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Taneja Blog / Data Center Systems

Oracle ZS3 produces impressive results

When Sun was an independent company I always thought their storage product line was inferior to offerings from EMC, HDS, NetApp, HP and other major purveyors of storage during that time. But I also saw that ZFS was one of the highest performing, most complete and highly available file systems in the market, even if Sun at that time wasn't fully taking advantage of that in the market.

All that has changed in the hands of Oracle.

The ZFS-based ZS3 storage product line, and most recently the mid-range model ZS3-2, is taking the market by storm. The benchmark numbers for SPC-2/E which were disseminated by Oracle in June 2014 speak volumes in this regard. The product booted 16,000 VDI VMs in less than seven minutes, along with the industry's lowest number of $12.08 per SPC-2/E MBPS in the price performance category. At over 16,000 MBPS, the products also delivered the industry's best energy efficiency at 3.67 MBPS/Watt. These are incredibly impressive numbers for storage from a company that not long ago was never known for storage. Clearly, Oracle recognized the value of ZFS and built a storage product line around it that can go up against the best in the market today.

Another fundamental change in the hands of Oracle has been the tight co-engineering of ZS3-2 and ZS3-4 with Oracle databases. Oracle's strategy for storage is simple: make it work best with Oracle software but make it standard otherwise. In other words, ZS3 models work with any server, running whatever hypervisor (on none, for that matter), using any other industry standard network adapters, etc. They have achieved the tightest integration with Oracle software with the use of Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol, Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) and Automatic Data Optimization with HCC. The first allows Oracle databases to communicate more intimately with Oracle storage to yield better efficiency, performance and manageability. The second feature enables broad capacity optimization, and improved performance for queries and the third automatically compresses data at different levels and moves it to an appropriate tier. For a deeper discussion of these, see Taneja Group's Product Profile on ZS3-4 written in Sept., 2013 (

Given the performance and manageability aspects of the ZS3 product line, in general, Oracle decided to throw out all of NetApp's product line from its production IT and Managed Cloud Services environments worldwide. According to Oracle, that was over 50PB of NetApp storage and that made Oracle one of NetApp's largest customers. On the surface, this might seem like an obvious action to take, once Oracle had its own product line. But if that product line didn't perform well or was difficult to manage, a pragmatic company like Oracle would never make that change. After all, their own internal efficiency, IT operations, R&D and several managed services depend on ZS3 as does its ability to show off its software in the best light in demo centers around the world. No sir, this change was made because ZFS was delivering across all fronts better than the NetApp product line. Oracle now has over 200PB of ZS3 deployed internally across public and private cloud storage, and Oracle highlights that it is the second largest SaaS company in the world. To put that into an operations perspective, one IT dept. in Oracle had one person managing 600TB of NetApp, now one person is managing 5 PB of ZFS (according to Oracle—I have not independently verified this). That’s would be tangible business advantage that can benefit any company.

Oracle already has deep presence inside the largest enterprises around the world. But most of the storage in those environments had always gone to EMC and others. Now with the ZS3 product line at its command Oracle simply has to get a small % of that back to show very impressive market share growth over the next three years.

To be sure, the SPC-2/E benchmark is designed primarily to measure the performance of applications that require large-scale, sequential movement of data such as large database queries, large file processing and video on demand. However, Oracle software is also used extensively in small file environments where IOPs and latency matters more than throughput. If Oracle can show equally impressive performance in those areas, we expect ZS3 to wrestle a lot of "foreign" storage that is attached to otherwise very Oracle-centric environments. The ZS3 is a storage appliance that DBAs, IT Managers and CIOs should strongly consider for any workloads that require sub-microsecond application response times and in particular workloads that run Oracle databases and apps.

  • Premiered: 08/22/14
  • Author: Arun Taneja
Topic(s): Storage NetApp Oracle ZS3 ZS3-2 Sun Microsystems SPC-2E


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