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A Grand Tour of Oracle Exadata, Part 3

Welcome to the third installment of a series describing the Oracle Exadata platform. In part 1 we talked about hardware components, and in part 2 went on to discuss software. We now move on to how these components are packaged and licensed.

Unlike version 1 of the Oracle database machine, which was sold in full-rack increments only, version 2 introduces the concept of half and quarter rack configurations for smaller products. All database machines include a full-size physical rack for equipment, networking equipment including two redundant InfiniBand fabrics, the Cisco administrative switch, a KVM management unit, and power distribution units.

Quarter Rack
The quarter rack is the smallest Exadata configuration available. It includes:

  • Two database servers
  • Three storage servers (giving it a slightly lower storage to compute capacity ratio than its larger brethren)
  • Upgradability to a half rack (but not a three-quarter rack)

Half Rack
The half rack is the mid-sized configuration, including:

  • Four database servers
  • Seven storage servers
  • Upgradability to a full rack

Full Rack
The largest single-rack configuration is a full rack. It includes:

  • Eight database servers
  • Fourteen storage servers
  • An extra InfiniBand switch, allowing multiple racks to be connected into the same fabric

Basic System
Oracle formerly offered a basic system, consisting of a single database server, a single InfiniBand switch, and a single storage server without a rack. It was targeted at developers and lab environments, and is no longer available.

Add-on storage servers
It’s possible to purchase additional storage servers to add to an existing deployment, subject to a few caveats:

  • Care should be taken to maintain a balanced configuration, and not to purchase more storage than the database servers can handle
  • The additional storage servers must be placed in a separate, customer-supplied rack, and connected to spare ports on existing InfiniBand Switches. They are however not connected to the KVM like other database and storage servers.

Software Licensing

On top of the hardware purchase cost, the proprietary Oracle software components require licensing.

  • Storage servers are licensed on a per-drive basis. It is possible to license a drives in a subset of the physically installed storage servers to provide future expansion without the up-front licensing fees. A minimum of three operational, licensed storage servers must be configured for ASM and cluster voting disk redundancy however.
  • Oracle 11gR2 Enterprise Edition running on database servers is licensed in the same manner as standalone (non-Exadata) database configurations – usually on per CPU basis. Each database server with 8 cores requires 4 CPU licenses taking into account 0.5 multiplier. Existing customer licenses can be transferred to Exadata systems at no extra cost.
  • Although the minimum software requirement is Exadata Storage Server Software plus Oracle Enterprise Edition, typical Exadata configurations include the RAC option. Depending on the workload, the partitioning, OLAP, and advanced compression options are common additions.
  • Grid Control management packs, especially the diagnostics and tuning packs, simplify management and performance tuning.
  • Oracle Enterprise Manager’s System Monitoring Plugin for Oracle Eadata Storage Server (how’s that for a mouthful?) provides Exadata monitoring capabilities inside the Grid Control framework.


Support offerings follow product licensing closely. They include:

  • Premier Support for Systems includes hardware and operating system support
  • Premier Support for Operating Systems includes operating system support only (no hardware)
  • Oracle Customer Data and Device Retention is an add-on to hardware support, allowing clients to retain failed hard drives rather than returning them to Oracle
  • Software Update License and Support for Exadata Storage Server software
  • Database software support is sold on the same basis as non-Exadata installations

Oracle has committed to providing hardware support for at least 5 years from the last ship date of each hardware release.

Oracle’s Advanced Customer Services group offers additional professional services assistance including:

  • Hardware installation
  • System configuration
  • Migration assistance
  • Backup and recovery review

Regular readers of this blog will know that Pythian also provides a full suite of value-added Exadata services at the proof of concept, planning, deployment, and management stages.

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