Q. Oracle Database Appliance? I’ve never heard of it before!
We think curiously Oracle’s Database Appliance (ODA) is one of their best kept secrets. It’s a highly available unit consisting of 2 powerful servers and 1 or 2 storage arrays, plus all the necessary networking. It is an “appliance” originally designed to run the Oracle Database Enterprise Edition as simply as possible – “database in a box”.
Q. So what has a Database Appliance got to do with middleware?
As processors have become more powerful, so too has the ODA. For example an ODA X5-2 has 72 Intel Xeon cores and 512GB-1536GB of memory. For many organizations that is more computing power than they need just for databases so, since early 2013, Oracle has offered the option to run virtual machines on the ODA – the so-called ODA “Virtualized Platform”. This opens up a wealth of interesting options for running both Fusion Middleware and databases on the same hardware.
Q. If ODA can run non-database virtual machines why is it called a Database Appliance?
The name has probably stuck – introducing a new one might cause more confusion perhaps.
Q. So if ODA runs any virtual machines can’t I just install SOA Suite etc on my own, rather than buying O-box?
A. Of course you can – it’s your server and Oracle says it will support any Oracle VM Server (OVM) templates. The issue is that many of these sophisticated software products can be quite complex to install in a secure, clusters/highly available and well performing manner.
What O-box does is, using the ODA as a base, turns it into a true middleware appliance: you install it in your server room or data center, insert the pre-configured O-box USB sticks and power-up. Oracle SOA Suite (for example) will then be up and running – ready for production use – in only a few hours.
Not only that but, if you subscribe to our Updates Service, we bundle up, regression test, and deliver Oracle’s patch sets and quarterly updates directly to the environments running on your O-box(es). Our goal is to make it as easy as updating your smartphone!
Q. What about WebLogic on ODA – won’t that just run SOA Suite?
A. Well, yes and no. Oracle does provide special templates and “configurator” that deploys WebLogic and Oracle Traffic Director on to ODA (http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/weblogic-oda/overview/index.html) but there’s a big difference between the WebLogic installation needed to run standalone Java applications and one that includes a large layered product set like Oracle SOA Suite.
That said we like the WebLogic on ODA implementation a lot and build O-box using it. The beauty of this approach, along with our adherence to the Enterprise Deployment Guides, is that Oracle Support are already familiar with such a configuration so can help our customers more easily.
Q. How much does O-box cost? Do I have to pay for each processor core on the ODA that I license? What happens if I want more environments later to take advantage of unused cores?
A. The Oracle software is typically licensed per core but O-box is licensed on a monthly subscription basis. O-box SOA is $2000/€1736/£1327* per ODA per month with discounts for more ODAs (e.g. production, test, DR etc). Like a mobile/cell phone contract we have a minimum term of 18 months, but we hope that after this point you will still prefer to benefit from the automated updates and provisioning/reset of environments that the O-box subscription offers.
* correct at May 2015 – we use the Oracle currency conversion rates to give a price in your local currency
Q. What happens if I want more environments later to take advantage of unused cores?
A. You can add environments or scale up existing environments providing you maintain your O-box subscription. Should you decide to end your subscription the environments are yours to keep of course, but O-box provisioning/management software will be deactivated so you will have to build any new environments from scratch.
Q. I already own an ODA v1 – can I buy O-box for that?
A. The v1, by today’s standards, has a relatively small amount of memory (96GB per node) which doesn’t leave a lot spare for middleware environments. Also when running Oracle software we always recommend using the fastest hardware available to maximise the performance for your investment. For these reasons, whilst you are welcome to test out a small configuration of O-box on your ODA v1, it is highly recommended to consider trading it in for a newer model.
Q. There are lots of great new features in SOA Suite 12c – does O-box support this release?
A. We agree and think that all new implementations should be using SOA 12c. Yes, it does – currently 220.127.116.11.2 – including administration features like a partitioned SOA repository.
Q. What happens if we buy an O-box but later decide, for whatever reason, that we don’t want to continue using your Updates Service?
A. We of course hope that we can rectify the situation before we get to that point as the Updates Service, providing automated and hassle-free updates for the underlying Oracle software, is a very strong benefit of O-box. If however you wish to part company with us that’s no problem – you simply delete the O-box Manager VM and your O-box will continue operating with its Oracle Fusion Middleware environments (all secured and built to best practices) and you can manually patch it as required.
Q. I’m in <country> but O-box doesn’t seem to have a partner here – what can I do?
A. Firstly, talk to us – it may be that we are already in discussions with a partner in your country but haven’t yet finalized details. Alternatively you may find that remote support from either O-box Products in UK/Europe, or from a nearby partner, would meet your needs. Remember O-box is an appliance so only needs minimal support during provisioning, though you may be looking for an Oracle Partner to help with your wider application transformation program.