The Right FitBy Philip J. Gill
CallSource turns to Oracle Database Appliance for a simple, reliable, and affordable system upgrade.
Upgrading server, storage, and networking hardware to meet growing demands can be a complex, uncertain, and expensive process in a business of any size. In recent years, large businesses have been able to simplify these upgrades by moving to engineered systems such as Oracle Exadata, and they’ve realized significant improvements in system performance. Until recently, the initial cost and extreme compute and storage capacity of available engineered systems did not meet the needs of most midsize organizations. But with the release of Oracle Database Appliance, midsize companies now have an engineered systems option to fit their businesses.
CallSource, the world’s largest call-tracking company, recently faced the decision about how to best upgrade its IT infrastructure. With more than 200 employees and US$50 million in annual revenue, CallSource is the epitome of a thriving midsize company. On any given day, the Westlake Village, California, firm tracks up to 2 million ads for 300,000 clients in the United States and Canada. The company developed the first patented call-tracking technology 20 years ago and has since expanded its product portfolio to call recording, call analysis, marketing analysis, performance measurement, training, and other services.
Last fall CallSource realized that the company’s IT infrastructure, which supports the company’s core mission-critical Oracle Database 11g applications, needed an upgrade. “It was time,” says CallSource Chief Technology Officer Jason Scinocca. “The servers were two-plus years old and couldn’t handle the current load or future growth.”
In the past, Scinocca says, such an overhaul would have been costly, complex, and time-consuming. Each component of the new system—servers, database, operating system, storage, networking, and so on—would have to be researched, tested for compatibility, purchased, and stitched together, and then tested and retested before being put into production. Most daunting of all was the cost: according to Scinocca’s own research, a system with all the features that CallSource needed—high performance, high availability, redundancy, large main memory, terabytes of storage, expansion capability, and more—would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Why should I need to spend more than US$200,000, three months’ worth of research, and two months’ worth of configuring and testing?” says Scinocca. “That makes the project time six months before we even do a migration, and I’ve spent a great deal of time and allocated a lot of resources to get there—and we’re not in production yet.”
So Scinocca went looking for a simpler, faster, more affordable option. Because CallSource is an Oracle Database 11g shop, he didn’t have to look far. Scinocca opted for Oracle Database Appliance, which combines hardware, software, storage, and networking in a single pretested unit.
The combination of components would also deliver multiple benefits. “Oracle Database Appliance is a complete integrated hardware and software system,” says Scinocca. “I can write one much smaller check to Oracle, and I can sit around for only a couple of hours installing Oracle Database Appliance. If you were in my place,” he adds rhetorically, “which way would you want to go?”
Oracle Database Appliance is a new member of Oracle’s growing family of engineered systems, which includes Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, and Oracle Exalytics. Introduced in September 2011, Oracle Database Appliance was designed from the ground up for midsize firms such as CallSource.
CallSource’s Scinocca agrees that Oracle Database Appliance is the perfect database appliance for a company with a database in the 1- to 2-terabyte range, which he calls “the typical medium-sized firm.” Currently, CallSource’s Oracle Database 11g instance is 1.5 terabytes, but Oracle Database Appliance gives it the room it needs to grow.
The CallSource database stores the information collected from its clients’ calls, including national, regional, state, city, zip code, and area codes. CallSource then analyzes that information to help clients maximize the return on advertising expenditures in any number of channels, including print, billboards, Yellow Pages, direct mail, and the Web.
Never Too Big
The size of the database in use is a key factor in choosing the right hardware for a database deployment, but Oracle Database Appliance delivers flexibility that lets midsize organizations such as CallSource deploy the right-sized solution.
A unique feature of Oracle Database Appliance is its pay-as-you-grow licensing, which lets users pay for only the number of processor cores they need and grow their processing as demand increases. Scinocca says he likes the flexibility this approach provides—to start small and expand, paying only for what the company needs.
“When we install an Oracle Database Appliance in our backup data center in Chicago [Illinois] later this year, we’re planning on starting small, with probably four cores to start,” he adds. (Four cores is the base Oracle Database Appliance configuration.)
A low cost is the most obvious initial benefit of Oracle Database Appliance, but there are others, says Scinocca. First is the simplicity of installation. A system built the old way, from assembled parts from different vendors, would take three to six months and require lots of staff time and expensive outside consultants. In contrast, CallSource purchased its Oracle Database Appliance through Cloud Creek Systems, an Oracle partner also based in Westlake Village. After delivery, Scinocca says, “the system was up and running in two-and-a-half hours, not including data transfer time.”
Out of the box and without any tuning, Oracle Database Appliance delivers a 300 percent performance boost, Scinocca says. “I haven’t done one thing to optimize the system.”
“My clients used to call up and complain that they couldn’t run their previous 2010 year performance reports on the old system,” Scinocca continues. “Now they can run their much larger 2011 performance reports in less than a minute with zero software changes.”
Oracle Database Appliance also takes less space and consumes less power. For CallSource, Oracle Database Appliance replaced multiple components, including a 25 U, three-node rackmount server, a fiber optics networking switch, and a clustered storage array. Oracle Database Appliance is a 4 U, two-node rackmount configuration with dual six-core Intel Xeon processors, 96 gigabytes of memory, and 3 terabytes of storage, all built into a single unit. And at CallSource, that single unit uses 7 amps of power compared to 24 amps used by the systems it replaced.
Most importantly, ongoing maintenance of the new engineered system is much easier. “With a typical patch, you have to make sure your operating system is compatible, your kernel is compatible, and your drivers are compatible,” Scinocca explains. “And you’re going to have to check and maintain every piece of software, and you have to make sure it’s not impacting your current drivers.
“With the engineering behind Oracle Database Appliance, the grunt work has already been done for you,” he adds. “Because Oracle Database Appliance is an engineered system, you know that the hardware and software have been tested together already before you install a patch, and you know it will work.”
As best-of-breed systems from multiple vendors become more complex, costly, and time-consuming to set up, Scinocca sees engineered systems as the future for CallSource. “I believe other parts of my business could benefit from using engineered systems such as Oracle Database Appliance,” he says. “That’s why I’m looking into what other Oracle systems could do for CallSource.”
Philip Gill is a San Diego, California-based freelance writer and editor.