As we work with our clients in helping them set up, or migrate to, an Oracle Exalytics X2/X3-4-based Oracle BI (OBIEE) or Enterprise Performance Management (EPM or Hyperion) environment we have noticed a recurring theme…in-house Information Technology (IT) support personnel express apprehensions with adopting the technology. So much so that in a case or two, they have asked us to perform the complete implementation of the solution – including the support efforts tailored to their practices – before they will take it over. While this is not something that we are adverse to, we think this is leading to some hesitation at some clients regarding their consideration of this hardware. This blog post is intended to address some of these concerns.
Let’s address the most basic concern, that this is not a hardware solution the IT team is accustomed to working with and it will cost more to purchase and maintain. In a world where major corporations are used to taking off-the-shelf hardware – usually from vendors that they have been working with for years, and are familiar with – and customizing it to their needs, the perceived constraint that the Exalytics hardware cannot be tailored to specific requirements is often a deal breaker. When we look at such cases, we have often found that with commodity hardware, clients often start off with a bare-minimum budget. They buy exactly what they think they need for the next two or three years, and not any more. Often, the unspoken assumption is that they are expecting to upgrade in a few years. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there might be completely new hardware out there in a year or so. But if you take a moment to add up the numbers, it will not be long before an Exalytics box will make more economic sense. Rather than focusing on the lowest upfront cost, and then adding to it as time goes by, you are paying a little more for hardware that will last you much longer. There is also the fact that the work that an Exalytics machine can do usually takes clients multiple machines to get done. So if you factor in the additional overhead and cost of managing multiple machines, then the gap starts narrowing down really quickly.
In addition, the initial specifications for commodity hardware are based on perceived requirements. For the majority of our Exalytics projects, we find that once our client understands what the engineered solution can do, their expectations grow. In such cases, commodity hardware reaches its limits really quickly, and the upgrade cycle speeds up. The Exalytics machine, on the other hand, offers capabilities that will not only exceed the requirements of most of the clients we talk to, but give them room to grow for years to come.
The second concern is that this is new, untested technology. Hardware-wise, Exalytics is based on Intel and Sun hardware, and is an evolution of a pretty good Sun machine – the ‘Sun Fire’. Most IT folks breathe a little easier once they learn this. The Operating System (OS) is Oracle Enterprise Linux (OEL) and isn’t a bad thing, just something many IT folks aren’t exposed to. OEL is based on Red Hat’s version of Enterprise Linux, with some built-in packages that help Oracle software work better. It also comes with the Oracle Unbreakable Linux kernel, but that is not what Exalytics boots into by default, so that’s a conversation for another day. In every case we have seen, hooking up the “operations” processes – backup, start / stop, monitoring, all work the same way, as if it were Red Hat Linux. Once we prove that, then all is won. Backed by Oracle Premier Support, IT personnel can administer this machine just like any other, with the added bonus that this replaces a bunch of servers that they had to service before…which means less space in the data center and fewer machines to patch and monitor.
Still have concerns on whether your IT team can handle Exalytics? If you are committed to an Oracle stack, it is actually a question of whether you can do without it. Your Oracle sales representative might help you see how the economics makes sense. Or else check out our Exalytics Discovery Center and feel free to drop us a line, and we will be glad to help you figure out how Exalytics fits into your environment.
Heard about the new Oracle Exalytics T5-8 and not sure which to choose? We will be back soon with our analysis of the new hardware and how it compares with the X2/X3-4 machines.
Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects