The Oracle Exadata Database Machine (Exadata) is a computing platform that is specialized and optimized for running Oracle Database. The goal of Exadata is to achieve higher performance and availability at lower cost by moving database algorithms and intelligence into storage and networking, bypassing the traditional processing layers.
|Original author(s)||Oracle Corporation|
|Initial release||October 2008|
|Operating system||Oracle Linux|
|Platform||Exadata Database Machine|
Exadata is a combined hardware and software platform that includes scale-out compute servers, scale-out intelligent storage servers, ultra-fast InfiniBand networking, ultra fast NVMe flash, and specialized Exadata Software in a wide range of shapes and price points. Exadata Storage uses high-performance servers to store data and run Exadata Software to run data-intensive database processing directly in the shared storage tier.
Exadata debuted in 2008 as the first in Oracle Corporation's family of Engineered Systems for use in corporate data centers deployed as "private clouds". In October 2015, Exadata became available in the Oracle Cloud as a subscription service, known as the Exadata Cloud Service.
 Oracle databases deployed in the Exadata Cloud Service are 100% compatible with databases deployed on Exadata on-premises, which enables customers to transition to the Oracle Cloud with no application changes. Oracle Corporation manages this service, including hardware, network, Linux software and Exadata software, while customers have complete ownership of their databases.
In early 2017, a third Exadata deployment choice became available. Exadata Cloud at Customer is Exadata Cloud Service technology deployed on-premises (behind the corporate firewall) and managed by Oracle Cloud experts. Like the Exadata Cloud Service, Exadata Cloud at Customer is owned and managed by Oracle, and licensed through a pay-as-you-go subscription. The Oracle Cloud at Customer program is intended to bring all the benefits of the Oracle public cloud while still satisfying security and regulatory constraints.
Exadata Use CasesEdit
Exadata is designed to optimally run any Oracle Database workload or combination of workloads, such as an OLTP application running simultaneously with Analytics processing. The platform is frequently used to consolidate many databases that were previously running on dedicated database servers. Exadata's scale-out architecture is naturally suited to running in the Oracle Cloud, where computing requirements can dynamically grow and sometimes shrink.
Historically, specialized database computing platforms were designed for a particular workload, such as Data Warehousing, and poor or unusable for other workloads, such as OLTP. Exadata has optimizations for all database workloads, implemented such that mixed workloads share system resources fairly. Resource management features also allow for prioritized allocation of system resources, such as always favoring workloads servicing interactive users over reporting and batch, even if they are accessing the same data.
Long running requests, characterized by Data Warehouses, reports, batch jobs and Analytics, are reputed to run many times faster compared to a conventional, non-Exadata database server. Customer references often cite performance gains of 10x or greater. Analytics workloads can also use the Oracle Database In-Memory option on Exadata for additional acceleration, and In-Memory Databases on Exadata have been extended to take advantage of Flash memory capacity, many times larger than the capacity of DRAM. Exadata’s Hybrid Columnar Compression feature is intended to reduce the storage consumption of Data Warehouses and archival data as well as increase performance by reducing the amount of IO.
Transactional (OLTP) workloads on Exadata benefit from the incorporation of Flash memory into Exadata’s storage hierarchy, and the automatic "tiering" of data into memory, Flash or disk storage. Special Flash algorithms optimize Flash for response time sensitive database operations such as log writes. For the most demanding OLTP, all-Flash storage eliminates the latency of disk media completely.
Exadata Design ConceptsEdit
The hardware components that make up a typical database computing platform are a compute server connected over a network to a storage array. The database software runs on the compute server and sends or receives database information to and from the storage array over the network. The hardware components use standard software protocols to "talk" to each other. This separation via standard interfaces is what allows a computing platform to run a wide variety of software and hardware from different vendors. All of the application logic and the processing of the data is performed on the compute server, to which all the data must be sent. With this approach, a computing platform can be used for a wide range of software applications, though it will not be optimized for any particular application.
