Oracle Data Placement on XtremIO

Many customers these days are implementing Oracle on XtremIO so they benefit from excellent, predictable performance and other benefits such as inline compression and deduplication, snapshots, ease of use etc.

Those benefits come at a price and if you just consider XtremIO on a usable gigabyte basis, it does not come cheap. Things change if you calculate the savings due to those special features. Still, customers are trying to get the best bang for the buck, and so I got a question from one customer if it would make sense to place only Oracle datafiles on XtremIO and leave everything else on classic EMC storage. This would mean redo logs, archive logs, control files, temp tables, binaries and everything else, *except* the datafiles, would be stored on an EMC VNX or VMAX. The purpose of course is to only have things that require fast random reads (the tables) on XtremIO.

I can clearly see the way of thinking but my response was to change the layout slightly. I highly recommend to place everything that is needed to make up a database in a consistent way, on the same storage box.

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Putting an end to the password jungle

manypwdsWith my blog audience all being experts in the IT industry (I presume), I think we are all too familiar with the problems of classic password security mechanisms.

Humans are just not good at remembering long meaningless strings of tokens, especially if they need to be changed every so many months and having to keep track of many of those at the same time.
Some security experts blame humans. They say you should create strong passwords, not use a single password for different purposes, not write them down on paper – or worse – in an unencrypted form somewhere on your computer.

I disagree. I think the fundamental problem is within information technology itself. We invented computers to make life easier for ourselves – well, actually, that’s not true, ironically we invented them primarily to break military encryption codes. But the widespread adoption of computing happened because of the promise of making our lives easier.

I myself use a password manager (KeePass) to make my life a bit easier. There are many password manager tools available, and they solve part of the problem: keeping track of what password was used for what purpose. I now only need to remember one (hopefully, strong enough) password to access the password database and from there I just use the tool to log me in to websites, corporate networks and other services (let’s refer to all of those as “cloud servers”).

The many problems with passwords

The fundamental problem remains – even when using a password manager: passwords are no good for protecting our sensitive data or identity.

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The public transport company needs new buses

Future-British-Bus-1A public transport company in a city called Galactic City, needs to replace its aging city buses with new ones. It asks three bus vendors what they have to offer and if they can do a live test to see if their claims about performance and efficiency holds up.

The transport company uses the city buses to move people between different locations in the city. The average trip distance is about 2 km. The vendors all prepare their buses for the test. The buses are the latest and greatest, with the most efficient and powerful engines and state of the art technology.

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Big Ideas; Big Tech: Continuous Operations for Oracle RAC with EMC VPLEX

Here’s an EMC video on Youtube about Oracle RAC with EMC VPLEX. Very nice, check it out!



Oracle RAC on VPLEX now certified

Last week EMC announced that Oracle RAC on VPLEX stretched clusters is now officially supported and certified by Oracle!

News Summary:


  • Oracle has certified that EMC® VPLEX™ METRO in a stretch cluster configuration can provide Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) customers with an easy-to-deploy, active/active solution, as they transform from single- to dual-site environments.
  • Having passed Oracle’s rigorous testing standards, the EMC VPLEX METRO solution can enable Oracle RAC to be easily configured over extended distances while enabling simultaneous access to the same data at both locations.

This is the final step in a process to help customers that have been asking for true active/active support over distance for their mission-critical Oracle Database business processes.

For those who are not yet familiar with this solution, here is a small summary:

  • Customers have been in search for ways to survive datacenter failures (i.e. “disasters”) without the need to recover and restart the databases, in such a way that any component failure or even complete site failure would not lead to database downtime
  • This was not possible before except when deploying complex configurations based on host mirroring using Oracle ASM or a 3rd party volume manager. (note that competing storage virtualization products from other storage vendors also do not offer this full capability – even though their marketing might make it seem so)
  • EMC VPLEX offers this functionality which is now completely certified and supported by Oracle, and the solution avoids risk by making the stretched cluster deployment as easy as a basic Oracle RAC install
  • The VPLEX solution offers additional benefits including better performance, better recovery from issues such as component or link failures and offers a complete solution for the whole application stack, not just Oracle
  • Note that AFAIK this solution should also work for IBM DB2 (but I haven’t confirmed)

The full news release can be found here:

A full series of blog posts on this solution can be found here:

The VPLEX witness (the final component of VPLEX that made this possible) was announced last year at EMC World 2011. Typically we see the start of market adoption between 1 to 1.5 years after bringing new technology in the market. I am working on a few customers myself who are on the edge of starting a project with this, hopefully by the end of year we have a set of good customer references!

