back to article Oracle teases 'easy-to-absorb' platform updates, wants 'all' your infrastructure biz

Oracle's popped out a short explanation for the sketchy SPARC/Solaris roadmap it slipped out in January. That roadmap mentioned “SPARC next” and “SPARC next+” without offering much detail other than a promise of faster speeds and bandwidth, more cache and updates to “software in silicon”. Now John Fowler, Oracle's executive …

  1. James 51
    FAIL

    I once had the misfortune of having to call Oracle about a small program they sold. Immediately the sales droid wanted to know what OS we were running, office suite, network software, the works basically and completely ignored my questions about the one thing my work was interested in. They wanted to come out and give a demo on something completely irrelevant. Ended up having to hang up without a single question being answered about the software I was actually interested in. When they called back handed them off to a manager to spent thirty minutes politely tell them they were wasting their time and in the end he had to hang up too. It doesn't matter what Oracle is selling, who is going to be stupid enough to buy it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Support

      They will support the DDBB, kind of support the AS.. and for a time some other tools, like virtualbox.

      They will sell you huge amounts of software, with no support whatsoever... SOA suite I am looking at you.

      Anon, as I will change jobs, my boss is in the register and I might have to go and work for Oracle..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are still people out there that buy Sparc hardware?! Wow, that was disinvest at least a decade ago....

  2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Stop

    Yawn

    I am completely mystified as to how Fowler is still employed in the IT industry. Having admitted that SPARC fell waaaaaaaay behind in the 2010-2015 period (and the decade before that), he then repeats exactly the same male bovine manure and denial as he's been repeating for the last sixteen-odd years! Crippling your software in an attempt to make your unwanted silicon look good is just fail of the highest order.

  3. PlinkerTind

    The worlds fastest cpu

    Today the worlds fastest cpu is SPARC. Oracle has released six generations of cpus in five years. Each being minimum 100% faster than the previous generation. We dont talk about 5-10% faster (as Intel). Today the SPARC M7 is typically 2-3x faster than the fastest Intel Xeon or POWER8, all the way up to ~15x faster on database workloads. Here are 30ish world records, where SPARC M7 crushes x86 and POWER8. The coming POWER9 will only be 2x faster than POWER8, which means POWER9 will be slower than the current SPARC M7. And if you also turn on encryption and compression on all these benchmarks, expect x86 and POWER8 scores to go down to 25-33% of these numbers, whereas SPARC M7 gets a penalty of 2-3% in benchmarks. So if you want to use encryption and compression, SPARC M7 cpu is not typically 2-3x faster but it is 6-9x faster typically, all the way up to 45x faster on database workloads.

    https://blogs.oracle.com/BestPerf/entry/accelerating_spark_sql_using_sparc

    For instance, the last week Oracle released the Exadata SL6 (Sparc Linux 6) which is based on the SPARC M7 cpus, so performance has increased considerably when compared to the x86 version. The only difference between the new Exadata SL6 and the other one, is one uses SPARC and the other uses x86. And both run Linux. And the price is identical. But one single SPARC M7 can database scan 48 billion rows per second, achieving 143 GB/sec throughput, whereas two E5v3 achieved 20 GB/sec and was far slower. So if you need extreme performance, you have no other choice than use SPARC M7.

    http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/analystreports/esg-sparc-m7-performance-2811900.pdf

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: The worlds fastest cpu

      @PlinkerTind.

      Wow, he Oracle droids are out in force today and, as usual, spouting complete nonsense.

      6 generations in 5 years? Where. Timeline below.

      2011 - T4

      2013 - T5

      2013 - M5

      2013 - M6

      2015 - M7

      2016 - S7

      So, by my reckoning, that's 5 processor releases in the last 5 years. However, note that I said processor releases rather than generations. This is because the T5 and M5 are actually the same generation, just slightly different configurations. Also, the M7 and S7 are the same generation. Again, same trick. So, actually, it's only 3 generations in the last 5 years. The T7 servers actually had M7 processors in them, so they don't count.

      In terms of encryption....one of the reason the Oracle Sparc processors are better is that the software is specifically written not to use the cryptographic accelerators in other chipsets!! So, although Power 8 has a perfectly good accelerator, Oracle software won't use it. Oracle are masters at limiting the software only to work in a specific way, on specific hardware, using specific configurations to aid their hardware sales. It's completely contrived. Same story is true of compression.

      Now, don't get me wrong. The latest chips from Oracle are pretty good and have their uses. They're nowhere near as far ahead as suggested here and I do note that the links are to the usual Oracle marketing FUD rather than anything independent. The latest changes from Oracle to put database accelerators into silicon are also interesting, but the last time I spoke with them, they have no cohesive sales message. Essentially, they're willing to sell you anything you're willing to pay for and even different verticles in Oracle will fight against each other to make sales. Each insisting their product is better and more applicable for your use case.

      The reality is that the biggest impediment to selling this hardware is the fact it's owned and sold by Oracle. Their sales tactics, licensing practices and general company ethos and attitude to customers is the problem.

      1. PlinkerTind

        Re: The worlds fastest cpu

        @Mad Mike

        Yes, you are right, it was not six SPARC cpus in five years, it was five SPARC cpus in five years. I wrote it hastily and it was late. And regarding generations or not, you claim that T5 and M5 is the same cpu, just different configuration - I dont agree. The M5 has 6-cores and it was influenced by the M4 (which was the successor to Fujitsu M3) and these 6-cores has 3.9 billion transistors in 643 mm^2. Whereas the T5 has 16-core with 1.5 billion transistors in 511 mm^2, is influenced by the Niagara cpus. There are quite some differences. Sure, they might share some building blocks, but they are totally different built.

        Anyway, let us say you are right - how many other cpu vendors has "only" released three generations in 5 years? How often do we see new POWER generations?

        .

        "...Now, don't get me wrong. The latest chips from Oracle are pretty good and have their uses. They're nowhere near as far ahead as suggested here and I do note that the links are to the usual Oracle marketing FUD rather than anything independent...."

        Well, I suggest you look at some of the 30ish world records, you will see there are verified independent benchmarks. For instance SPECcpu2006, SPECjbb2015, SPECjEnterprise2010, SAP, SPECvirt_sc2013, OLTPbenchmark, STREAM triad ram bandwidth, etc etc etc. And also other benchmarks such as different databases, neural networks, hadoop, PageRank, SHA, AES, etc etc. The benchmarks are very diverse, not just business workloads such as SAP or databases.

        And in all cases, the SPARC M7 is typically 2-3x faster. Even in these verified SPECxxxx benchmarks. Some of the benchmarks are 11x faster (database workloads). Just search for these benchmarks on that link I gave you, or go each separate SPECxxx website and search there instead. You will see it is not Oracle FUD. These official SPECxxxx benchmarks are validated by others. Here are only some collected records: https://blogs.oracle.com/JeffV/entry/sparc_m7_arrives_breaks_records

        .

        "...one of the reason the Oracle Sparc processors are better is that the software is specifically written not to use the cryptographic accelerators in other chipsets!! ..."

        In different benchmarks, Oracle proves time and again that performance only drops 2-3% when SPARC turn on encryption. We also see that x86 performance drops drastically when x86 turn on encryption only. Typically SPARC M7 is 5-10x faster in benchmarks such as AES. If SPARC turned on both encryption and compression, extrapolationg numbers M7 would maybe drop performance 4-5% in total, whereas x86 would halve performance again.

        Regarding POWER8, it is funny that Oracle has not benchmarked against POWER8. So you might have a point. If POWER8 benchmarks shows that performance drop only 2-3% when turning on encryption, that is just as good as SPARC M7. Do you know how much performance typically drops when POWER8 turns on encryption and/or compression? This means that SPARC M7 runs compression and encryption, practically for free so you can always turn them on. Regarding x86 we see that performance drops catastrophically. Regarding POWER8, Oracle has not proven anything about performance loss. Maybe you can chime in here? Anyway, encryption or not, SPARC M7 is typically 2-3x faster than POWER8, in SPECjEnterprise2010 one single SPARC T7 cpu is faster than four POWER8 cpus.

