Moving to the next level

Marshall Choy, VP of Systems Solutions Engineering at Oracle, highlights the advantages of the latest SPARC chipsets

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Moving to the next level Marshall Choy, VP of Systems Solutions Engineering at Oracle.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  October 13, 2016

ACN: Could share some details on you yourself and your background?

Marshall Choy: So I am the vice-president of solutions engineering for the Oracle Corporation. My responsibilities include managing teams that build end-to-end hardware solutions from Oracle, as well as product management and responsibilities for the hardware portfolio.

As far as my background, I’ve held several positions in software engineering earlier on in my career. As of recent, I’ve held various management positions in the hardware business for both Oracle and Sun Microsystems. Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010 and that’s how I joined the compnay, by way of that acquisition.

ACN: Could share some background details on the newly-launched S7 Sparc platform?

MC: If you look back to October last year, 2015, we initially developed and delivered a project called M7.

The M7 is a processor that goes into a set of servers and engineered systems, primarily targeted at the mid-range and the high-end computing segments. We’ve had very good success here in the Gulf region, as well as throughout Middle East and Africa with these platforms, running a range of applications, ERP being one of the main ones.

So applications is really the heart of the business, running the enterprise. What we did there is a lot of work on implementing a couple of things that were either very difficult or very expensive to do in software and put them into the microprocessor. Things around security and analytics acceleration.

That’s really key to addressing the workloads of the future for the enterprise.

Fast forward to the present and we’ve launched the S7 processor. The S7 is a derivative of the M7 and it is processor that powers our latest generation of Sparc systems and the mini-cluster S7 engineered systems.

So where M7 plays in the high-end and the mid-range market, we now have an offering in both servers and engineered systems to help our customers deal in workloads in the lower end of the scale, for horizontal and cloud-infrastructure type deployments.

ACN: Where does the new S7 processor fit within Oracle’s portfolio?

MC: We’ve taken the enterprise capabilities that are in the higher-end M7, brought them across to the S7, and also engineered these to achieve commodity X86 cost points. I use the word engineer very intentionally here because this is not just a pricing exercise where we sacrificing margins and profitability to have a low-entry price.

We’ve actually done a lot of engineering work to achieve these cost points for ourselves and our customers. One of the key themes of the engineering work that we’ve done is integration — integration of functionalities and components.

So in this S7 processor, we’ve integrated the same securities and analytics from M7. We have not subtracted any value from the predecessor product, but we’ve also integrated further components from what would typically be on the motherboard of the server in the microprocessor.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we get better performance by integrating onto the processor; lower latency, greater bandwidth and effectively better performance. The second reason we do this is for better cost.

Few ASIC chips on the motherboard now go on the processor. Everything is fully integrated. We don’t have to use as many components and that lowers the overall cost of the system and we pass that cost-savings on to our customers.

And we have achieved quite frankly is one of the more difficult tasks of computing which is bring high-end capabilities at commodity cost points, without sacrificing value or capaiblities for our customer.

ACN: Can you share some details on the SPARC S7 servers which utilises the new chipset?

MC: The S7 servers are standard two-socket horizontal scale systems for use with small workloads. They excel specifically at running java-based applications and databases. We then took the notion of engineering and integration a step further to the MiniCluster S7-2 in the form of an engineered system.

What a MiniCluster is, from a hardware standpoint, we have integrated a pair of S7-based servers with directly attached storage.

But the more important and interesting thing about MiniCluster is in the software integration work that we’ve done for this platform. It is quite differentiated and opens up significant new opportunities for customers to further our infrastructure.

The M7 Super Cluster is, as I mentioned before, a large scale typically back-end, back-office ERP application system, along with many other typically IT applications.

We talked a lot of our customers about what else would they want, what else could we do to help them build up their infrastructure.

The answer was from the customers was that they wanted to have a smaller entry size system.

They wanted to be able to address different type of workloads on the smaller end of the spectrum, with a system that had not necessarily the full capability of an M7, in terms of performance, as well as a lower cost point.

Customers were looking to, for example, expand on their infrastructure, where they are running an M7 Super Cluster for each ERP.

ACN: What type of improvements were done in terms of software?

MC: From a software standpoint, what we have done is we have developed a number of things to help simplify the administration and operation of the system.

For example, one of the big areas of concern for every customer regardless of what size they are is security. Customer data has become the most valuable asset of the enterprise regardless of what size they are and everybody is after that data. Not every organisation, not every department has that level of security expertise that is required to protect the data on those systems.

So what we have done with mini-cluster system, is we have integrated over 200 different security controls into a simple click of the mouse on a user interface. What that means is now any customer regardless of their level of expertise or skill in security can now secure their system to the same level of a banking or financial institution.

We have integrated that much security control into the system. We have also integrated the compliance controls to enable our customers to maintain that secured state over the lifetime of the system being deployed, and adhere to such standards as PCI DSS for banking and financial services.

DISA STIG is another example of a commonly used security compliance standard for many other industries as well. And then going further with simplifying the system, beyond just security, we’ve also done things like reduce all user interaction from the operating systems.

So administrators no longer need to have operating system expertise to do routine system administration duties. Same goes for database administration.

We have simplified the installation and configuration of a highly available oracle database instance in just a few clicks of the mouse, very simple straightforward and easy. Effectively what this system does with all these areas of implication is again bring very sophisticated high-end enterprise capabilities down to the level that any and every customer can now adopt and utilise. It is a quite a powerful value proposition for customers.

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