Update: The new white paper can be found here:

Update 2: VPLEX support mentioned (briefly) on Oracle’s website:

Update 3: Demos available on EMC Demo Center:

EMC VPLEX Metro for Oracle RAC Solution Overview
Oracle RAC with VPLEX Metro Site Failure
Oracle RAC with VPLEX Metro Solution Overview
Oracle RAC with VPLEX Storage Failure

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog you might recognize familiar pictures there ;)

Oracle Stretched Cluster with VPLEX (update)

One request I got back after my series on Oracle RAC stretched clusters is if I could summarize again why anybody would choose VPLEX for storage replication over other solutions. My attempt was to describe the principles of VPLEX in enough detail for techies to understand it. For non-geeks, I will try to explain it as brief as possible.
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Monkey Business

Monkey eating bananaMaybe you have heard the story of the Monkey Experiment. It is about an experiment with a bunch of monkeys in a cage, a ladder, and a banana. At a certain point one of the monkeys sees the banana hanging up high, starts climbing the ladder, and then the researcher sprays all monkeys with cold water. The climbing monkey tumbles down before even getting the banana, looks puzzled, wait until he’s dry again and his ego back on its feet. He tries again, same result, all monkeys are sprayed wet. Some of the others try it a few times until they learn: don’t climb for the banana or you will get wet and cold.

The second part of the experiment becomes more interesting. The researcher removes one of the monkeys and replaces him with a fresh, dry monkey with an unharmed ego. After a while he spots the banana, wonders to himself why the other monkeys are so stupid not to go for the banana, and gives it a try. But when reaching the ladder, the other monkeys kick his ass and make it very clear he is not supposed to do so. After the new monkey is conditioned not to go for the banana, the researcher replaces the “old” monkeys, one by one, with new ones. Every new monkey goes for the banana until he learns not to do so.

Eventually the cage is full of monkeys who know that they are not allowed to climb the ladder to get the banana. None of them knows why – it’s just the way it is and always has been…
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Through the wormhole with Stretched Clusters

Last year, EMC announced a new virtualization product called VPLEX. VPLEX allows logical storage volumes to be accessible from multiple locations. It boldly goes beyond existing storage virtualisation solutions (including those from EMC) in that it is not just a storage virtualisation cluster – but merely a storage federation platform, allowing one virtualized storage volume to be dynamically accessible from multiple locations, as if they were connected through a wormhole, and being built from one or more physical storage volumes.

Wormhole in space
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Information Lifecycle Management and Oracle databases – part 3

Archiving and purging old data

In the end, if you want to seriously reduce the effective size of a database (after using all innovations on the infrastructure level) is to move data out of the database on to something else. This is a bit against Oracle’s preferred approach as they propose to hold as much of the application data in the database for as long as possible (I wonder why…)

We could separate all archiving methods into two categories:

  • Methods that don’t change the RDBMS representation and just move tables or records to a different location in the same or different database;
  • Methods that convert database records into something else and remove it from the database layer completely

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Information Lifecycle Management and Oracle databases – part 2

Database compression




Another technique that Oracle has improved as of version 11g is compression. In versions up to 10g you could only compress an entire table, and after that, random performance on a compressed table was poor. It worked well for data warehouses where I/O bandwidth is reduced (compressed data can be read quicker from disk than uncompressed) but only in specific cases.

In 11g Oracle has introduced “advanced” compression. I will not go into details, but it allows compression on a much more granular basis, so that OLTP applications can benefit, and it works on a record-by-record basis. Oracle claims this reduces the total database size (no-brainer :) ) and therefore also the backup size (thereby ignoring the effects of tape compression that most customers use, so your mileage may vary). Data can only be compressed once, so the size of a normal database on tape compared to a compressed one will probably not be different with tape compression enabled.

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