        So, it seems that Oralce has not benched encrption/compression against POWER8 - so your statement is not really correct in that "Oralce omits using the POWER8 encyrption chip".

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: The worlds fastest cpu

          @PlinkerTind

          Oh dear, oh dear. I like your explanation of the T5/M5 observation I posed, but unfortunately, this link to Oracle shows you're completely wrong.

          https://blogs.oracle.com/orasysat/entry/sparc_t4_t5_m5_m10

          This shows they both use the S3 core. Indeed, so did the T4!! Essentially, Oracle lowered the core count in the M5 (compared to T5) and added a heap more cache. So, they're absolutely the same design and technology. They just added cache to solve problems they'd found in earlier T? servers and needed to reduce the core count to get the die space.

          To count as generations, you really have to look at core designs and Oracle has produced nowhere near that many generations of core designs. They've used similar methods as IBM (and others) to produce new CPUs without changing the basic cores. Drop the fabrication size and increase speed for instance. Upgrade from PCIe2 to PCIe3 on the chip. However, the same core design is present.

          In terms of performance benchmarking, let's consider that. Benchmarks are a highly convoluted and bad way of trying to demonstrate actual CPU performance. The configurations are contrived and the software is normally specifically configured and optimised to the exact layout of the server and CPU. Factors outside the CPU are often used to provide what looks like enhanced performance (e.g. using flash based I/O on TPC-C). Also, nobody benchmarks against virtualised infrastructure. I'm not going to deny that doing the above makes the Oracle chips look fantastic. However, in the REAL world, where virtualisation and mixed workloads are the norm, these advantages drop away. For instance, Oracle claims you can have a LDOM per thread, but you'd have to be insane to do it. I've used T3 servers which ran like a dog under virtualisation as any search of the web will show. So, benchmarks are fine to a point, but need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

          You've also completely missed my point about encryption and compression. Oracle (in general) writes their software (such as Oracle DB) to specifically prevent it using competitors encryption and compression accelerators. So, Power has for years now had encryption acceleration within the processor. Whether you turn this on or off (hardware level), Oracle DB will simply not use it. They've made a decision on the coding of their software to avoid using a perfectly acceptable and suitable acceleration tool. Why? Because they want their hardware to look better. This is why the benchmarks show such a difference. If Oracle software actually used the available features on competitors hardware, who knows what the story would be. Using hardware accelerators often requires more than just a hardware turn on or off. Just think of the various SSE enhancements to x86 architecture. You can have them turned on or off, but if you never use those instructions, you won't get any benefit regardless. So, my statement is absolutely correct. Oracle actually prevents use of the Power 8 on-chip encryption accelerator whether it is turned on or off at the hardware level.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The worlds fastest cpu

      > Today the worlds fastest cpu is SPARC.

      Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Nobody cares.

      Here's the executive summary: nobody cares about SPARC in general, and still nobody cares how SPARC compares to POWER8. You must have missed the memo: it's Intel and/or ARM64. The early '90's RISC egg friers? They've been over-cooked and done for a decade now.

      Wanna sound even more out of touch and delusional? How about a white paper SPARC vs. DEC Alpha. That would totally rock the boat, if this year was 1997.

      1. PlinkerTind

        Re: The worlds fastest cpu

        @A.C

        You sound like IBM when SPARC T5 arrived and was faster than anything IBM POWER could offer. IBM general manager for POWER systems, says about the performance race:

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2013/04/02/big-data-performance-speed-cost/#39f4368437ca

        "...Companies today, Parris argued, have different priorities than the raw speed of chips..."

        When IBM has released a good cpu, performance matters a lot and IBM releases benchmarks all over the web. And when the competition has good cpus, performance “was like 2002–not at all in tune with the market today" and IBM pretends performance does not matter at all.

