Dell, Oracle show unbreakable Linux

Dell and Oracle teamed up in Auckland last week to demonstrate what they are calling unbreakable Linux.

That's an extension of the Oracle "unbreakable" sales pitch for its database products: this time Dell and Red Hat were part of the act, the aim of which was show the "enterprise-readiness" of the hardware-software combination.

The demonstration was revealing of Dell's ascension from the desktop to the server room. The PowerEdge machine on show featured a two-node cluster loaded with memory and storage capacity with a price tag to match - about $US250,000.

But the ability to add nodes to the cluster on the fly was the eye-catching feature of the presentation for TelstraClear database specialist Brent Glover.

Glover, who looks after a variety of databases for the telco, says the scalability of the demonstration system-which featured Oracle9I Real Application Cluster (RAC)-holds out a tantalising prospect.

"We might have 100 to 200 databases on any one cluster and having to migrate them as part of a hardware upgrade can be a big hassle," Glover says. The load balancing feature of the RAC set-up removes that need: extra nodes can be added to the cluster as demand requires.

That's an advantage not just in terms of database administration, but also hardware cost, says Glover. "In a cold cluster solution, when you buy one node you need to spend the same amount again on a backup node." RAC means if one node in the cluster fails, the load is redistributed without major disruption to the remaining nodes.

As the demonstration in Auckland last week showed, the system can't keep going without feeling some impact from a failure. But the resulting "brownout" as users on the failed node are transferred to the others in the cluster is generally no longer than a minute.

Glover wasn't wholly impressed by that, saying it was "a very polished demo" and things don't always work so well in the real world.

The demonstration simulated an application being run by 100 users who were clocking up about 10,000 transactions a minute. Glover says that level of system activity would be about the peak of what TelstraClear experiences on its consolidated hosting platform, which is about 15% of capacity. The telco uses databases from Sybase, Microsoft and Oracle for in-house applications, but also on behalf of outside customers.

"We run 24 x 7 hosting for some major clients," whose databases and applications are aggregated on a number of platforms, Glover says. "To be able to scale up in the way demonstrated would be excellent."

According to Oracle New Zealand e-business solutions consultant Burke Kelly, Oracle on Dell-Linux represents about a 30% discount on the equivalent Sun hardware. Kelly expects that cost benefit-and the fact that Linux is establishing itself as a safe platform for business applications-will fuel customer demand in the next six months.

"Everyone has been waiting for [Linux] disasters to happen, but they haven't," Kelly says.

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