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The CRN Test Center this month took a close look at the ZFS Storage Appliance 7420, Oracle's latest low-cost, flash-optimized storage hardware for high-performance transactional systems. In the ZFS, Oracle combines as much as 2 TB of DRAM with more than 10 TB of SSDs and another 1.72 PB of spinning storage to deliver an appliance with performance well beyond that of traditional tiered storage. And, it's all in a box with software so easy to use that it can be set up and configured in less than an hour and integrated in an enterprise in days rather than weeks.
To help us with the process of setting up and operating the ZFS, we traveled to the New York City offices of Cintra USA, a database services provider and Oracle Platinum partner. There we worked on a two-node storage cluster comprised of two Oracle ZFS 7420 storage appliance nodes integrated with an Oracle database appliance.
IT administrators will appreciate the browser-based GUI and ability of the ZFS to automatically scan and discover other nodes capable of participating in a cluster. "ZFS nodes are already inherently aware of each other, making cluster configuration extremely easy," said Simon Rice, database architect at Cintra. After selecting the other node, the ZFS copies all needed software to the second node, permitting that node to be set up and clustered within a few minutes.
ZFS clusters employ an active-active model under which both nodes are constantly serving the needs of storage clients. According to Abdul Sheikh, CTO and co-founder of Cintra, this is unlike anything else out there. "Oracle RAC uniquely uses both nodes as active, so if one fails, there's a 50 percent loss [of performance], but nothing stops," he said, referring to Oracle's Real Application Cluster technology.
Once the cluster was established, we could begin setting up the ZFS for storage. The first step of that six-step process was to set up data links, a process that was simply a matter of dragging network devices from the list of auto-discovered interfaces to the datalink column of the GUI.
The default settings are probably adequate for most situations, but the tool allows for easy selection of link speed and duplex settings and MTU (frame) size, if required. Datalinks are then dragged to the network interfaces column where they're assigned an IP address to complete the creation of an interface to the ZFS appliance. Once all needed interfaces are created, "hitting the Apply button runs the IFCONFIG command and sets everything up behind the scenes," said Rice.