        Well, if you need the most extreme performing business servers, you have no choice than go to SPARC M7. At minimum it is 2-3x faster. For business workloads SPARC M7 is typically 5-10x faster, sometimes 15x faster than the best server the competition has. What do you think offers more value and is cheapest? One single SPARC M7 cpu outperforms four POWER8 cpus in SPECjEnterprise2010 for instance. You do the math.

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: The worlds fastest cpu

          @Plinker Tind.

          Yes, companies choose their statements to suit their needs at the time. Oracle does it, IBM does it, they all do. So what?

          However, the point the IBM chap was making is actually valid. For business use, you need the chip that provides the greatest benefit for the lowest cost. This benefit could be throughput, functions or whatever. Benchmarks are appallingly bad at representing real life and have been misused by companies since the dawn of time to try and prove different things. On a typical mixed business workload, often highly virtualised, Power 8 performs very well, is extremely flexible and has a great ROI case. Sparc M7 is a good processor. I'm not knocking it. But, if anybody truly believes Oracle has got something an order of magnitude better than anyone else in REAL world use cases, they're deluded. Genuine order of magnitude advances like that are as rare as rocking hose s**t.

          In your final comparison as well, you are actually comparing products from different times as well. Sparc M7 was released in 2015, but Power 8 was released in 2013, a whole 2 years earlier, which in processors stakes is a long time. Also, you've got to compare like with like, which you're not. Given that Oracle licence per core, that single M7 cpu has 32, whereas the four Power 8 cpus would have 48 at maximum (can't be bothered to look at the benchmark to check). So, you're factors are way off. You can't ignore the number of cores. Does it matter if the server has a smaller number of sockets and more cores per cpu, or more sockets and fewer cores per cpu?

          Finally, if raw power was really so different as you claim, why has Oracle not succeeded in the HPC stakes? You will notice a distinct lack of Sparc based supercomputers. Fujitsu have one, but IBM have many based on the Power architecture. Also, NVLink being built into the processor could well be a game changer for performance, especially in HPC. Have Oracle put anything like that into Sparc?

          1. PlinkerTind

            Re: The worlds fastest cpu

            @Mad Mike

            Regarding the T5 / M5 generations. I dont agree. You seem to argue that the only thing of importance is the basic building block; the core. In that case, Intel has basically used the same Core2duo core since many years back (decades?) - and using your argument, Intel has not released a new generation for decades(?).

            So using your definition, AMD bulldozer was a generation, and now Ryzen is the next generation. And Intel P4 netburst design was a generation, and Core2duo was next generation - which Intel is stuck at even today. Some people dont agree with your viewpoint. Intel has released several generations since Core2duo.

            Sure, you could say that if Intel released a new generation, the cpu performance would see a significant increase - but all Intel cpu releases the last decade are within 10% of each other - which means Intel are basically using the same design with only minor modifications. However, Ryzen is a big improvement to Bulldozer which implies Ryzen must be a new generation.

            But many people dont agree with this. They say Intel has released many new generations since Core2duo, whereas you would claim Intel is still on the same basic Core2duo generation. It is possible to use the same building block and come up with totally new cpus. It is not clearcut what a "cpu generation" is, and nothing says that your definition is the correct one.

            .

            Regarding performance benchmarking. I think it is a bit funny that you dismiss all benchmarks now that SPARC has the crown. When POWER had the performance crown, I am quite sure that you insisted the competition should accept the POWER benchmarks. But now, all benchmarks should be rejected. I do believe that if POWER ever would take the crown again, you will insist that benchmarks are a valid way of comparing cpus against each other. But not now, because SPARC is fastest. What do you call such a behaviour?

            .

            "....But, if anybody truly believes Oracle has got something an order of magnitude better than anyone else in REAL world use cases, they're deluded. Genuine order of magnitude advances like that are as rare as rocking hose s**t...."