The goal of Exadata was to create a complete stack of software and hardware focused on the Oracle Database, that allowed processing to be moved to its optimal location. If Exadata is only processing Oracle Database requests it can take advantage of that in all the software layers. The hardware design can include elements that are most advantageous to Oracle Database applications, such as very fast InfiniBand networking and Flash memory. Given the importance of data storage to databases, Oracle was particularly focused on optimizing that aspect of the Exadata platform.
Oracle wanted a storage layer for Exadata that could easily scale out and parallelize Oracle Database requests. It also recognized the opportunity for storage to cooperate in the processing of database requests beyond just storing and shipping data. For example, rather than send an entire database table across the network to the compute server to find a small number of records, such data filtering could be done in storage and only the resulting records sent across the network. The addition of Flash memory to Exadata Storage Servers also opened up a range of possibilities for optimizing performance in the storage layer. Over time, as the performance and capacity of Flash storage increased at a rapid rate, the network became a performance bottleneck for traditional database platforms and Exadata's offloading of database processing into Exadata Storage Servers avoided that problem.
The foundation of Exadata is the Exadata Storage Server, invented by Oracle to replace the traditional storage array. Also important is Oracle's ownership of all the main software and hardware components of Exadata, enabling changes to be deeply integrated and released in coordinated fashion. A further benefit for customers is the ability to support the entire Exadata platform from one vendor.
Software enhancements specific to Exadata achieved better performance in some areas due to the integration of hardware and software. For example, when an OLTP application commits a transaction to the database software, that request is viewed by Exadata as a critical operation and prioritized accordingly within the network and in the storage servers. The commit request will move in front of less important messages on the network and in the IO queue.
Another example is the use of Flash memory for caching data that is being accessed by Analytics applications. Because a columnar data format is more effective for Analytics workloads, when Exadata moves the data row from disk to Flash, it automatically reformats the data into a columnar format.
Both examples require the Oracle Database to understand the intent of the application and to cascade this understanding to the network and storage software, which behave accordingly.
Since Exadata's debut in 2008, there have been at least two significant Exadata software releases per year, delivering dozens of "smart" software enhancements. Most of these enhancements are based on a smaller number of technical foundations, as explained below.
- Offloading to Storage - refers to the execution of data-intensive database operations within the Exadata Storage Servers, such as data scans, table joins and filtering of rows and columns. This reduces the amount of data that must ultimately be returned over the network to the compute servers, thus avoiding the network bottleneck. Offloading is possible because Exadata storage is built on standard servers, capable of running database functions in coordination with the Oracle Database, simultaneous with storage IO. Over time, more database functions and more data types have been offloaded. In addition, "reverse offloading" will push an operation back to the compute servers if Exadata storage is too busy.
- Storage Indexes - enable the avoidance of IO by tracking column values within small regions of storage. If the Storage Index confirms that an IO to a region will not find a match, that IO isn't performed, and a costly and unnecessary operation is avoided. Storage indexes are automatically maintained and kept in memory on Exadata Storage Servers. Initially Storage Indexes tracked value ranges within a small number of columns. Over time, more columns and more sophisticated value tracking have been added, so that additional IO operations can be avoided.
- Flash Caching - delivers the low latency (fast response) of Flash, while preserving the lower cost of disk for storing large databases. The goal is the best IO performance at the lowest cost. In general, a small percentage of a database is active at any one time. If the active data is all held in Flash, the IO performance would be equal to all-Flash storage, at a much lower cost. Exadata Flash caching uses intelligence about the applications currently running to keep the most active data in Flash, in the optimal format. For instance, Exadata knows when an IO is part of a database backup, and not an indication of an active data block, whereas traditional platforms view any IO as a "hot" block. Flash caching will also reformat rows into columnar format in Flash if the data is being accessed for Analytics. Initially, Flash caching was only used for reading data, then extended to log writes and all other write IO. Most recently, Flash is used as an extension of Oracle's Database In-Memory columnar data store, for significantly larger in-memory databases than DRAM capacity alone.
- Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) - reduces the amount of storage consumed by Data Warehouses and other infrequently updated data. Without compression, Data Warehouses can grow to enormous sizes. Exadata's Hybrid Columnar Compression benefits from the greater compressibility of columnar formats and avoids the performance pitfall of an all-columnar approach. Conventional data compression algorithms yield between 2x and 4x compression, whereas HCC averages between 10x and 15x compression. Such a large reduction in the amount of IO can also substantially improve performance. Initially, HCC tables did not support row-level locking, limiting their use with OLTP applications. In 2016, support for row-level locking was added to HCC on Exadata, improving the performance of mixed workloads with HCC data.
- Resource Management - allocates Exadata system resources, such as CPU, IO and network bandwidth, to databases, applications or users based on priorities. When Exadata is used for consolidating many databases, Resource Management is usually employed to ensure appropriate quality of service. IO Resource Management debuted in V1 of Exadata. Network Resource Management was added in Exadata X4.
- In-Memory Databases - offer exceptional performance for Analytics workloads, leveraging DRAM on compute servers, a complement to Exadata's emphasis on storage and networking. Oracle Database In-Memory became available in 2014 on Exadata, leveraging its fast InfiniBand network for in-memory Fault Tolerance. To support larger in-memory databases, Exadata Storage Servers now implement in-memory routines and data formats in Exadata Flash, as an extension of the same in-memory processing that occurs on compute servers.
A more detailed listing of software enhancements is below, grouped by their value to Analytics or OLTP workloads, or their impact on Availability. Similar enhancements cannot be duplicated on other platforms because they require software and API modifications and integration across database software, operating systems, networking and storage.
Exadata compute servers run the Oracle Linux 7.6 operating system and Oracle Database 11g Release 2 Enterprise Edition through Oracle Database 19c Enterprise Edition. Exadata system resources can be optionally virtualized using the Xen-based Oracle VM. All Oracle Database options, such as Real Application Clusters, Multitenant, Database In-Memory, Advanced Compression, Advanced Security, Partitioning, Active Data Guard and others are optionally available with Exadata. Applications that are certified to a supported version of the Oracle Database are automatically compatible with Exadata. No additional modifications or certifications are required.
The same database software that runs on Exadata on-premises will run in the Exadata Cloud Service and Exadata Cloud at Customer. In addition, on-premises software licenses are eligible for the BYOL (Bring Your Own License) transfer into the Oracle Cloud or Cloud at Customer.
Exadata provides high-speed networks for internal and external connectivity. A 40 gigabits per second (40 Gbit/s) InfiniBand network is used for internal connectivity between compute and storage servers and 25, 10 and 1 Gbit/s Ethernet ports are included for data center connectivity. The InfiniBand network is also used as the cluster interconnect between compute servers.
Exadata uses a custom-designed, database-oriented protocol over the InfiniBand network to achieve higher performance. It makes extensive use of remote direct memory access (RDMA) to improve efficiency by avoiding data copies when moving data between servers. Exadata also has a direct-to-wire protocol that allows the database to "talk" directly to the InfiniBand hardware, bypassing the operating system.
Exadata also takes advantage of InfiniBand Lanes in its Network Resource Management feature to prioritize important traffic across the network. In this feature the Oracle Database software tags network messages that require low latency, such as transaction commits, lock messages and IO operations issued by interactive users, enabling them to bypass messages issued by less critical high-throughput workloads such as reporting and batch. The result is analogous to how an emergency vehicle with its siren on is able to move more quickly through heavy traffic - high-priority network messages are moved to the front of the server, network switch, and storage queues, bypassing lower-priority messages and resulting in shorter and more predictable response times.
Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control (EM) manages Oracle software and hardware, including the Exadata Database Machine. EM integrates with the built-in Exadata management tooling, as well as with customers' existing systems management and helpdesk tools. The Exadata plug-in for EM provides an integrated view of compute servers, storage servers, switches, and topology. It also provides discovery, monitoring and alerting capability for Exadata systems management.
