Complete PowerBy Diana Reichardt
SPARC hardware and the Oracle Solaris operating system: High-performance engine for mission-critical apps
SPARC processor–based hardware has been powering IT solutions for more than 20 years. Designed to scale up and known to consistently provide a high degree of reliability and availability under broad workloads, SPARC processors power big systems for companies with big problems to solve. Most customers that rely on the SPARC/Oracle Solaris platform for their mission-critical applications have been doing so for years, because as the SPARC processor evolves, customers benefit from the performance gains of the advanced chip designs in a nondisruptive way. In fact, businesses around the world are running more than 11,000 applications on the SPARC platform and the Oracle Solaris operating system to deliver the highest-quality and most-efficient solutions internally and to their customers.
“We need to service a wide range of clients where scalability and availability are paramount, while being sensitive to cost pressures,” says Steve Taylor, architecture and technology division director at Eagle. “Eagle technology facilitates more-timely access to critical investment information. Our mutual fund clients price their funds daily, and they are exclusively using Oracle Solaris 10 right now because it’s designed for mission-critical applications that require rock-solid stability and predictable performance.”
Designed to Scale
The Eagle application can be easily configured to take advantage of the specific hardware and is a key part of the design and deployment process to assess the workload, service-level agreements, and the shape of the data. The majority of Eagle’s Oracle customers use systems based on SPARC64 and UltraSPARC processors running Oracle Solaris because of the compelling price/performance capabilities of those products. “Enterprise-class servers based on SPARC64 give them the scalability and the stability that they require for their daily operations,” Taylor says.
For example, large mutual funds, portfolio managers, and some of the fund administration providers—including Eagle’s parent company, BNY Mellon—benefit from Oracle’s SPARC Enterprise M-Series systems with SPARC64 VI/VII+ processors in their daily accounting operations because of that scalability and stability. On the other hand, for a large wealth management shop that has hundreds of thousands of accounts, it’s important for the processor to be able to execute multiple threads in parallel to drive high levels of concurrency—keeping throughput levels high. These customers are better suited to Oracle’s SPARC T-Series systems, where concurrency is paramount. Being able to match hardware to application configuration and the shape of the data is key.
And the integrated engineering effort behind SPARC, Oracle Solaris, and Oracle’s database, middleware, applications, and more is just getting started.
“Oracle now has the operating system, processor development, virtualization software, and applications all within one company, with each unit striving to move the performance ball forward,” points out Rick Hetherington, vice president of hardware development at Oracle. “For example, the operating systems will be able to recognize critical threads in our applications and assign them to a dedicated processor core to achieve the very highest performance for specific workloads. This will enable customers to make much more efficient use of their IT resources.”
While Oracle develops new hardware and software products, Eagle continues to look for the highest performance and efficiency from its SPARC-based solutions. “We’ve worked collaboratively with Sun and Oracle over the years to identify performance improvements and to take advantage of new features when they become available,” says Taylor.
Road-Tested for Reliability
Ask Hal Moretto, director of database platforms at SunGard’s Availability Services division, what keeps him up at night, and the first thing he will tell you is “high availability.”
Downtime isn’t an option when your company’s IT infrastructure manages more than US$25 trillion in investment assets and processes more than 5 million trades each day. That’s the processing load that financial intermediaries turn over to SunGard, one of the world’s leading software and technology services companies.
In addition to software and processing solutions, SunGard provides disaster recovery services, managed IT services, information availability consulting services, and business continuity management software, serving 25,000 customers in 70 countries across virtually all industry and government sectors. As colocation and managed services gain in popularity, SunGard is also expanding into new technologies with cloud offerings and advanced recovery solutions.
“We do recovery services. We’ll either manage a customer’s facility or we’ll manage a customer’s equipment or applications within our managed services centers,” Moretto explains. “If we have an issue, I want to know if we have a solid backup. Can we restore it? Are we doing our best from a security standpoint? And how are we doing performancewise?”
With a focus on supporting SunGard’s internal business systems, Moretto’s team is responsible for SunGard’s internal Oracle E-Business Suite applications, the employee portal, and several internally developed and commercial applications, including Oracle’s Hyperion. The team also manages the infrastructure that supports the company’s iStore implementation, which is used by SunGard’s channel partners.
