Software in the silicon

In recent times, one of Oracle’s strategic investments is in the cloud and in best-of-breed core building blocks, be it server, networking, storage and so on. But of significant mention also is software in silicon, which takes routines traditionally coded into software, and moves it to the hardware.

“Over the last five years, we have brought 5 iterations of SPARC technologies into the market,” said Oracle’s APAC VP of Product Business Development, John Foster, drawing attention to Oracle’s latest high-end chip, the M7.

Notably, the M7 performs capabilities that are usually executed as a software programming. For example with the M7, query engines are built into the chip, speeding up the whole process, considerably.

Foster also explained about the need for dedicated compression engines. “With in-memory databases, there is need to compress data, to optimise size of database. In traditional environments, there is a lot of CPU cycles, so we have offloaded decompression to dedicated decompression acceleration engines.”

With decompression and querying capabilities in the silicon now, there is up to ten times increase in queries, three times increase in memory that can be used. “All of this means more (processor) cores can be released to do something else, ultimately reducing hardware footprint in the data centre,” explained Foster.

M7 also has security and application integrity built into silicon. This means that an application will only be able to access its own data, and overcomes security risks like the Heartbleed bug, a malicious app that stole data from another application by causing a buffer overflow.

“That can’t happen on an M7 chip,” Foster said.

Sonoma and entry-level converged systems – when?

According to Foster, “This is just the beginning of the journey for M7. Customers are asking what else is up coming, and what that will subsequently follow is systems that are based on M7.”

But there is a new chip in the roadmap as well. Codenamed Sonoma for now, the new low cost SPARC chip has a different focus than M7, and will integrate more functions on the chip, than the M7.

Foster said, “We want to produce SPARC-based servers at significantly lower prices points (potentially less than USD25,000) at end of the day. We are conscious that it is an increasingly competitive market and we are determined to be competitive from price point as well.”

He also pointed out that there is a still a large market for entry-level systems particularly in APAC, and drew attention to fact that Oracle has hired former HP and EMC exec, Dave Donatelli, to head up their Converged Infrastructure division.

The Executive VP title that Donatelli assumed, is a new role that was created in response to the market’s current and growing emphasis on converged systems.


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