Oracle Corp.’s announcement of the new M8 SPARC processor and systems based on it is directed at its core SPARC/Solaris customers, many of whom have been running SPARC-based systems for more than 10 years. But we believe that the M8 will soon appear within the Oracle Cloud, as a faster engine for cloud services. If that is the case, then customers will be able to access database and application services supported by Oracle Cloud on Oracle engineered systems.
The move to M8 will bring higher performance levels and enhanced security to many of Oracle’s most important and loyal customers. The new M8 processor is fully compatible with the M7 and earlier SPARC processor chips. Its announcement as the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference opens in San Francisco (Oct. 1-Oct. 5) brings customers the first major SPARC release since October, 2015.
Why is this important? There are still many SPARC-based systems worldwide, especially in the financial services, telecommunications and government sectors worldwide. Usually, SPARC/Solaris systems are found deep in the data center, running scalable databases, enterprise applications and Java-based workloads. Longtime customers have been running mission-critical workloads on SPARC/Solaris platforms since the 1990s. In that environment, interruptions in service are to be avoided, which makes SPARC/Solaris their platform of choice.
In light of recent reports regarding cutbacks in Oracle’s hardware division, Oracle’s statements about its processor roadmap at Oracle OpenWorld will be closely followed by its SPARC/Solaris customers.
The current SPARC-based server product line includes T-series and M-series servers based on the same M-series processor. Now, all of the new T-systems and M- systems will leverage M8. Other vendors competing for this market space include IBM with IBM Power and IBM z systems; Fujitsu with its own SPARC-based systems, and cloud services supporting Solaris and Java workloads.
Given their years of investment in SPARC systems, Oracle’s core customers will want to see more detail on the processor roadmap, as presented at Oracle OpenWorld. Oracle said it expects to deliver new Solaris feature/functions to appear in dot releases, rather than a formal Solaris 12 launch. Binary compatibility has been an important selling point for SPARC/Solaris technology, because it allows large production applications and databases to move to new technology, without making changes to the Solaris software code.
Three main points emerge from this announcement:
- Oracle must support its SPARC/Solaris installed base. The M8 announcement will allow many SPARC systems customers to move to new technologies quickly via upgrades or replacements. Solaris applications and Java applications will gain performance and security improvements without reprogramming. With M8, performance increases will be delivered via on-prem SPARC systems or on Oracle’s engineered systems in the Oracle Cloud.
- Security is a top priority for its enterprise customers. On-chip security in M8 processors is extremely important to Oracle’s SPARC systems customer base. Security is top-of-mind for most CIOs and IT executives as they work to protect all of their organization’s business data. Many of them are running bet-the-business workloads on SPARC/Solaris systems and SPARC-based clusters – and cybersecurity is a key concern.
- The Oracle Cloud, a public cloud service, will leverage the M8 processors in its network of -regional data centers worldwide. This will bring more SPARC/Solaris customers to access their workloads via Oracle’s public cloud. If applications are to be migrated to the Oracle Cloud, M8-enforced security will offer another way to ensure data integrity compared to older systems.
Oracle must be clear with its core SPARC/Solaris customers about the way forward. Customers’ migration of enterprise workloads to hybrid clouds begs an important question: Which workloads will run on-prem and which ones will run off-prem? The ones that will run on the Oracle Cloud will be installed, and managed, by Oracle engineers rather than by enterprise IT organizations with on-prem systems.
Right now, many SPARC/Solaris customers are undergoing IT simplification and consolidation projects – often on a global basis – and they need to plan for performance increases over a three- to five-year planning horizon. Many are migrating more enterprise workloads to the cloud each year. That’s why the cloud may be the destination for many of today’s mission-critical SPARC workloads.