And Moretto’s team does a lot of product testing. “We want to be our own best customer,” Moretto says. “Several of our own products are key pieces of the infrastructure that we rely on and support today.” The most important of these is SunGard’s advanced recovery solution, Recoverpoint, which is set up to replicate data from the company’s production sites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a new recovery facility in Carlstadt, New Jersey. As Moretto describes it, implementing that solution didn’t happen overnight.
When he joined SunGard six years ago, Moretto explains, the company was already running its Oracle applications on Sun SPARC systems. But over the course of 15 years, SunGard had accumulated a variety of classes of servers. “The configurations of these systems were so drastically different, it made our performance and QA testing a challenge,” he explains.
So Moretto began a multiyear plan to enhance SunGard’s infrastructure, addressing the storage, operating system, physical servers, database, and applications in use. He wanted a leading-edge platform that he could rely on to scale both internally and externally as additional servers were added to support SunGard’s current and future needs.
With Oracle Solaris, SunGard was able to harden its servers at the operating system level, lock down processes, and lock down access controls and journaling with syslogging. When the company upgraded from Oracle Solaris 8 to Oracle Solaris 10, Moretto recalls, Oracle’s application binary compatibility guarantee worked as advertised and the company had no issues with the operating system (see the sidebar “Oracle Solaris Binary Application Guarantee Program”).
Next, Moretto started evaluating the servers. “We were looking at either the SMP [symmetric multiprocessing] model, with a single monolithic production type server, or an Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) infrastructure,” says Moretto. “The Oracle RAC enhancements between Oracle9i Database and Oracle Database 10g were immense, and after we upgraded to Oracle 10g, it was an ideal fit. At that point, we decided our best option would be to configure from that single large server type model to an Oracle RAC cluster.”
The solution Moretto and his team implemented uses Oracle Database 10g with Oracle Application Server 10g and Oracle WebLogic Server. This integrated platform supports SunGard’s Oracle E-Business Suite environment along with some of the company’s critical in-house developed systems. It runs on a four-node Oracle RAC configuration based on four of Oracle’s SPARC Enterprise M5000 servers running Oracle Solaris 10, and it utilizes Oracle’s Sun SPARC Enterprise T5440, Sun SPARC Enterprise T5220, and Sun SPARC Enterprise T2000 servers, all running Oracle Solaris 10, for its applications and Web services.
“When we went live, I could not have been happier with how well the equipment performed,” Moretto says. “We’ve been up and running in an Oracle RAC environment for about a year and a half now, with no complaints.”
SunGard’s New Jersey datacenter, which is dedicated to colocation and managed services, opened in October 2010, with the advanced recovery solution implemented by Moretto’s team replicating data from the company’s production environments in Philadelphia to the recovery facility in Carlstadt.
“What I really love about this solution is that it gives me peace of mind,” says Moretto. “I tell people that in the event of a disaster or a problem, my data is within 10 minutes of concurrency, sitting 150 miles away. All of our data is sitting at the other datacenter, and within minutes these systems could be fully activated and functioning.”
Building Tomorrow’s Power Train
Moretto is looking forward to even greater advancements in the Oracle product family—including Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center, Oracle Solaris 11, and Oracle Exadata—now that Oracle is engineering hardware and software to work together. “It’s nice having one vendor from top to bottom,” he says.
The combined engineering teams from Oracle’s hardware and software groups are now able to work together in new ways to improve system performance, adds Jean S. Bozman, research vice president at International Data Corporation (IDC). Bozman says that she expects to see “more examples of beneficial collaboration, using SPARC building blocks in the overall line of Oracle products.” She goes on to say that this close collaboration was not possible before, “but now Oracle hardware developers and software developers can spot architecture bottlenecks as well as software issues when they are examining the minute details of processor design, applications, networking fabrics, and operating system code.”
Oracle’s Hetherington believes these technical synergies represent a huge advantage that no other technology company enjoys. “If the hardware team sees anomalous behavior, they can instantly consult with the Oracle Solaris group or our database experts to understand what is happening,” he says. “Oracle’s entire hardware and software stack is fully integrated and functioning quite well. And we are just beginning to see the benefits.”
Diana Reichardt is a senior writer with Oracle Publishing, specializing in server and storage systems.
Send us your comments