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I am thinking to buy a 8-core 2.93GHz Xserve. I will use oracle on it. What do you think about this? Can you please suggest a better solution if it exists? And can you please say your opinion about this server? Will it work and will it be fast with around 100 users? What about 50-60 users?


Edit:
As I mentioned my maximum number of users will be 100. What other servers would you recommend? Please help a bit.

Edit2:
This server Xserve is a rack server. I would like to buy only one server. So do you think it is a bit overhead with this? It is enough for me a tower server?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

OSX vs. Linux for an Oracle server

For a database server running Oracle, you might be better off with Linux than OSX - Oracle on OSX is at least one major revision behind Linux, which suggests that it's probably not going to get a high support priority from Oracle. Oracle has a history of treating minority platforms as second class citizens, and their reputation for this goes right back to the 1980s.

Note that Oracle only certify their Linux builds on certain commercially supported distributions such as RHEL. You will need to buy a licence for a supported version to qualify for Oracle support. Fortunately most server vendors offer this an an option (typically RHEL or SLES) with an OEM pricing deal if you buy it with the server. Note that you can install Oracle on other distributions if you have the right version of glibc and binutils installed, but this type of configuration is not supported by Oracle.

As for performance, a Xeon is a fast CPU. Oracle will handle big workloads on quite modest hardware. The product dates back to the 1980s and a decent sized Oracle/VMS installation of the era chould support transactional workloads for hundreds or thousands of users on hardware with much lower specification than a modern server.

A modern server has plenty of CPU for database work, but you will want to have the disk set up properly to avoid performance issues. Disk layout mistakes such as putting logs on a busy shared volume can cause severe performance issues on a database. For Oracle, this means you will want (at least) separate physical disk volumes (even if they are only mirrored pairs) for data, logs, rollback segment and possibly temp, along with your system disks.

The XServe is only a 1U box and has limited space for internal disk storage. It will only take three disks, so you would need an external disk array to do this with an XServe. For a database server you might be better off with a 2U box like a HP DL380. Modern boxes of this type can take up to 16 disks internally without needing an external disk array.

A few notes about web applications (if applicable)

For security reasons you will be best off with your web server on a separate box. Exposed databases on internet facing servers are a security risk. The database listener port should be firewalled off from the open internet, so you will want an additional web server with a separate IP address.

Another reason for having a separate web server is that you don't want to pay Oracle licencing fees for CPU capacity that isn't running Oracle. Planning for success, you may also want to configure and tune your web server differently to your database server.

If you want, your web server could be an XServe. If your software is OSX specific or you want to use a mac as a development box this might be a good choice. Otherwise there's probably no compelling reason to use an XServe for this.

Costs

Note that the Oracle licencing costs will probably outweigh the cost of hardware, although there are a few cheap deals for standard edition that aren't too expensive. Buy Oracle licencing for the smallest amount of CPU you need and don't expand the database server until you need the capacity.

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Thank you very much this detailed opinion. –  Tojas Jul 19 '10 at 18:48
    
SuperMicro has a case (seling it as complete server with their own motherboard etc.) that supports 24 discs on 2 units height (2.5" form factor). –  TomTom Jul 19 '10 at 19:23
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It's impossible to know without knowing what your workload is. I've supported a banking web app with upwards of 2,000 users without exercising more than a couple of cores on a quad Xeon in the past; conversely, a few heavy reporting runs could tie down all 8 cores on that system easily.

Given the price of Oracle licensing it's worth not buying more cores than you actually need.

As far as OS X vs Linux vs whatever for Oracle - well, most of the shops I know of locally doing proprietary Unix for Oracle use AIX or Solaris rather than OS X. If you love OS X, great, but is it a first-class citizen in the Oracle world? Does it get patches and new releases in a timely fashion? If you hit problems, will it be as well supported as Linux or Solaris (the two OSes Oracle now have as their own)?

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Thank you for you too. :) –  Tojas Jul 19 '10 at 5:56
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They are very nicely made servers, many would agree that they're quite expensive compared to regular x86/64 servers such as HP, Dell IBM etc. but of course you get to run OSX Server on them which is unique. I personally really like OSX Server because it allows a relative novice to setup a range of licence-less services such as email, web services etc. very easily with little of the knowledge required to do the same in Linux. That said it does work out quite expensive.

Certainly you'll find it easy to work with, fast and reliable but I think you owe it to yourself to consider something from the other end of the scale - perhaps a HP DL 1xx/3xx-series box running Windows Server 2008 or one of the more user-friendly Linux's like Ubuntu Server. But if you feel you'll be more comfortable using OSX Server then you'll be happy with the XServe as ultimately this kit is built to work and if you can get it working with OSX and you can't with Windows or Linux then it doesn't matter what the cost of the hardware is does it?

Good luck and come back if you have any further questions.

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Yeah but a 42U rack full of Xserve's looks like it belongs in a James Bond villains lair... –  Mark Henderson Jul 17 '10 at 9:30
    
It's as strong an argument as I can think of certainly ;) –  Chopper3 Jul 17 '10 at 9:39
    
Thanks Chopper3 :) –  Tojas Jul 17 '10 at 9:55
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