The Exadata Cloud Service and Exadata Cloud at Customer platforms are managed by Oracle, while customers control and manage the software and databases running on the compute servers. Exadata Cloud platforms include a web-based provisioning wizard through which customers can quickly provision their chosen Exadata system and subsequently their database instances. Customers also perform familiar database administration and OS administration tasks aided by cloud automation for backup, patching, and upgrades
Exadata is available in two models: one based on two-socket compute servers and the other based on eight-socket compute servers. The two models differ only in the hardware used for the compute servers. The networking, storage servers and software are the same in both models.
The most recent Oracle Exadata Database Machine is the X8 generation, introduced in April 2019.
The X8-2 compute servers feature a small form factor, 1 RU (Rack Unit) in height. They employ 2-socket Intel Xeon processors; each socket with 24 compute cores for 48 total cores per compute server. Memory starts at 384 gigabytes (GB) and can be expanded to 1.5 terabytes (TB).
The Exadata Database Machine base configuration has 2 compute servers and 3 storage servers, referred to as a Quarter Rack. The same hardware is also available in an Eighth Rack configuration with half of the processing and half of the storage capacity. As the database workload and/or data size increases, additional compute and storage servers may be added to increase the volume of work performed in parallel, using Exadata's Elastic Configuration.
The X8-8 compute server uses eight-socket compute servers that consume 5 RU in height and have greater memory capacity than the X8-2. Whereas each X8-2 compute server contains 48 compute cores, the X8-8 server contains 192 compute cores. This allows large database workloads to easily scale-up within a compute server while still supporting Exadata’s scale-out expandability across multiple servers. The larger memory capacity of the X8-8 also favors In-Memory Databases and very large OLTP, consolidation, and Data Warehouse workloads. Like the X8-2, the Exadata X8-8 base configuration has 2 compute servers and 3 storage servers, but consumes a Half Rack of space. Additional compute and storage servers may be added until the rack is full.
Exadata Storage ServersEdit
There are three choices for Exadata Storage Servers; Extreme Flash (EF), High Capacity (HC) and Extended (XT). The Extreme Flash Storage Server is all-flash storage containing 8 PCIe flash drives for a total of 51.2 TB of raw storage capacity in its current X8-2 configuration. The High Capacity storage server in its current X8-2 configuration contains 12 disks, 14 TB each, for a total of 168 TB of raw storage capacity. To improve IO response times, the High-Capacity storage server also employs 25.6 TB of PCIe flash to cache active data blocks. Exadata’s Smart Flash Cache, Smart Flash Log, Columnar Flash Cache and Write Back Flash Cache features determine how and when to use flash.
In addition to adding storage servers into an Exadata Database Machine base configuration, storage servers may also be acquired with or added to Exadata Storage Expansion racks.
Storage performance specifications for a full rack Exadata configuration are as follows:
|Exadata Storage Server||Scan Rate||Read IOPS||Write IOPS|
|X8-2 Extreme Flash||560 GB/sec||6,570,000||5,720,000|
|X8-2 High Capacity||350 GB/sec||4,776,000||4,352,000|
Note: Based on an elastic configuration of 14 storage servers, 8 compute servers. IOPS = 8K IO Operations per Second from SQL
With the introduction of Exadata X8, Oracle added Exadata Storage Server Extended (XT) for low-cost storage of infrequently accessed data. The XT storage server contains the same disk capacity as the X8-2 High Capacity Storage Server, but does not contain Flash storage or require the Exadata Storage Server Software license.
Architects of traditional computing platforms have always had to cope with technology change affecting the design of their systems. The goal is to eliminate bottlenecks so that the output of storage moves through the network and is processed by compute servers without any slowdown. Solving an imbalance generally involves adding faster or more network connections or compute servers. This was before the advent of ultra-fast PCIe Flash memory and the NVMe Flash interface.
