COVER FEATURE

As Published In
Oracle Magazine
May/June 2011

  

Bring Business Online

By David Baum

 

Organizations adopt Oracle Exadata for enterprise online transaction processing applications.

The introduction of Oracle Exadata in 2008 delivered high-performance data warehousing through a combination of hardware and software optimized to work together. Subsequent Oracle Exadata releases have continued to enhance extreme performance for data warehouses, but the latest releases also deliver extreme performance for online transaction processing (OLTP) applications. With Oracle Exadata’s OLTP capabilities, businesses can speed up their applications, maintenance operations, and support processes; rationalize database servers and storage; make better use of limited IT staff resources; and build a better bottom line. 

A Boost for OLTP

Sogeti, a business unit of Capgemini and one of the world’s leading providers of IT consulting services, specializes in application management, infrastructure management, high-tech engineering, and testing. Sogeti works in close collaboration with its clients to create practical IT and high-tech solutions that help them achieve their strategic objectives and run their businesses better and more cost-effectively. 

As its organization grows, Sogeti wants to enable faster information processes even as it devises more-manageable IT operations. Like many technology companies, Sogeti has seen increasing demand for data throughout the organization, placing greater stress on IT support staff. Until recently, this resulted in its batch reporting taking too long.

“Our maintenance windows started becoming too long, with some of our batch jobs running the entire night,” recalls Aseem Gupta, CTO at Sogeti. “As our offshore organization expanded, we needed to have good availability and response time around the clock. By migrating to Oracle Exadata, we were able to compress that maintenance window in a very significant way without having to expand the team size. Batch jobs that used to take hours now run in minutes.”

Sogeti went live with its Oracle Exadata Database Machine in a half-rack configuration on August 15, 2010. Today the new database platform stores and processes all the data for Sogeti’s Oracle E-Business Suite applications, including financials, human resources, project resource management, and project accounting applications. “It was a successful deployment without any major issues,” says Gupta. “We completed the entire project in just three and a half months.” Since going live with the new server and storage infrastructure, Sogeti has seen tremendous improvements in the performance of its OLTP systems.

“Everything renders faster with Oracle Exadata, where we noticed significant improvement in online queries and batch reporting processes,” says Manohar Reddy, senior manager of applications at Sogeti. “We can perform full table scans—even on large transactional database tables—without any performance issues.”

Reddy attributes the speed boost to Oracle Exadata’s Smart Flash Cache feature, which allows frequently accessed data to be kept in a solid-state flash storage. “[Smart] Flash Cache is particularly useful for running a mixed workload of OLTP and data warehouse applications,” Reddy says. “It gives us a very large disk cache with smart algorithms that decide which data to cache and which data not to cache.” 

Consolidating the Infrastructure

In addition to gaining a faster and more scalable data storage platform, Sogeti saves space in the datacenter by consolidating multiple database servers into one rack. “We’ve been consolidating many instances of Oracle Database and migrating them to Oracle Database 11g on the Oracle Exadata platform,” says Gupta. 

Sogeti’s performance gains extend to backup operations on the Oracle Exadata platform, instantly boosting operational efficiency. For example, it used to take four hours to back up Sogeti’s OLTP data to a tape drive. Now the company can back up the data to an alternate drive within the Oracle Exadata system, which only takes about five minutes. Gupta says this efficient backup window has a huge impact on system availability and dramatically simplifies backup and database cloning procedures for his IT staff. “Instead of having multiple instances and multiple backup procedures, we have one instance and everything is backed up together,” he notes.

With its OLTP database successfully deployed on the Oracle Exadata platform, Sogeti is in the process of implementing Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition, and deploying a data warehouse on Oracle Exadata, along with its OLTP applications. The Oracle Exadata platform gives Sogeti a great deal of capacity as well as peace of mind. “Oracle has provided a robust platform that is well tested and works pretty much flawlessly,” says Gupta.

 

Snapshots

 

 Sogeti

Location: Paris, France
Industry: High-tech services
Revenue: €1,445 million
Employees: 20,000
Oracle products: Oracle Exadata; Oracle Linux; Oracle Database 11g; Oracle E-Business Suite, including financials, accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger, human resources, and purchasing applications

 

 Australian Finance Group

Location: Perth, Australia
Industry: Financial services
Annual revenue e: AU$292 million
Employees: 190
Oracle products: Oracle Exadata, Oracle Database 11g; Oracle Linux; Oracle Real Application Clusters; Oracle Automatic Storage Management; Oracle VM; Siebel Customer Relationship Management, including Siebel Campaigns and Siebel Incentive Compensation Management; Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition; Oracle Hyperion Planning; Oracle Enterprise Content Management Suite; Oracle E-Business Suite, including Oracle Financials; Oracle Identity Management  

Better Finances with Oracle Exadata

The Australian Finance Group (AFG), Australia’s largest mortgage broker, relies on Oracle Exadata technology and other Oracle products to provide a sales system to a national network of more than 2,200 independent brokers. Founded in 1994, the Perth-based company offers more than 800 residential mortgage products from 35 lending institutions, along with commercial financing and compliance, commission payments, and marketing and training services for brokers. 

AFG had previously selected Oracle’s Siebel Customer Relationship Management (Siebel CRM) as the foundation of a cloud-based platform called FLEX, which its broker network uses to source loan products, submit loan applications, manage customers, and manage leads. In addition, internal personnel use FLEX to manage brokers, calculate commissions, provide marketing services and Websites for brokers, and oversee sales and business- development activities.