            Well, you know that SPARC has a different view than other cpus? You do know that 1.2 GHz SPARC T1 was 50x (no typo) faster than 2.4GHz Intel Xeons on certain webserving loads with many light threads? You know that four 1.6GHz SPARC T2+ was as fast as fourteen (14) 5GHz POWER6 in official SIEBEL v8 benchmarks?

            And now SPARC M7 is 11x faster than the competition on database workloads - is Oracle trying to fool us, are we deluded? Well, I suggest you study the DAX. It is a coprocessor in SPARC M7 which handles all database workloads. I hope you do know that specialized hardware is easily 10x faster than a general cpu doing it in software? Compare GPU to CPU. So why would it be surprising that a DAX coprocessor designed specifically for databases, is 10x faster than a general cpu doing it in software? There are various benchmarks out there, and in every case where DAX is used, the SPARC M7 is several times faster. This is consistent in every single benchmark.

            Here are some benchmarks where DAX is used accelerating Java Streams. One external company rewrote parts of their engine to use DAX and got a 6-8x boost.

            https://blogs.oracle.com/BestPerf/entry/20161201_java_streams_and_dax

            Apache Big Data SPARK gets 6x faster with DAX, than without

            https://community.oracle.com/docs/DOC-994843

            .

            "...You can't ignore the number of cores. Does it matter if the server has a smaller number of sockets and more cores per cpu, or more sockets and fewer cores per cpu?..."

            Sure, but SPARC M7 cores are faster than POWER8 and x86 cores. Just check the benchmarks. For instance, one SPARC M7 cpu with 32 cores, are faster than two 18-core Intel Xeon E5v4 cpus. Often SPARC cores are 2x faster than the competition.

            .

            "...Finally, if raw power was really so different as you claim, why has Oracle not succeeded in the HPC stakes? You will notice a distinct lack of Sparc based supercomputers..."

            Oracle has explicitly said they are avoiding the HPC market because the market is so small. The lucrative market is high end business servers. For instance, one single IBM P595 server with 32 cpus that took the old TPC-C benchmark, costed 35 million USD list price. One single server. When you build a large HPC server, it takes many years of R&D and you get, one or two customers (try to export to Russia). If one customer backs out, you are toast. You are vulnerable. On the other hand, the market for high end business servers are huge in comparison and you just assemble your high end servers and sell them for a huge profit. That is why SGI and all the other HPC vendors are desperately trying to leave HPC and get into the scale-up big business market - that is where the big bucks is. That is Oracle playground. But clusters can not run business workloads, so SGI has a very hard time trying to build a large business server with as many as 16 or 32 sockets.

            Regarding HPC. Now the largest HPC servers are slowly going to ARM cpus. Does this mean that ARM cpus are better than SPARC M7 and POWER8? Nope. Large HPC servers have other requirements than business servers (mainly performance vs wattage). HPC will not use DAX or encryption or what not. But if you really need high number crunching performance, well, SPARC M7 is fastest in the world on SPECcpu2006 workloads as well. And other number crunching workloads as Machine Learning, Neural Networks, etc etc. So if you need pure number crunching, SPARC M7 is much faster than POWER8 and x86. And if you need business workloads, SPARC M7 is many times faster as well.

            .

            Regarding Oracle software refuses to use POWER8 functionality such as encryption. Well, I have never discussed that. I only talked about benchmarks and performance. It is true that full encryption only slows down SPARC M7 something like 2-3%, this is proven by different benchmarks. How much slower does POWER8 get when turning on full encryption?

            1. Mad Mike

              Re: The worlds fastest cpu

              @ PlinkerTind

              I do agree that generation are difficult to define precisely due to the multitude of things that could change. If someone else wants to use a different definition, that's fine, but it's rather missing the point. If a minor change to the chip, say changing PCIe2 to PCIe3 is considered a generation, then simply upping the processor speed could be classed as a generation, which is silly. Something major has to change to be judged a generation and this often means fundamentally, the core. For instance, I wouldn't classify Power X to Power X+ as a generation. Although it has varied, that normally just involves something like a shrink and speed increase.

