I just read a nice piece by Robin Harris over at one of my favorite blogs, storagemojo.com, about large sequential I/Os being the future focus of storage. I think he is absolutely correct. Let’s face it; there is only so much data that can take the old familiar row and column form that we Oracle folk spend so much time thinking about. As Robin points out, digitizing the analog world around us is going to be the lion’s share of what consumes space on those little round, brown spinning things. Actually, the future is now.
Drives for OLTP? Where?
They aren’t making drives for OLTP anymore. I’ve been harping on this for quite some time and Robin touched on it in his fresh blog entry so I’ll quote him:
Disk drives: rapidly growing capacity; slowly growing IOPS. Small I/Os are costly. Big sequential I/Os are cheap. Databases have long used techniques to turn small I/Os into larger ones.
He is right. In fact, I blogged recently about DBWR multiblock writes. That is one example of optimizing to perform fewer, larger I/Os. However, there is a limit to how many such optimizations there are to be found in the traditional OLTP I/O profile. More to the point, hard drive manufacturers are not focused on getting us our random 4KB read or write in, say, 8ms or whatever we deem appropriate. OLTP is just not “sexy.” Instead, drive manufacturers are working out how to get large volumes of data crammed onto as few platters as possible. After all, they make money on capacity, not IOPS.
Did Oracle Get The Memo? Where is That Unstructured Data?
Many of you can recall the Relational, OODB and Object Relational wars of the 1990s. That not-so-bloody war left behind a lot of companies that closely resemble dried bones at this point. After all, Oracle had the relational model well under control and there wasn’t a whole lot of user-generated content in those days—the world was all about rows and columns. Over the last 7-10 years or so, folks have been using Oracle procedures to integrate unstructured data into their applications. That is, store the rows and columns in the database and call out to the filesystem for unstructured data such as photos, audio clips, and so on. You don’t think Oracle is going to give up on owning all that unstructured data do you?
The Gag Order
Oracle has put a gag-order on partners where Oracle11g is concerned—as is their prerogative to do. However, that makes it difficult for me to tie Oracle11g into this thread. Well, last week at COLLABORATE ’07, Oracle executives stumped about some Oracle11g features, but none that I can tie in with this blog post—I’m so sad. Hold it, here I find an abstract of a presentation given by an Oracle employee back in February 2007. Conveniently for me, the title of the presentation was Oracle 11g Secure Files: Unifying files in the database—exactly the feature I wanted to tie in. Good, I still haven’t revealed any information about Oracle futures that hasn’t shown up elsewhere on the Web! Whew. The abstract sums up what the Secure Files feature is:
Unifying the storage of files and relational data in the database further allows you to easily and securely manage files alongside the relational data.
Let me interpret. What that means is that Oracle wants you to start stuffing unstructured data inside a database. That is what the Object guys wanted as well. Sure, with such content inside an Oracle database the I/Os will be large and sequential but the point I’m trying to make is that 11g Secure Files puts a cross-hair on folks like Isilon—the company Robin discussed in his blog entry. Isilon specializes in what Robin calls “big file apps.” Having Oracle’s cross-hairs on you is not great fun. Ask one of the former OODB outfits. And lest we forget, Larry Ellison spent money throughout the 1990s to try to get nCUBE’s video on demand stuff working.
We’ve come full circle.
Disks, or Storage?
Today’s databases—Oracle included—make Operating System calls to access disks, or more succinctly, offsets in files. I’ll be blogging soon on Application Aware Storage which is an emerging technology that I find fascinating. Why just send your Operating System after offsets in files (disks) when you can ask the Storage for so much more?