer/Wikibon

The term "SKU" (stock keeping unit ) is often used to indicate a unit that is sold and serviced (or replaced) as a unit. A Single Managed Entity (SME) takes the SKU concept a little further.

In addition, he says, Exadata is a less than best-of-breed solution for very high availability and/or high performance, mission-critical OLTM and that “the storage subsystem is far below the functionality required” compared to other Tier 1 storage arrays, such as EMC VMAX.


The closed, proprietary nature of Exadata also causes extra expense and problems in many real-world environments, making it difficult to move data between an Exadata infrastructure and alternative systems. “As a result Exadata customers have found that they need to put all the Oracle database environment on Exadata appliances. This is a great lock-in for Oracle but adds to IT expenses significantly.”


Wikibon concludes that Exadata as a closed system is about twice as expensive as alternative approaches. In some cases, this may be justified if access to Oracle expertise is critical for the development of a project. In most, the savings resulting from using lower cost infrastructure could be applied in part to purchasing database services to accelerate the project.

CIOs, CFOs & CTOs should understand that the value of Exadata is limited to the business relationship between development staff and Oracle. The Exadata hardware is relatively costly and has performance limitations compared with marketplace alternatives. CIOs & CFOs should require a full business case before considering signing off on Exadata deployments, and in particular ask how the savings from using a general purpose and best-of-breed solution could be used to help reduce implementation time and time to value.


The Value or Oracle Exadata - Wikibon - A Wiki for Sharing ... (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wikibon.org/wiki/v/The_Limited_Value_of_Oracle_Exadata

Oracle Storage Guy: Is ExaData an "Appliance". (n.d.). Retrieved from http://oraclestorageguy.typepad.com/oraclestorageguy/2011/11/is-exadata-an-appliance.html

Oracle Exadata offers 88TB flash to boost OLTP and data .., http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2318775/oracle-exadata-offers-88tb-flash-to-boost-oltp-and-data-warehousing (accessed Feb 2, 2014).


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