Oracle started the Engineered Systems decade (my word!) with the introduction of Exadata. Now we have Exalogic and other machines that provide this engineered system concept that I generically like to call Exa* (Exa-Splat). A lot has been touted with respect to the feature sets of these systems, and I've seen enough POV's now (both first-hand and word of mouth) that I can tell you that the performance improvements are real and significant.
However, I think that the story of Engineered system is about much more than being able to take a query that ran before in 24 hours and now it runs in 3 minutes. Sure, that's great and very important, but there is a strategic reason for Engineered systems and I'm not sure that is getting as much play as it should, because I think it's important.
Does this sound like you? Your environment is this collection of loosely coupled systems. You have these great, powerful database servers but when you look at CPU it's sitting at some number like 20 percent. You have servers all over the place. Your behind on your patching. Your constantly standing up new systems, and all the related infrastructure (network, disk, etc) and it just takes time. Your time to provision has the customers complaining. Your spending all your time reacting to problems, to configuring new environments, to wondering why this switch does not work with this server. You spend a lot of time wondering how to integrate various pieces and which technologies are best and which are certified. If this sounds like you, I call you tactical man. You are tactical in your thinking. Your poor customers really don't have the ability to derive knowledge from you because you are busy standing up systems for them. They are building database designs that are amazingly awful, and you are unable to help them because you have to work on the next fire, the next problem.
Is this you:
Fred: Hey this is Fred. We need help with a database design. What's this normalization thing?
You: Sorry Fred, I'm working on installing four copies of Linux right now, can't help.
Fred: Hey, I understand, you guys are over worked down there. We will just use Hibernate to generate the schema, no problem.
You: No... wai...
(click on the phone)...
Are you tactical man? I wrote some time ago about the holistic DBA and really... becoming the holistic DBA is all about transitioning from Tactical Man to Strategic Man. The truth is that engineered systems can help you in this transition. How you ask... First, look at this handy dandy graphic I whipped up:
This image is kind of an exercise in simplicity (and my limited graphics design abilities) but I think it makes a point. As we move from higher complexity to simplicity, we move from being tactical (reactive) in our work to more strategic and proactive. Also, look at the graphic... in moving in this direction we reduce the number of people required and we reduce the costs as well.
Engineered systems is part of this drive towards simplicity. With an engineered system, you let the vendor do the painstaking work of finding the right components, certifying them, and making them all work together like a well oiled machine. With Engineered systems we get the benefit of scale.... If one problem surfaces on a given system, because the system are all similarly engineered we can immediately apply the solution to the problem across the various enterprises running that engineered system. No more wondering about this or that combination of hardware, we know (more properly the vendor knows) and the vendor take responsibility for providing that remediation across the platforms that are deployed.
Other benefits include the reduction of the proliferation of systems and hardware, reducing the overall footprint that has to be managed. This reduces costs and allows you to again move up towards the strategic part of the graph. There are a number of benefits with respect to the implementation of an engineered solution, be it Exadata or even the Oracle Database Appliance. We should not focus on just one part of the equation (performance) when asking ourselves, what do we do to improve productivity and become more visionary?
As a result... the DBA, the network engineer, the storage administrator, the Unix administrator, are all free to pursue tasks further up the scale, moving in the direction of strategic planning, proactive approaches to business problems and helping the customer do it right the first time. In being visionary about the systems we deploy we can improve our ability to react to strategic needs of the enterprise.
I know... this might sound like a sales pitch for Exa* products.... and I do work for Oracle, but everything I've said here is part of my experience, past and present. Tactical man is alive and the costs of keeping him in business are significant. Strategic man needs to be our goal, and with Strategic man comes a host of benefits including lowered costs and a better Enterprise. Engineered systems can help you migrate to becoming Strategic man...
Sure... really.... we all just love installing Linux and configuring Clusters... but is that really best for the Enterprise? I think not.