Now, AFG’s production Oracle Exadata system resides in a quarter-rack configuration that contains two database servers and three storage servers, with 6 TB of disk storage and 1 TB of flash. The company’s Oracle Exadata platform hosts multiple OLTP applications, including Siebel Incentive Compensation Management to calculate commissions and Oracle Financials to make payments.

“Our goal with Oracle Exadata was to rationalize servers, reduce back-end storage infrastructure, and consolidate multiple database instances,” explains Holden Lai, an IT manager at AFG.

Oracle Exadata has enabled AFG to decommission several servers at its datacenter, reducing the overall Oracle footprint from three racks to two.

“It only took two months from the time we took delivery of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine until we were in production with our mission-critical applications,” says Lee Durston, application architect at AFG.

Durston says that this rapid implementation schedule was possible because of the way Oracle has preintegrated the hardware and software within the Oracle Exadata Database Machine. “Custom configurations are eliminated, so you can get up and running quickly,” he explains. 

Maximizing Performance

AFG’s implementation team used Oracle Real Application Testing to tune the database for optimal performance before going live. This unique database testing facility combines a workload capture and replay feature with a performance analyzer to test real-life workloads. “We captured about eight hours’ worth of transactions during a normal business day, and then we replayed those on the Oracle Exadata machine,” Lai says. 

With very little tweaking, AFG was obtaining impressive results. “We’ve seen an average 8 times performance improvement at the database level for reads, and an average 20 times improvement for writes,” Lai adds.

Since deploying Oracle Exadata in conjunction with other Oracle technology, AFG’s brokers have reported significant performance improvements at each phase of their online processes, including faster login times (from 12 seconds to 3 seconds), quicker navigation from screen to screen (from 3 seconds to less than 1 second), and faster product qualification. With 800 mortgage products in the system, it used to take more than 30 seconds to determine which products a particular customer could qualify for. Now it takes about 6 seconds.

Next Steps

 

LEARN more about Oracle Exadata

 oracle.com/us/products/database/database-machine

 A Technical Overview of the Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Exadata Storage Server (pdf)

 Smart Scans Meet Storage Indexes

 

Improving Operational Efficiency

AFG’s IT staff tallies up additional savings and improvements behind the scenes. For example, Durston says loading data into AFG’s data warehouse from Siebel CRM used to take nine hours, and now it takes just two hours. And while system administrators previously had to look after the operating system, databases, and storage environment separately, now they are all part of one integrated system. Oracle Exadata combines all of these IT assets under a single support contact, leading to easier system management and easier license administration. With prebundled hardware and software, there are no lengthy implementation, configuration, and tuning chores. 

“Moving to Oracle Exadata was a no-brainer for us because it is so much easier to maintain the infrastructure,” Durston confirms.

In addition to these administrative improvements, Durston says the Oracle Exadata platform has provided strategic benefits to the business. “It enables us to deliver a market-leading technology solution to our brokers,” he adds.

For example, by improving the performance and availability of AFG’s IT infrastructure, Oracle Exadata makes it easier for AFG to recruit and retain brokers, increasing revenue and driving the business forward. In addition, Oracle Exadata enabled AFG to deliver an interactive sales reporting system to its brokers. Durston believes that this is a first for AFG’s industry. “We made a strategic business decision to deploy Oracle Exadata because it gives us a competitive advantage,” he states.

AFG currently processes more than 500,000 commission calculations every month. Being able to do this reliably and quickly is critical to broker relations. “It used to take 37 hours to process commission payments to brokers, and now it takes less than 9 hours,” says Durston. “We have never missed a commission payment, and Oracle Exadata significantly minimizes the risk of that happening in the future.”
 

 

What Makes Oracle Exadata Different?


“There are three really special capabilities in Oracle Exadata,” says Juan Loaiza, senior vice president of systems technology at Oracle. “One is our intelligent storage architecture—the ability to push database operations directly into storage. Another is our compression capability. The third special capability is the way we’ve integrated flash very tightly into Oracle Exadata, both in the software and hardware.”
 

The Oracle Exadata Storage Server offloads database processing from the database server to storage. Processing in the storage server by Oracle Exadata’s Smart Scan feature means that only the data requested by the application is returned to the database server, rather than all the data in queried tables. (See “Smart Scans Meet Storage Indexes” by Arup Nanda, for information on how Oracle Exadata’s Smart Scan feature works with storage server indexes.)
 

Oracle Exadata’s Hybrid Columnar Compression feature is a new method for organizing data within a database block. This method achieves the compression benefits of columnar storage while avoiding the performance issues. Decompression of columns and rows returned to the database server happens in the storage server. “We are often able to achieve 10 times compression of data in Oracle Exadata, which is far more than we can achieve on any other platform,” says Loaiza.
 

Storage in Oracle Exadata’s Smart Flash Cache feature delivers an average of 10 times the read and write performance of regular disk storage. “We are using PCI flash cards instead of flash disks because they run much faster,” Loaiza says. “[Oracle Exadata’s] Smart Flash Cache automatically moves data in and out of flash to achieve really high performance without requiring manual placement of data in flash.”

 




David Baum
(david@dbaumcomm.com) is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.    

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