Flash memory started to became mainstream in corporate computing around 2010, as a cache in front of hard disks or as a replacement for disks entirely. Every year thereafter Flash capacity and performance increased significantly. In 2017, leading-edge Flash performance crossed a threshold, where the most advanced networks were unable to match the performance of Flash, and became a substantial bottleneck. As an example, a popular all-Flash storage system with 480 Flash cards is rated at only 75 GB/s of data throughput, whereas without a network bottleneck, that many Flash cards should produce over 2,600 GB/s of data throughput. Plugging Flash directly into a compute server removes the network bottleneck, but also removes the ability to share storage with multiple compute servers. Offloading to storage in Exadata is a way to bypass this network bottleneck by filtering out unneeded data in storage before sending the remaining data across the network.
Exadata Hardware SpecificationsEdit
|Last ship date||Oct-2009||Oct-2010||Sep-2012||Feb-2014||Mar-2015||Jul-2016||Nov-2017||still shipping||still shipping|
|Disk storage (raw TB)||168||336||504||504||672||1344||1344||1680||2352|
|Flash cache (raw TB)||N/A||5.3||5.3||22.4||44.8||89.6||179.2||358.4||358.4|
|Extreme flash (raw TB)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||179.2||358.4||716.8||716.8|
|Max memory (Gio)||256||576||1,152||2,048||4,096||6,144||12,288||12,288||12,288|
|Last ship date||N/A||N/A||Nov-2012||Dec-2014||Oct-2015||Mar-2016||Nov-2017||still shipping||still shipping|
|Disk storage (raw TB)||N/A||N/A||504||504||672||1344||1344||1680||2352|
|Flash cache (raw TB)||N/A||N/A||5.3||22.4||89.6||89.6||179.2||358.4||358.4|
|Extreme flash (raw TB)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||179.2||179.2||358.4||716.8||716.8|
|Max memory (TB)||N/A||N/A||4||4||12||12||12||12||12|
* Per 1 full rack with 8 compute servers and 14 storage servers
** Per 1 full rack with 2 compute servers and 14 storage servers
Prior to the X5-2 generation, Exadata systems were only available in fixed-size configurations of Eighth, Quarter, Half and Full Rack sizes. With the X5-2 Exadata release in January, 2015, elastic configurations were introduced. An elastic configuration has a customer-specified combination of database servers and storage servers. Elastic configurations allow individual storage or compute servers to be added to a base configuration until the physical rack is full. For example, an Exadata system optimized for in-memory database processing could be created by adding many compute servers, each with maximum memory. Conversely, an Exadata system optimized for a large data warehouse could be configured by adding many High-Capacity storage servers. The ratio of compute to storage servers can vary, depending on the characteristics of the intended workload. Elastic configurations may also be used to scale out earlier generation Exadata systems using X8-2 servers. In addition, Exadata Database Machines have always been able to span multiple racks using the built-in InfiniBand network connections. Thus, Exadata’s scale-out extends beyond a single physical rack.
Evolution of ExadataEdit
Oracle Corporation releases a new generation of Exadata every twelve to eighteen months. At each release, Oracle refreshes most hardware components to the latest Intel Xeon processors, memory, disk, flash and networking. The hardware refreshes in themselves result in performance increases with every release. Exadata software is also refreshed with each generation and periodically in between, enhancing some combination of performance, availability, security, management and workload consolidation. In October 2015, features to support the Oracle Cloud were introduced.
The emphasis of each Exadata generation is described below.
Exadata V1, released in 2008, focused on accelerating Data Warehousing by delivering the full throughput of storage to the database. Per Oracle, Exadata achieved this by moving database filtering operations into storage, instead of sending all data to the compute servers and filtering it there. Oracle refers to this capability as Exadata Smart Scan. Exadata V1 also supported a consolidation feature for allocating IO bandwidth between databases or workloads, called IORM (IO Resource Manager).
Exadata V1 was available in Full Rack or Half Rack sizes, and the choice of High Performance or High Capacity storage servers.
Exadata V2 also introduced Hybrid Columnar Compression to reduce the amount of storage consumed by large Data Warehousing tables.
Storage Indexes in Exadata V2 increased performance by eliminating the need to read entire regions of storage, based on knowledge of the data contained in the region.
