X4-4 - Same price as the X3-4 but with more powerThe big announcement about it is today at OpenWorld (it would be awesome if they mentioned it during the Intel keynote tonight), but the Exalytics X4-4 is actually available now. It's the same price as the X3-4 ($175,000 at list not including software, maintenance, tax, title, license, yada yada). This does mean the X3 is - effective immediately - no longer available, but then again, since the new one is the same price, I'm not sure why anyone would want the older one. No word yet on if you can upgrade an X3 to an X4, but since they did offer an upgrade kit from X2 to X3 (though I never heard of anyone buying it), I'm guessing there will be one for those wanting to make an X3 into an X4.
The main improvement over the X3 is the number of cores: it's still 4 Intel chips, but those chips all now have 15 cores on them, meaning the X4 has 60 cores compared to the X3's 40 cores. Here are the important details:
- 4 Intel Xeon E7-8895v2 processors running at 2.8 - 3.6 GHz
- 8 - 60 cores (capacity on demand, more on this in a second)
- 2 TB of RAM
- 2.4 TB of PCI flash
- 7.2 TB of hard disk running at 10K RPMs (not that fast these days)
- 2 Infiniband ports running at 40 Gb/s
- 4 Ethernet ports running at up to 10 Gb/s
Cool Thing 1: Variable Speed & Cores
You probably heard about this last July. Oracle worked with Intel to design a line of their Xeon E7-889x chips specifically for Oracle. What we didn't realize until we saw it show up on the X4 spec sheet was that the chips were going in the Exalytics X4. Simply put, on the fly, Exalytics can vary how many cores it uses and when it's fewer cores, the speed goes up. If it's running 15 cores per chip, Intel sets the speed to 2.8 GHz. If it's only using 2 cores per chip the speed goes all the way to 3.6 GHz (a GHz is one billion clock ticks per second).
But wait, you math geniuses say. Isn't 3.6 * 2 less than 2.8 * 15 (so why wouldn't Oracle just always leave all 60 cores on at the slower speed)? Well, yes, if you're actually using all those cores, and this is where you know the chip was apparently designed for Essbase (though it did premiere in Exadata first). As much as I love my Essbase, there are still transactions that end up single threading (or using far less than the available cores on the box).
Say I'm running a massive allocation and despite my best efforts (and FIXPARALLEL), it's still single threading or running at 8 CPUs or fewer. In this case, Exalytics is now smart enough to talk to those impressive new E7-8895v2 chips, scale down to as few cores as are actually needed, and in the process, up the clock speed for the remaining cores. Take that, commodity hardware. This really is the killer feature that makes Exalytics do something no other server running Essbase can do.
On a side note, Intel seems to be dropping the power on the non-used cores to nearly zero when not in use meaning the power consumption of your Exalytics box actually lowers on-demand. So if your boss won't sign off on your new Exalytics X4, tell her she hates the planet.
Cool Thing 2: You Don't Need BIFS
Per the current Engineered Systems Price List (buried down in note 13), you longer have to purchase BIFS (BI Foundation Suite) to buy Exalytics (either the X4 or T5). You can now own BIFS, OBIEE, Essbase+, or Hyperion Planning+ without having to get a VP to sign off for a special exemption. That's right, Planning people preferring to purchase pure premium power, you can now buy Exalytics. With this change, I presume that any new Planning customer looking for the best user experience will be buying Exalytics X4 along with Planning.
Also buried in the footnotes, you apparently can now buy Exalytics for as few as 20 named users. Last time I checked (and I don't read every edition of the footnotes, haters who think I have no life), the minimum was 100 named users.
What's Next: HFM on Exalytics
We heard about it on the opening developer's day at Kscope: HFM should finally run on Exalytics in version 220.127.116.11 (which we're hoping to see by the end of 2014). I'm not sure if it will run on both the T5 (Solaris) and the X4 (Linux) by year-end, but Linux is almost a given. That said, I don't work for Oracle, so don't base any buying decisions on the belief that HFM will definitely run on the X4. Just when it happens, be pleasantly surprised that you can now consolidate all your major Oracle Business Analytics apps together.
So any T5 news? Not at the moment. It's still available running it's 128 cores with 4 TB of RAM (and other cool things) so if you're looking for major horsepower and server consolidation, look to the T5.
I'll be updating this post after the OpenWorld keynote to include any new Exalytics news but if you hear any other Exalytics updates in the meantime, post it in the comments.