Insights, Best Practices and Forward Thinking from the Customer Facing Team, Solution Architects and Leaders on Extreme Performance Applications, Infrastructure, Storage and the Real-World Impact Possible

Performance of Oracle Databases on CISC vs. RISC with VIOLIN

by COLLIER IT on May 30, 2019

Collier IT customers have been embracing CISC-based solutions for a number of years, with chip architectures ranging from x86 to AMD to x64. Performance of these systems continues to improve with core count and memory size. Architectures vary from single systems with attached storage to converged infrastructure systems with extremely fast (and expensive) storage options.

Modernizing application infrastructure involves investigation of new server technologies, of course. When the application involves databases, we find that storage choices do play a larger role in database performance.

Physical hard disk drives have been the standard storage option for decades. Solid state disk drives have been around almost as long, their high cost and lower data density prohibiting widescale adoption until recently. High performance flash arrays are becoming more popular as the cost continues to drop. Some all-flash arrays, such as those built by Violin Systems, given the maturity level and performance challenges of standard SSD technologies Violin opted for flash chips as the back end of the array with custom software technology and optimization, providing further performance while keeping costs down

Violin Systems introduced their Flash Fabric Architecture, which uses flash chips (Violin Intelligent Memory Modules) rather than Common Off the Shelf (COTS) solid state disk drives. The result is a high number of IOPS with an extremely low latency for data access, suitable for transactional database workloads. Additionally with the deep enterprise data services the Violin Array ensures data protection and business continuity, which is paramount for high performance database applications typically.


We have recently been testing performance of RISC systems with all-flash storage (see our March blog post) The focus there was providing a platform for databases and the associated application stack on a single system. Combining hard partitioning to limit database licensing costs while separating out the application stack on the same hardware makes sense on RISC systems.

CISC-based systems provide advantages due to lower hardware costs and are more widely used in the enterprise thanks to the Linux operating system. We wanted to provide more information to our clients who are looking to balance the acquisition of CISC-based systems while containing storage costs and have been testing transactional database performance of different storage arrays. We started SAS-based storage and moved on to external flash storage arrays utilizing solid state drives as well as a Violin All-Flash Storage Array.

We shared some of our testing methodologies in the March blog post mentioned above. As part of our testing, Collier IT assessed database performance of an x64 multiprocessor server with access to both a Violin All-Flash Storage Array and an SSD-based storage array. For this set of tests, we were more interested in how the two storage arrays performed with a write-intensive application, so we utilized SLOB3 (Silly Little Oracle Bench-mark) to make our comparisons.


We ran the same tests sets against both arrays and normalized the results. The CISC system has 64 cores and 64 gigabytes of memory and was attached to both storage systems via a common Fiber Channel switch. For database performance, we look first to the “Transactions/sec” and “Executes (SQL)/sec” metrics as a measure of the amount of work the database is performing. The Violin array metrics were 150% and 132% (respectively) of the SSD array performance. More transactions per second without an increase in CPU count allows our customers to reevaluate database licensing needs/costs when modernizing their architecture by changing the storage solution.

Because the CISC system could do more work in the same amount of time, throughput (measured by “Total Read+Write (MB)/sec”) for the Violin array was higher (148% of the SSD array).


  • Reducing the wait time for data to arrive at the server allows for better performance of the CPU and associated memory.
  • In the virtualization world this allows for more virtual machines to run on the same physical server. This can result in lowering hardware acquisition costs, reduced licensing costs for the licenses that are based on CPU core counts, lowered hardware maintenance costs and datacenter costs by reducing the physical footprint of the server farm.
  • For databases with processor/core-based licensing, an increase in the number of transactions per second due to Violin storage performance improvements lead to a reduction in required database licenses.
  • The throughput performance of the Violin All-Flash Storage array allows more database instances to run concurrently on the same storage platform, lowering the number of storage systems that are managed, and maintained by you or your service provider.

Moving to a highly performant storage system has benefits far beyond the performance increase. A reduction in licensing, an increase in server utilization, a reduction in hardware maintenance costs, and a reduction in datacenter footprint costs are all achievable.



Author: David Paschall-Zimbel, Systems Architect, Collier IT