Exadata X2-2, the third generation, was released in 2010 and a second model of Exadata, Exadata X2-8, was introduced. The X2-8 and subsequent “8 socket” Exadata models feature Intel processors targeted at large memory, scale-up workloads. The use of Flash storage beyond caching began in this release with a Smart Flash Logging feature. Support for 10 Gigabit per second (Gb/sec) Ethernet connectivity was also added.
Data security through encryption was encouraged with the incorporation of hardware decryption in Exadata X2-2, largely eliminating the performance overhead compared to software decryption.
A Storage Expansion Rack based on Exadata X2-2 was added in 2011 to accommodate large, fast-growing Data Warehouses and archival databases. All subsequent 2-socket Exadata generations have included a new Storage Expansion Rack.
Exadata X3-2 and X3-8 were released in 2012, including a new Eighth Rack X3-2 entry-level configuration. Flash storage capacity quadrupled and OLTP write throughput reportedly increased by 20x via the Write-Back Flash Cache feature.
A number of availability enhancements were added, bypassing slow or failed storage media, reducing the duration of storage server brownouts and simplifying replacement of failed disks.
Exadata X4-2 was released in 2013. Flash capacity doubled and Flash compression was added, effectively doubling capacity again. Network Resource Management was introduced, automatically prioritizing critical messages. InfiniBand bandwidth doubled with support for active/active connections.
Exadata X5-2 and X5-8 were released in 2015 with a major set of enhancements. Flash and disk capacity doubled. Elastic configurations were introduced to enable expansion one server at a time. Virtualization was added as an option to Exadata along with Trusted Partitions for flexible licensing within a virtual machine. Database snapshots on Exadata storage enabled efficient development and testing. Oracle Database In-Memory on Exadata included Fault Tolerantredundancy. The High Performance Exadata storage servers were replaced with all-Flash (Extreme Performance) storage servers and Exadata became the first major vendor to adopt the NVMe Flash interface. Columnar Flash cache was introduced to automatically reformat analytics data into row format in Flash. IPv6 support was completed. Exadata Cloud Service was launched on the Oracle Cloud.
Exadata X6-2 and X6-8 were released in 2016. Flash capacity doubled. Exafusion Direct-to-Wire protocol reduced messaging overhead in a cluster and Smart Fusion Block Transfer eliminated log write delays for OLTP applications in a cluster. Exadata Cloud at Customer debuted, enabling Oracle Cloud benefits within corporate data centers.
Exadata X7-2 and X7-8 were released in 2017. Flash capacity doubled. Flash cards became Hot pluggable for online replacement. 10 Terabyte (TB) disk drives debuted along with 25 Gb/sec Ethernet connectivity. Oracle Database In-Memory processing was extended into Flash storage, and storage server DRAM was utilized for faster OLTP.
Exadata X8-2 and X8-8 were released in 2019. Exadata Storage Server Extended (XT) was introduced for low-cost storage of infrequently accessed data.14 Terabyte (TB) disk drives debuted along with 60% more compute cores in Exadata storage servers. Machine Learning algorithms were added to automatically monitor CPU, network and memory to detect anomalies such as stuck processes, memory leaks and flaky networks, and to automatically create (Auto index), rebuild or drop indexes. Optimizer statistics are also gathered in real-time as DML executes. For enhanced security, Advanced Intrusion Detection Environment (AIDE) was added to detect and alert when unknown changes to system software are made.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oracle Exadata.|
- The Next Platform: Oracle Steps With Moore’s Law To Rev Exadata Database Machines
- Oracle Website: Oracle Exadata Database Machine
- Buckel, Chris, "flashdba: History of Exadata", Flash DBA.
- Tanel Poder’s Exadata blog, from an expert in performance tuning on Exadata
- Arup Nanda’s blog, where you can search for Exadata-related posts
- The Accenture/Enkitec blog, from an organization specializing in Exadata and sponsoring yearly Exadata-centric conferences
- How does Oracle Exadata work: