Oracle SPARC M7 Processor Breaks the “Sacrifice Performance for Security” Rule and Much More


Oracle SPARC M7 Processor Breaks the “Sacrifice Performance for Security” Rule and Much More

Oracle Executive Vice President John Fowler used the occasion of Oracle Open World 2015 in San Francisco to introduce Oracle’s new SPARC M7, the fastest microprocessor in the world.

It is the very first server chip in the world with 32 cores and 256 threads.

The new M7 technology hardwires performance and security functions directly onto the chip, relieving the software in the upper stack of many resource intensive functions.

According to Fowler, the SPARC M7 processor is the latest in a series of microprocessors to be released since the company purchased Sun Microsystems in 2010.

Processor Specifications

The SPARC M7 processor boasts some very strong numbers.

  • 32 cores
  • 4.13GHz maximum clock
  • Large Chip Cache
  • 8-way SMP using glueless logic
  • 16-way SMP using switch ASICs
  • Software in Silicon Technology

    The new Oracle SPARC M7 processor features “Software in Silicon” technology, the result of a lengthy engineering project designed to spawn revolutionary co-engineered and integrated computing products.

    Oracle’s vision of microprocessor technology has brought software and hardware engineers together to produce innovative enterprise applications and the latest Oracle microprocessor.

    The “Software in Silicon” technique resulted from a collection of ideas suggested by Oracle engineers.

    The most promising ideas were first molded into simulation and design models before moving forward with the M7 development project.

    The “Software in Silicon” concept actually merged a number of promising ideas to bring about the M7 development project.

    Oracle and Intel Co-engineered Processor

    At the request of the database giant Oracle, Intel put these rich features into the Xeon E7-8895 v2 processor and provided it to them before anyone else.

    This is the first time that a software company and a hardware company collaborated to produce a chip that would enhance the software functionality and performance at the processor level.

    Diane Byrant of Intel, in an interview says,

    The Xeon E7 v2 that we launched earlier this year was directly targeted at in-memory analytics and in-memory computing, so it’s very well-optimized for the Oracle solution.

    New Generation Microprocessors

    Oracle engineers had realized that the increased in the number of cores in the design over the last decade began to yield fewer returns.

    So with this in view they have been pushing to move the processing functions to the chip level. Some of the functions which provide the most benefits to the customer are encryption, security and database performance.

    Though these have been incorporated into the M7, this is only the beginning.

    “Security in Silicon”

    On the importance of “Security in Silicon”, Larry Ellison in his Open world keynote explains,

    Silicon security is better than OS security. Then every operating system that runs on that silicon inherits that security. And the last time I checked even the best hackers have not figured out a way to download changes to your microprocessor. You can’t alter the silicon that’s really tricky.

    Silicone Encryption
    Enterprise computing is bound to benefit from the M7 data processing strategy. The technology enhances security by incorporating high-speed encryption of all data into the Oracle chip.

    John Fowler in his presentation further states,

    Everyone needs to run their data centers fully encrypted—nothing should be done in the clear. That’s the future of computing. Absolutely everything is encrypted, whether it’s stored on a disk, on a wire, on your laptop, in the back-end data center, or on a tape drive. This is the first processor that enables that.

    In the M7 processor, encryption is done at the hardware level with minimum overhead. With 32 crypto engines per processor Oracle ensures that the performance is superb.

    Performance no longer needs to be sacrificed for security!

    Secured Memory Technology
    Oracle also added Silicon Secured Memory (SSM) technology to protect all microprocessor functions from security compromises.

    This has been designed to protect In-Memory databases against corruption and security breaches. Protection against buffer over-read and overwrite attacks such as Heartbleed and Venom are an out of the box feature.

    SSM is managed with the use of the hidden “color bit” in the pointer and the memory blocks. For the block to be usable the pointer “color bit” and the block “color bit” must match.

    After the program frees the memory block it was using, a new “color bit” is assigned to the block. This mechanism prevents anyone from using the original pointers to access the de-allocated blocks.

    Database Acceleration

    Oracle incorporated extremely fast compression and decompression technology into the SPARC M7 chip to deliver extreme query acceleration capability.

    Along with security and data processing efficiency, the SPARC M7 chip is just plain fast. According to the Register this processor can scan up to 170 Billion rows per second.

    The secret here is the new Data Analytics Accelerator component, also known as DAX. This component in addition to loading the data into the columnar format has a decompression engine which decompresses data at memory speeds as high as 120Gb/s.

    Database In-Memory Query Accelerator
    In Oracle 12c Database, the Database In-Memory option is probably the most significant and popular feature. Using the Intel AVX Vector instructions the M7 processor provides an extreme performance boost to the Database In-Memory data processing.

    These AVX instructions now provide the ability to process many values in a single instruction set improving performance dramatically. With this enhancement the FULL TABLE SCANS in the in-memory area of the SGA are less resource intensive than in other architectures!

    Referring to the performance of the Query Accelerator, John Fowler explains,

    In the case of database integration with the processor, we did two specific things that are closely related. First, we took two portions of SQL processing—the part that scans for particular strings across a large amount of memory and the part that helps you filter and join rows—which are very low levels of how the database operates, and we encapsulated those in co-processors in silicon.

    When Will It Be Available?

    Oracle’s SPARC T7 and M7 Servers are built with the SPARC M7 processors and avialable for order and delivery. This chip is also available on the Exadata Database Machine X4-8.

    Upcomming Features

    The collaboration between Oracle and Intel will continue on this path with a number of features already in the pipeline and slated to be released in the short term. Some of these next generation enhancements include the following.

  • Memory Enhancements
  • Vector Manipulation Acceleration
  • Cluster Interconnect Performance
  • Conclusion

    Oracle set out to develop the most secure and fastest commercial microprocessor in the world, integrating application functionality into the Silicone. The project engineers certainly didn’t let them down.

    Related Links

  • Top 5 Announcements at Oracle Open World 2015 you should know about
  • Mastering Oracle 12c DBA
  • Web Links

  • SPARC M7 Processor, ‘An Expression of Oracle Strategy’
  • Oracle hardwires encryption, SQL hastening algorithms into M7 Silicon
  • Oracle’s Larry Ellison claims his SPARC M7 chip is hacker-proof