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Oracle pledges 'x86 economics' with new Sparc servers

James Niccolai | June 30, 2016
Oracle also launched the MiniCluster, an 'engineered system' for the rest of us

Oracle announced two standalone servers with the new chip, the S7-2 and S7-2L, as well as an engineered system, the MiniCluster S7-2, which is a smaller version of the Oracle SuperCluster.

The S7-2 is a 1 rack-unit server, designed for maximum density, sold with one or two processors. The S72L is a 2 rack-unit system, with two processors, that handles more storage configurations. Both can use a mix of SAS and NVMe storage.
The servers start just north of $11,000 with a single processor, 64GB of memory and two 600GB disk drives, and run to about $50,000 with two processors and a terabyte of memory.

While Oracle's bigger Sparc systems run traditional ERP and CRM type applications, Fowler hopes the S7 servers will attract more modern Java, Hadoop and Spark workloads.

Oracle also launched a new Sparc-based infrastructure-as-a-service offering on Wednesday, which customers can use to back up the new systems. 

Oracle didn't provide pricing for the MiniCluster, but it is supposed to broaden the market for Oracle's engineered systems, which combine compute, storage and networking in a preconfigured box with virtualization and management software.
Ellison has said he wants to compete better on price with EMC and Cisco in converged systems, and MiniCluster looks designed to do that.

A big difference from the SuperCluster is that much of the setup and administration is automated, so customers can get the security and high-availability features of the larger machine without needing as much Solaris expertise, according to Fowler.
"You don't have to be a Solaris jockey to use this thing," he said. 

One oddity is that Oracle has said the S7 chip includes an on-chip InfiniBand controller, for high-speed clustering. But none of the new systems make use of that capability. They opt for Ethernet instead.

"In line with the design goal of simplicity for MiniCluster, we decided to stay simple by using SAS for storage and Ethernet for network connectivity," Oracle said in a statement.

As for the standalone servers, use of InfiniBand in "DIY solutions" has been limited, Oracle said, and qualification of the various InfiniBand interfaces on the market is "very resource intensive." Customers can use an add-in card for InfiniBand if they want to.

That seems like a curious situation, but it's all we could get from Oracle for now.

Nathan Brookwood, industry analyst at Insight 64, said the S7 servers could appeal to customers who don't need the power of an M7 system but are wary of porting applications to x86.  

"The challenge for Oracle," he said, "is can they expand their customer base."

Source: InfoWorld

 

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