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New Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance adds speed, encryption

Oracle's new high-end ZFS Storage Appliance features improved performance and power, 3 TB DRAM, pluggable data analytics and data-at-rest encryption.

Oracle Corp. today released the fourth generation of its high-end, ZFS-based NAS storage system featuring a doubling of performance and processing power, 3 TB of DRAM, support for pluggable database analytics and encryption of data at rest.

The Oracle ZFS Storage ZS4-4, which replaces the ZS3-4 model, ships with the new OS8.3 operating system and provides advantages for customers in Oracle Database 12c environments. Oracle's 12c allows multiple pluggable databases to run in a multi-tenant container database, similar to virtual machines in a virtual server. The new analytics capabilities in OS8.3 enable 12c users to see what's happening at the pluggable database level, as opposed to viewing the pluggable databases as one instance.

"Where that's important is a lot of customers will tell you they spend a lot of time trying to tune and retune and troubleshoot their Oracle database and storage environment," said Jason Schaffer, vice president of product management for disk storage at Oracle. He said the new feature will enable database and storage administrators to gain the ability to see over 107 analytical views in real time for a specific database instance to identify the cause of any kind of performance degradation.

Schaffer said the pluggable database analytics is based on the Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol, which was introduced a year and a half ago. The new feature represents the latest in a series of co-engineering efforts with the 12c database and Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance. Others include hybrid columnar compression and automatic database optimization to improve performance and efficiency.

"This new ZS4-4 storage system, while pretty darned good in and of itself, will excel as essentially an integrated extension of the Oracle database," said Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "The big selling point is the container-level view, management analytics and access that is provided to 12c users. Yes, there are other nice aspects (better, faster, bigger everything and encryption), but frankly progression in those sort of aspects is commonplace in the add-on storage industry."

Mike Matchett, a senior analyst and consultant at Taneja Group, said the ZS4-4 with Oracle containers will enable database service providers to host thousands of database instances effectively on a single infrastructure stack.

Yet, although the new pluggable data analytics is a useful feature, Oracle's pluggable databases are not in wide use at the moment, according to David Floyer, chief technology officer and co-founder at Wikibon. He said users may be more concerned with functionality such as getting data out of the ZS4-4 system quickly when they need it.

"For a NAS box, it's a very fast box and has a lot of power. And, for Oracle databases, where you need the fastest thing you can throw at it often to back things up, that's probably one of the fastest, if not the fastest. So, it's a pretty good box," Floyer said.

Floyer said Oracle continues to go after vendors that serve its database market with its ZFS storage appliances, FS-1 flash and Exadata systems, claiming that Oracle databases will run better on its boxes rather than the competition's boxes. He said the statement is largely true, although EMC and NetApp are "going to be working very, very hard to make sure it doesn't happen."

Oracle's ZS4-4 features more than 120 processor cores (an increase from 80 in ZS3-4) and up to 3 TB of DRAM (up from 1.5 TB in the prior 3-4 release). The ZFS storage appliance serves 85% or more of the I/O out of DRAM through Oracle's hybrid pool storage architecture for a distinct performance advantage, according to Schaffer.

"The ZFS Storage Appliance really performs like a DRAM system more so than a flash or even a traditional disk drive system," Schaffer said.

ZS4-4 uses a mix of SAS hard disk drives and SLC and MLC solid-state drives, with the SLC flash aimed at writes and the MLC at handling reads. The system capacity can range from 6 TB to 300 PB, Schaffer said.

Through the OS8.3 operating system, the new ZS4-4 model also adds support for software-based, in-system, 256-bit data-at-rest encryption. Customers can encrypt data at a LUN, share or project level and combine encrypted and non-encrypted volumes in a system, according to Oracle.

List pricing for Oracle's ZS4-4 starts at $100,000, according to Schaffer. Oracle also sells a ZS3-2 model, which Schaffer described as the baby brother to the high-end ZS4-4.

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Are there any benchmark results that demonstrate the performance of the ZS4 ? SPEC's SFS, SPC-1, Emerald, anything ?