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Don Burleson Blog 







Hardware advances and changes in Oracle technology

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonAugust 29,  2015

How hardware advances impact Oracle technology

It is well known that hardware advances always precede advances in software technology, and this is especially true for Oracle.  As hardware becomes faster and cheaper, Oracle professionals change the ways that we process information.  Changes in hardware affect the way we design databases, the way we implement database and most important, the way that we tune databases.

While the costs of a DBA have remained relatively constant over the past 30 years, the costs of hardware have fallen dramatically, leading to a condition where applying hardware resources is often faster and cheaper than applying human resources to fix an acute performance problem. 

This is a management technique called "throwing hardware at a problem".  Even though hardware may not address the root cause of an acute performance problem, it's often the smart thing to do for these reasons:

  • Hardware upgrades can be done fast, in just a few hours.  Root cause fixes can take months.

  • Hardware upgrades have very little risk.  Re-designing an Oracle system can be very risky

  • Hardware upgrades are a cheaper, guaranteed fix.  You can cache a 100 gigabyte database on SSD for under $100,000.00, while a root cause fix may cost millions of dollars.

Here are the areas where we see the advances in hardware technology and the impact on Oracle:

  • Disk - As disk becomes cheaper, we deliberately introduce redundancy into our schema, "pre-joining" tables together with redundant columns to improve runtime performance.  Oracle materialized views are also used to pre-join tables, allowing for redundant first normal form representations of normalized OLTP systems.

  • RAM - As RAM becomes cheaper we see the widespread adoption of solid-state Oracle databases, systems where the tablespaces are mapped to SSD RAM disks with access speeds hundreds of times faster than platter disks.  Oracle also has their Times Ten database and the Database cache 11g products for solid-state computing. 

  • CPU - As processor costs fall, we are seeing widespread server consolidation, as Oracle shops abandon the one-server, one-database approach in favor of large centralized servers with 32 and 64 on-board processors.  Along with this movement comes increased power from parallelism, whereby full-table scan operations can happen up to 60 x faster than single processor systems.

The changes in hardware technology also reflect in the Oracle DBA's job role.  Centralized servers reduce the amount of work necessary for software patching and maintenance, freeing-up the DBA to pursue more advanced work. 

See the article Oracle 2020 to see how the changes in hardware are changing the DBA job role.

The RAM anomaly

We must also note that there is an important exception to the idea that all hardware gets faster and cheaper every year.  RAM speed has not changed appreciably since the 1970's (at about 50 nanoseconds), so while RAM gets cheaper every year, the speed remains constant. 

This has imp[acted server configurations such that super-fast "T1" RAM is co-located near the CPU's in order to keep the servers loaded at full capacity, while lesser "T2" RAM is not located near the CPU.  See the link below to learn more about this anomaly:

The evolution of hardware and Oracle technology





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