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Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory (PMem) Enables Virtualized Oracle OLTP for Less

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Online transaction processing (OLTP) is the foundation of today’s online commerce; however, its demands are outpacing traditional memory technologies. All too often, the solutions to a problem of this scale require some sort of trade-off, resulting in a three-way tug-of-war between cost, performance and complexity. Typical customer reactions include:

 “It’s just too expensive.”

“This will negatively impact our SLAs.”

 “We just don’t have the time or the people.”

Intel recently published a Solution Brief, Reduce Memory Costs and Keep High Performance of Oracle Databases Running on VMware ESXi and vSAN, outlining an all-inclusive solution that addresses the dilemma that infrastructure teams and database administrators are all too familiar with.

Virtualized Oracle databases are used for OLTP by enterprises, cloud service providers and telecommunication services throughout the world. But as the volume of OLTP expands, it has become increasingly challenging to provision enough memory to sustain fast Oracle queries. Given the history of persistently flat IT budgets, the tradition of adding DRAM quickly becomes cost-prohibitive. Besides that, DRAM density isn’t scaling fast enough to keep up with online data growth and transactional activity.[1]

So how do we solve this growing need for a resource that is increasingly expensive and often difficult to acquire, while budgets are shrinking?

We innovate.

Intel and VMware have devised an architecture that helps enterprises meet service-level agreements in this high-growth environment without overburdening them with hardware costs. The differentiating component in this architectural solution is Intel® Optane™ persistent memory (PMem).

Not just DRAM – DRAM and PMem

Our solution uses Intel Optane technology for both tiered memory and vSAN storage, with Intel Optane PMem in Memory Mode for tiered memory and Intel Optane SSDs as the vSAN write buffer. Oracle runs inside the virtual machines (VMs) on the VMware ESXi hypervisor).

In Memory Mode, Intel® Optane™ PMem comprises the main system memory (essentially a capacity tier), while a small amount of DRAM serves as a memory cache tier. For VMware vSAN, Intel Optane SSDs serve as a dedicated write buffer.In Memory Mode, Intel® Optane™ PMem comprises the main system memory (essentially a capacity tier), while a small amount of DRAM serves as a memory cache tier. For VMware vSAN, Intel Optane SSDs serve as a dedicated write buffer.


With hardware-based memory tiering, only a small amount of DRAM is necessary as cache for the hottest data, while Intel Optane PMem acts as the main system memory. For databases like Oracle, we recommend a 1:4 ratio for DRAM and Intel Optane PMem. This type of configuration is up to 54% less expensive than DRAM-only configurations and offers comparable performance.[2]

Intel benchmark tests showed no significant differences in performance or power consumption between Intel Optane PMem versus DRAM-only in either a 1 TB configuration or a 2 TB configuration. In the 1 TB test,  we generated a moderate load of 40% CPU utilization and observed a less-than-0.1% difference in performance. Doubling the memory to 2 TB resulted in a respectable 75% CPU load with less than a 5% difference in performance.[2] Refer to the Benchmarking Guide for instructions for setting up and running the HammerDB benchmark on Oracle Database within a VMware vSphere and VMware vSAN environment, to replicate Intel’s performance testing and results.

Using Intel Optane PMem for virtualized Oracle deployments not only delivers up to 54% savings over DRAM-only configurations without sacrificing performance, but it is also surprisingly simple to implement. Using Intel Optane PMem in Memory Mode does not require any software changes and is transparent to end users. All of the caching is managed by the memory controllers inside the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Intel Optane PMem modules plug into the same physical DIMM connectors on the same memory bus as DRAM DIMMs.

Hosting Oracle databases on VMware ESXi and vSAN is already a great strategy for resource optimization and managing or consolidating licensing costs. Inserting Intel Optane PMem into the mix makes it even better.

That's good news for those caught in the rising swells of an OLTP storm that shows no sign of waning.

Read the solution brief: Reduce Memory Costs and Keep High Performance of Oracle Databases Running on VMware ESXi and vSAN




[1] Bill Gervasi, “Memory Class Storage,”

[2] Testing by Intel as of February 2022. 4 hosts identically configured except for memory. Common configuration: 2x Intel® Xeon® Platinum 8358 processor (32 cores, 2.6 GHz); storage: 2x Intel® Optane™ SSD P5800X (400 GB) for write cache, 6x SSD D7-P5510 (3.84 TB) for capacity; Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology = ON, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology = ON; microcode = 0x0d000311; BIOS = SE5C620.86B.01.1.0004; network: 1x Intel® Ethernet E810-C 100 GbE for vSAN traffic (Intel® E810-CQDA2, 1x 10 GbE for management network). Software: VMware ESXi 7.0 U3 Build 18644231, Oracle Enterprise Linux 8.4,Oracle Database 19c, HammerDB 4.2 TPROC-C, BIOS settings: Power – Performance. DRAM-only configurations: 1 TB (32x 32 GB, 3200 MHz) and 2 TB (32x 64 GB, 3200 MHz). DRAM + Intel® Optane™ persistent memory (PMem) configurations: 1 TB system consists of 256 GB DRAM (16x 16 GB, 3200 MHz) and 1024 GB Intel Optane PMem (8x 128 GB,3200 MHz). 2 TB system consists of 512 GB DRAM (16x 32 GB, 3200 MHz) and 2048 GB Intel Optane PMem (16x 128 GB, 3200 MHz). Intel Optane PMem pricing and DRAM pricing referenced in total cost of ownership (TCO) calculations are provided for guidance and planning purposes only and does not constitute a final offer. Pricing guidance is subject to change and may revise up or down based on market dynamics. Please contact your OEM/distributor for actual pricing. DRAM pricing as of February 2022.