Oracle Database Machine on a Budget: Standard Edition (SE)?

Posted in: Technical Track

One of the customers (actually a prospect) here in Australia asked me about minimal Oracle licensing on a quarter rack database machine. This prompted a thought of using Oracle Standard Edition instead of full blown Enterprise Edition with bunch of options.

Before even going into possibility of using Oracle SE for the database machine, let’s see if we even want to.

Why Oracle Standard Edition?

If the environment is data warehouse then it’s extremely unlikely that Standard Edition will cut it. Lack of many feature make it non-feasible to use for data warehousing — no partitioning licensing, no parallel query, and dozens more.

Oracle Standard Edition might fit OLTP environments depending on the application design and data volumes. Since Database Machine is made to store large amounts of data, we assume that it makes financial sense to run databases that are quite large. Oracle SE lacks some critical features in order to successfully manage VLDB (Very Large Databases). It’s not impossible and depends a lot on the presence of outage windows, how active is the development life-cycle, availability requirements and etc.

Where Standard Edition seems to fit nicely is consolidation of many small databases when each database is relatively small. Number of Pythian customers are running Oracle SE databases that are hundreds of gigabytes in size. it does require a bit more care and overhead in manageability, performance tuning and, of course, limits in many aspects but it fits their bill nicely.

Compute Servers with Oracle SE

Recall that compute servers are dual socket Sun Fire X4170. This means that Oracle SE license could cover up to 2 nodes RAC (included in SE) with 4 sockets in total. For two compute servers in a quarter rack database machine, licensing Oracle SE costs just US$70,000.

In fact, if you don’t need or want to use RAC, you can even get away with Oracle Standard Edition One (SE1) that can be licensed on a server with up to 2 sockets. Oracle SE1 license costs only $11,600 per compute server then.

Licensing Oracle SE and SE1 is a great way for consolidation. The only problem is manageability but there are ways to achieve efficiencies there (I think I will be writing about it soon).

Exadata Storage Server without EE License?

The next issue is whether Exadata Servers with Sun FlashWire can be purchased and used without Exadata software. Technically, I believe nothing prevents us from doing so. Of course, “brainy” part of Exadata (smart data filtering on storage server) won’t be available but that might not be that important in OLTP environments.

InfiniBand Support Limitations

Here come the bad news… If you review Oracle® Database Licensing Information 11g Release 2 (11.2) document and pay attention to the Feature Availability by Edition, you will find that InfiniBand Support is only available in Enterprise Edition whereas both SE and SE1 marked as not licensed for InfiniBand. InfiniBand Support has the same licensing rules in 10g and 11gR1.

Now, it’s a bit unclear what is mean by InfiniBand Support — maybe it’s related only to the RAC Interconnect protocol? Oracle’s InfiniBand interconnect protocol uses Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) while communication between the Exadata storage servers and the Oracle Database is implemented with the Zero-loss Zero-copy Datagram Protocol (ZDP) protocol, which itself based on the Reliable Datagram Sockets (RDS) protocol.

Update: 18-Sep-09: RDS can actually run on top of InfiniBand and TCP. RDMA is the layer below RDS to run it over InfiniBand — so that’s what Oracle must be using for interconnect in the database machine. IP over InfiniBand (IPoIB) is another mechanism for RAC interconnect but it’s much slower than RDS. Thanks Matt Zito for your comment!

If you read our blog attentively, you might recall an interview with Kevin Closson where he stated that “this [Exadata] is Enterprise Edition only”. Well, difficult to argue!


Buying Oracle Database Machine without licenses is probably a dream. However, one person from Oracle Corp hinted that nothing should prevent us from literally building database machine ourselves from the same components — remember, it’s standard Sun hardware inside. Unfortunately, it defeats one of the benefits of the database machine — it’s been well tested and polished with very specific hardware, firmware, OS settings and etc. In my experience, most of the problems in large systems come from incompatibilities between its moving parts that are sometime very difficult to diagnose properly.

Even if customers can get their hands on a database machine separately from the licenses, chances are that Oracle SE license isn’t appropriate because of limitation on InfiniBand Support feature.

Well, looks like my dreams of Oracle Database Machine on a budget are not going to come true!

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About the Author

What does it take to be chief technology officer at a company of technology experts? Experience. Imagination. Passion. Alex Gorbachev has all three. He’s played a key role in taking the company global, having set up Pythian’s Asia Pacific operations. Today, the CTO office is an incubator of new services and technologies – a mini-startup inside Pythian. Most recently, Alex built a Big Data Engineering services team and established a Data Science practice. Highly sought after for his deep expertise and interest in emerging trends, Alex routinely speaks at industry events as a member of the OakTable.

3 Comments. Leave new

I’m becoming blog fodder for you aren’t I :) Interesting post, it does seem strange that they even quote the price of these without software.



One technical note – the Oracle IB support uses RDS for both the Cache Fusion interconnect and the Exadata-compute traffic. The upper layer protocols are different due to the nature of the types of traffic.



@Matt W: Thanks. :) Keep them coming.

@Matt Z: You are right — RDS is running on InfiniBand using RDMA. I updated the text. Thanks a bunch.


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