Oracle Database Appliances are very popular these days. And not only among new customers for this kind of engineered systems. Almost all customers already using old generation ODAs are renewing their infrastructure by choosing again ODAs, meaning that the solution is good enough and probably better than anything else. But now, public clouds are a real alternative to on-premise servers, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is a solid competitor vs Amazon and Azure public clouds. So what’s the best solution for your databases, ODA or OCI? Let’s do the match.
Round 1 – Cost
Yes, it is important. You will need to buy ODAs and you will need a budget for that. Nothing new regarding this platform, it requires an investment. ODA is cheaper since light models are available, but if you need significant amount of storage, it comes at a cost. But hopefully, the cost is quite similar to another x86 platform, and the ODA doesn’t have these hidden costs due to additional work for troubleshooting compatibility issues.
Cost works differently on OCI. Basically, you will pay for servers, storage, services on a monthly basis. No initial investment is needed, and that is one of the advantages of OCI. However, don’t expect the “TCO” to be lower than acquiring your own hardware. I do not mean that cloud solutions are expensive, but the cost will be quite similar to an on-premise solution after some years. Going to the cloud is mainly changing your mind about what’s an infrastructure. Is it servers you manage on your own or is it a platform for running your information system?
There is no winner in this round, you will only know after several years which solution would have been the less expensive.
Round 2 – Deployment speed
ODA allows fast deployment of a new database infrastructure. Actually, it’s the best on-premise solution regarding that point. And it’s a serious advantage over DIY platforms. Being able to create your first database the same day you open the box is quite nice. But OCI is even better, because at this very moment we are talking now, your future servers are already available, Terabytes of storage are waiting for you, and databases are almost there, few clicks away from now. If you’re looking for fast deployment, OCI is an easy winner.
Round 3 – Security
Everybody is talking about security. Is my database safer in the cloud than in my own datacenter? Actually, it’s quite hard to tell. For sure, OCI is a public cloud, meaning that your database can be reached from virtually everywhere. But you will probably build strong security rules to protect your cloud infrastructure. You will use IPSec VPN between OCI and your on-premise site, or a FastConnect channel to dedicate a link between your on-premise equipment and OCI avoiding data to transit through the internet. Putting your database in the cloud is not less secure than giving remote connection on your infrastructure to your employees or providers. Furthermore, databases in OCI are stored using encryption, even with Standard Edition and without the need for Advanced Security option.
On ODA, you database is in your network, meaning not on something public and meaning less visible. This is good, but again, only if you have good security rules inside your company.
Round 4 – Performance
ODA is a strong performer, especially the X8-2M model. With up to 75TB of NVMe SSD, it’s quite tough to achieve better performance with anything else. Yes you could grab few MB/s more or ms less with few other solutions, but do you really think that your users will see the difference? No. And what about OCI? OCI rely on SSD storage only, that’s a very good start. And do they offer NVMe? Yes, for sure. Bare metals servers (BM Dense I/O) provide up to 51TB of RAW capacity based on 8 NVMe drives. And something tells me that these servers are actually nearly the same as ODA X7-2Ms. So expect similar performance on both solutions.
Round 5 – License management
No doubt that on-demand capacity of Enterprise licenses is one of the key feature of the ODA. You can start with only 1 Enterprise license on each ODA, and increase the number of licenses when you need more resources. A kind of fine tuning for the licenses.
On OCI, you can choose to bring your own license you bought long time ago, and keep your investment for later if for some reason you would like to go back to on-premise infrastructure. Or you can choose to include the license fees into the monthly fees. With the first option, you manage your licenses as you always did, and should be careful when you increase the cloud resources dedicated to your databases (mainly the oCPUs). With the second option, you don’t have to manage your licenses anymore: you don’t need to buy them, pay the yearly support, or review them regularly because all is included with your OCI database services. It’s simply a great feature.
Round 6 – Simplicity
ODA and OCI share the same goal: simplify your database infrastructure. ODA is simplifying by providing the best automation available for deploying complex Oracle stack. And when you come from an existing on-premise infrastructure, migration to ODA will be quite easy. OCI looks even more simplifying, but if you will not have to work on the servers, you’ll have to think about how to implement your infrastructure. Which subnet for my databases? Should I also move my application servers? What kind of network connectivity with my on-premise environment? Which kind of database service fits my needs?
If you’re starting from scratch with Oracle databases, it’s probably more simple to go directly to OCI. If you’re migrating from an existing on-premise environment, it’s probably more simple to replace your existing servers with ODAs. No winner here.
Round 7 – Control
For some customers, being able to control their infrastructure is vital. On public clouds, you will not have control on everything, because someone will do a part of the maintenance job, mostly automated tasks. And this is for some other customers something they don’t want to manage. On ODA, you control everything on your server: first, it’s not mandatory to connect it to the internet. Updates on ODA cannot be automated and will be applied manually through good old zipfiles, and in case of serious problems, ODA is fast to redeploy. So if you need to have total control over your infrastructure, the ODA is the best solution for you.
OCI is only a good solution if you already planned to lose some control, for obvious workload reasons.
Round 8 – Resilience
Disaster recovery solutions were not so common 10 years ago. People were relying on tape backups, were confident about this solution and were believing they would be able to restore the tape “somewhere”, without asking them where actually was “somewhere”. At best, the old servers were kept for disaster recovery usage, in the same rack.
This has definitely changed, and now disaster recovery is part of each new infrastructure design. And regarding the software side of the database, this is something mature and highly reliable (with Data Guard or Dbvisit standby). The most complex part being to design the split into multiple datacenters (2, most of the time). Implementing that cleverly, avoiding Single Point Of Failure that could wipe out the efforts to achieve high resiliency, being a tough challenge. ODA is a server like others, and you will have to do the same amount of work to design a high resilient infrastructure.
Cloud providers have been thinking about disaster recovery since the very beginning. The datacenters are spread all around the world, and each one has separate availability domains (isolated building blocks), allowing multiple levels of disaster recovery scenarios. Furthermore, storage and backups naturally embed this high resilience. And as everyone will use the same mechanisms, you can trust OCI regarding resilience.
As a conclusion, it’s nearly impossible to reach the level of resilience of OCI on your on-premise ODA infrastructure, that must be said…
What about the other solutions?
For sure, it still possible to build your own database infrastructure with classic servers. But do you really have time for that?
EXADATA is also a nice solution if you need such a beast for multi-TB databases with high number of transactions or fastest BI platform. And now it can bring you both the advantages of OCI and appliance with the [email protected] mode. Oracle brings the server in your datacenter, and you only pay for it monthly as if you were using it in the cloud.
Hybrid solution with a mix of ODA of OCI could also fit your needs but you’ll have to manage both technologies, and that’s not so smart. Unless you need this kind of solution for the transition to the cloud…
Is ODA better than OCI? Is OCI better than ODA? Both solutions are smart choices and none will disappoint you if you achieve to leverage the advantages and avoid the constraints of each one. On OCI, you will benefit from immediate availability of the resources, fast provisioning, flexibility, no-brainer license management. With ODA, you will keep your database infrastructure at home, and you will have strong performance and full control over your servers, including for the cost. Choosing between these two solutions is only a matter of strategy, and this does not only concern the DBA.