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Oracle Cloud adds ZFS high availability, block provisioning

New storage additions such as Flexible Block Volumes and high availability for ZFS grow Oracle's cloud platform to compete against public cloud giants like AWS.

Oracle adds new capabilities and features for its Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, including flexible, demand-driven performance for block storage along with high availability for its cloud ZFS file system.

Flexible Block Volumes enables OCI customers to alter the performance of their block storage in response to fluctuating application demand, saving OCI customers on provisioning costs, according to the company.

High availability ZFS promises greater uptime for the popular file system for cloud storage, similarly taking advantage of OCI block storage for access speeds.

While these two storage updates arriving later this month aren't showstoppers, both add functionality and greater stability for many common challenges faced by database and storage administrators, according to Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

"Anything you can auto-tune will save [database administrators] huge amounts of time," Staimer said. "Ultimately, it means users are focused on their applications and not the performance of their infrastructure."

The new storage features come alongside updates to OCI Compute and OCI Networking.

OCI Compute's Container Instances, a managed service, enables using containers without the need to manage the hosting VM or Kubernetes orchestration. Oracle Cloud VMware Solution on AMD and AMD E4.Dense Compute Instances bring two OCI services to AMD processors.

Additions to OCI Networking include the Content Delivery Network Interconnect and CDN Service, enabling new capabilities through partner CDNs, as well as a new network configuration visualizer and other security hardening features.

Playing the competitive field

Oracle's ZFS is the original, proprietary file system and volume manager created by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired as part of its purchase of Sun in 2010. OpenZFS, an open source variant of ZFS, has seen widespread adoption among cloud providers.

ZFS was previously available as a cloud service on OCI, along with the on-premises appliance hardware and software, but the high availability ZFS promises improved uptime and automation for cloud users, according to Leo Leung, vice president of product management at OCI.

"It's combining a well-known file technology with some of the web technology under the covers," Leung said.

Flexible Block Volumes builds off OCI's storage tiering and performance tuning capabilities, but now includes automation to lower cloud costs for users.

"You'll be paying for the exact performance you need -- by the second," Leung said.

Future looking

OCI formally launched in 2016, and Oracle has aggressively marketed and grown the service to compete with cloud hyperscalers, namely AWS and Microsoft Azure. OCI's goal from the outset was to repurpose and rebuild Oracle's on-premises products and services for cloud, according to Leung.

"When we designed these services, we got to do it from scratch," he said. "We were going to meet a lot of enterprise requirements."

The company's legacy with on-premises database capabilities makes many of its cloud database services stronger than competitors, according to Staimer.

"These are things you can get for the most part on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform," he said. "[But] there are good reasons to pick [OCI]. If you're doing things with any kind of database, it's going to cost you less and you'll get better performance. [Oracle does] all of that better than anyone else has."

Although OCI marks Oracle's second attempt to crack the cloud market, the company has shown a willingness to fully commit with aggressive pricing and significant data center expansions worldwide, according to Chris Kanaracus, a research director at IDC.

"Oracle is highly motivated to make OCI work and to grow its market share beyond its installed base," Kanaracus said. "Oracle may still be catching up to its larger competitors in the public cloud IaaS, but they appear to have seized the opportunity to do something different with their execution."

While Oracle's overall cloud market share is dwarfed by the hyperscalers, and its arrival came well after many other players were on the field, Staimer said the company will continue to carve a niche for itself.

"If you're late to the market, you've got to have a more compelling answer," Staimer said. "They're doing a good job in that. ... The companies that survive reinvent themselves."

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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