              Although I do look at benchmarks to get some information, I have never said they show performance in a real world environment, whether Sparc, Power, Xeon or whatever. You can deduce some things from them, but when some of them effectively include the performance of the disk subsystem as well and much better results can be got by simply changing to flash storage, this renders them somewhat pointless in terms of processor meaning. So, no, my stance hasn't changed at all.

              "You know that four 1.6GHz SPARC T2+ was as fast as fourteen (14) 5GHz POWER6 in official SIEBEL v8 benchmarks?"

              Ha, ha. Anybody who has run both these platforms (and I have) knows that this shows benchmarks have no relevance to real world performance. From what you're posting, you don't seem to realise that benchmarks mean nothing in the real world, where real workload actually runs. The early Tx processors could be used, but you had to be incredibly careful of the world, or they were real dogs. Until the T4 and its critical threads implementation, anything requiring decent single thread performance ran appallingly. Of course, using critical threads had the effect of dramatically reducing the throughput of the servers, so the benchmark flies out the window again. I'm not saying these servers were rubbish, just that you had to be very careful when and how you used them and the benchmarks meant nothing in the real world. On exactly the right workload, throughput was great. On the wrong workload, they sucked.

              "For instance, one single IBM P595 server with 32 cpus that took the old TPC-C benchmark, costed 35 million USD list price."

              Now, this is a really embarrassing statement of yours and shows you don't understand the benchmarks. The cost is actually for the WHOLE setup. That includes disk subsytems etc.etc. Not just the server. In most modern benchmarks of this type, the vast majority of the cost is the disk subsystem, not the server.

              "How much slower does POWER8 get when turning on full encryption?"

              You didn't read a word I wrote. Both Power 8 and Sparc M7 have encryption accelerators. However, Oracle software is specifically coded not to use the Power 8 encryption accelerator, so of course, Power 8 is slower as it still has to do it in software. However, this is the softwares choice. If on x86 software is written to not use SSEx (take your pick which variant), it doesn't matter if the processor has SSEx built-in or not. It won't help anything.

              You really need to stop believing benchmarks and actually try running some workloads across different architectures and manufacturers and then you'd realise the benchmarks are rubbish. It seems clear you either don't actually run workloads, or you only run on Oracle hardware as a matter of faith rather than rational thought process and facts.

            2. Mad Mike

              Re: The worlds fastest cpu

              @PlinkerTind

              By the way. Your statement:-

              "In that case, Intel has basically used the same Core2duo core since many years back (decades?) - and using your argument, Intel has not released a new generation for decades(?)."

              This is garbage as well. The following link shows the various microarchitectures that Intel have used

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_CPU_microarchitectures

              You will notice that this shows, amongst other things, major changes to the pipeline architecture etc. and therefore these cores are most definitely not the same back to Core2duo.

              I'm trying to work out if you actually know anything about CPUs at all, or you're simply looking stuff up and trying to appear like you do? For either, you're failing miserably.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: PlinkerTind Re: The worlds fastest cpu

          "....You do the math." Well, actually here is the math that really matters - I don't know a single customer that has any long term intention of using SPARC. Those that still have some SPARC are all migrating off it. Now, I am no fan of IBM Power and some of IBM's hilarious benchmarking shenanigans, and if you search these forums you'll find my ridiculing of their "one CPU performance" (where one CPU used 32 CPUs' RAM and interconnects). But, if I was given the choice between Power and SPARC as a platform tomorrow, then I'd choose Power over SPARC for 99% of use cases without any hesitation.

    3. Stevie

      Re: The worlds fastest cpu

      Yah, I sat through a Sun presentation with marketers drooling about "Eight Ex" performance gains over IBM Power Series.

      Everyone else oohed and ahed. I was watching the slides and saw the actual metrics. "EX" wasn't equivalent to "times" by any stretch of the imagination (though it was fast).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems like cloud is Oracle's sole focus... at least that is what Mark Hurd and Larry Ellison keep saying in their public appearances.

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