Oracle OCI compute, storage, networking tools aim to cut cloud complexity

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) IaaS adds 11 new tools across compute, storage and networking services, in a bid to reduce complexity and optimize costs.

Oracle building

In a step toward creating more flexible, cost-efficient infrastructure for enterprises, Oracle has updated its IaaS offering, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), with 11 new tools across its compute, storage and networking services.

Most of the enhancements are designed to optimize costs and remove complexity from managing modern computing environments in a bid to keep current on-premises users with Oracle when they move to the cloud, and lure new users away from cloud market leaders Microsoft, AWS and Google.

Excluding legacy hosting services, Oracle infrastructure cloud service revenue grew more than 60% last quarter, and the company wants to keep that pace up.

"The new features and tools are a step towards ensuring OCI as an elastic solution along with the attributes of being scalable, simple to use and economical to run," said Leo Leung, vice president at OCI.

OCI features simplify container management

OCI's compute services, which give enterprise customers the option to deploy workloads for running modern applications on bare metal or virtual machines, have added three new features as part of the new update – Container Instances, AMD E4.Dense Compute Instances and Oracle Cloud VMware Solution on AMD.  

Container Instances, a managed service, allows customers to use containers without directly managing the hosting VM (virtual machine) or requiring Kubernetes Orchestration, as OCI creates the instance with a secure OS image, networking and storage, Leung said. This takes out the complexity of building an environment when most of the time, companies don't need a full environment to test a workload, he added.

"Containers are a critical component of modern applications, but many organizations lack the internal skills to install, configure, and manage a container environment. Services like Oracle Container Instances reduce the complexity of managing these environments because it eliminates the need of deploying directly on VMs," said Dave McCarthy, research vice president for cloud and edge infrastructure services at IDC.

However, McCarthy said that there are trade-offs for these types of services. "Simplicity and convenience comes at the expense of complex or customized configurations. But, most organizations are willing to accept that in order to accelerate their adoption of containers."

The Container Instances feature is similar in nature to AWS Fargate and Azure Container Instances (ACI).

"Oracle has been playing catch-up with the other large cloud service providers but the introduction of these new feature may help it to get a new set of workloads," said Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Low-latency storage supports compute

In order to provide low-latency storage with compute to support database workloads (including relational and NoSQL databases), OCI has introduced AMD E4.Dense Compute Instances.

"The new AMD-based instances, called dense instances, are machines that will have the storage local to the compute for low-latency based on non-volatile memory express (NVMe) specification," Leung said, adding that Oracle was also adding support for AMD-based processing on its virtual machines. Called Oracle Cloud VMware Solution on AMD, that capability will allow enterprise customers to have the option of running workloads on AMD-based 32-, 64- and 128-core options along with the current ability to run Intel multicore processors, Oracle said.

As part of the 11 new features announced for OCI, the company updated its storage service with two new capabilities — Flexible Block Volumes with Performance-based Auto Tuning, and High Availability ZFS.

Storage service offers autoscaling

"Oracle already had a block storage service that could be scaled up or down online, depending on performance or cost requirements without disrupting the workloads. What is new is the ability for OCI to automatically understand the requirement and adjust the storage service accordingly, which we are calling autotuning," Leung said.

To illustrate how this would work, Leung gave the example of Cox Automotive, which runs auctions.

"They run 70 auctions and for each auction there is a peak time of a few hours. The back end to that auction is a classic application (ERP) that has not been rewritten. So with the block storage service, they're able to automatically dial up the performance behind that cash register, if you will, for the auction and then immediately turn it down and only pay for what they're consuming, without having to rewrite that application," Leung said.

Analysts, too, believe that OCI Storage's new abilities will help reduce cost for enterprises.

Flexible Block feature reduces costs

"Flexible Block Volumes will help enterprises gain more efficiency (cost) and performance out of Oracle's block volumes," said Andrew Smith, research manager at IDC's enterprise infrastructure practice. "This appeals to any enterprises running high-performance (I/O intensive) workloads which are prone to spikes due to demand or usage cycles. They will not have to manually monitor these workloads to ensure performance/cost profiles are in check."

Both Smith and Constellation's Mueller said that there were no other major IaaS providers offering an automated capability that alters the performance characteristics of block volumes based on demand.

The storage update also includes the addition of High Availability ZFS. The data file manager, which also includes a volume manager, is made readily available by packaging it in an automated deployment stack that uses OCI Block Volumes for the underlying raw storage, Oracle said.

According to IDC's Smith, High Availability ZFS will appeal to enterprises looking for a more fully managed ZFS service that can accommodate the file storage (NFS and SMB) performance needed for workloads like machine learning and media processing.

"Oracle already has base of users familiar with Oracle ZFS via its ZFS Storage Appliance. Extending potential points of integration or migration to the cloud via high availability ZFS may be an important part of the value proposition," Smith said.

OCI networking update eases move to cloud

Oracle has also updated its OCI Networking service with six new features that, according to  Smith and Muller, put the company on equal footing with major IaaS providers.

These features include Flexible Web Application Firewall (WAF), Web Application Acceleration (WAA) and Network Visualizer, along with Content Delivery Network (CDN) Interconnect, CDN Service and vTap.

"Most of these features allow OCI to catch up with their primary IaaS competitors, particularly true in relation to the addition of WAF and web acceleration in conjunction with load balancing," said Brad Casemore, research vice president for data center and multicloud networks at IDC. "The Network Visualizer provides the sort of visibility for troubleshooting and remediation that enterprise customers want as they move workloads to cloud. Other major cloud vendors have similar offerings."

While the WAF service allows customers to define a single WAF policy to protect applications from common exploits (e.g., the OWASP Top 10) and enforce the policy on load balancing or on the edge, the WAA service supports caching and compression of web HTTP responses while load balancing.

Content delivery updates cut costs of moving data

Oracle also introduced two new content delivery network-related features – CDN Interconnect and a CDN service.

While CDN Interconnect allows customer to build direct peering connections with select third-party CDN providers to offer no-cost outbound bandwidth for OCI Object Storage, the CDN Service enables customers to deliver digital content to end users from a nearby location in a geographically distributed network, the company said.

According to Leung, the two new features, which build on Oracle's relationship with Cloudflare, helps enterprises reduce costs as they no longer have to pay for content delivery from the storage to the CDN edge and vice-versa.

In November last year, the company had joined Cloudflare's Broadband Alliance with the vision that its customers don't have to pay for moving data from their OCI storage into any third party CDN, starting with Cloudflare.

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