Questions & Answers to replatforming webcast

Q&AA list of questions being asked to my most recent webcast on Oracle replatforming together with Madora Consulting.

I decided to put the Q&A on the blog so anyone can benefit instead of just the 100+ attendees we had on the webcast (awesome!)

Disclaimer: Some Q&A are about licensing and my answers are according to the best I know, but always consult with an independent expert (like my copresenter Keith Dobbs who I reviewed the Q&A with). Also the topic is highly controversial so don’t feel offended if you disagree ;)

Question: For normal data guard should i have to pay for normal DB EE or SE licenses or no need ?

Bart: Data Guard is free but requires both primary and standby host to be fully licensed. It requires Enterprise Edition. If you use advanced features such as running read-only queries on the standby, then you need Active Data Guard licenses on both nodes. Note that there is no technical difference between “normal” and “active” Data Guard. You need to pay for the license as soon as you use the Active Data Guard features.

Question: I’d like to know about replication Virtualized Oracle DB Server using Vsphere , should I worry about consistency?

Bart: VMware (vSphere) does not buffer any IO and passes any writes directly to the underlying storage. Consistency is therefore not dependent on whether or not you are running virtualized or physical. If you use any kind of storage replication (such as Dell EMC Recoverpoint, SRDF, VPLEX etc) then you must make sure that all volumes for a database are replicated as one “consistency” group, such that after a failover you don’t get timing issues between the different database volumes. As said, this is not depending on whether you run virtual or physical.

Also, I highly recommend testing D/R failover at least every 6 months or so, to make sure your D/R strategy is working in case you really need it. I have experience with customers who added local volumes but forgot to replicate those volumes which resulted in non-recoverable D/R systems. Using Dell EMC snapshot features of your storage array allows you to perform D/R testing during normal weekdays so your primary database and DR replication stay active even while you perform D/R testing (a method that you cannot use the same way with Data Guard unless you break replication or use other workarounds).

Question: How to use VMware in a DR site and the production site has engineered system ? Without high cost

Bart: Interesting scenario. Assuming Engineered System is either Exadata (most likely) or Supercluster (where the storage is the same as Exadata), the challenge here is that Oracle does not allow connectivity of non-Oracle storage, so we cannot use classic SAN replication here. We need to discuss in more detail but a few options you may consider:

  • Backup Exadata with EMC Data Domain, replicate to another Data Domain in the D/R site and use that to recover your database (you can use it to daily update your standby using replicated backup files). This would be a very cost efficient solution but the trade-off is that it would take some time to recover after a failover (so the RTO – recovery time objective) would not be close to zero.
  • Use Data Guard (the free version i.e. not using Active DG features) to replicate to a (Dell EMC) system. There are some disadvantages here and care must be taken that you don’t use Hybrid Columnar Compression – as this would have to be de-compressed first in order to start the standby database
  • Best solution: re-platform production from Engineered System to a Dell EMC proven solution and then you can use any D/R method you like, as well as save on license cost as we have shown in the presentation

Question: How are Madora (consulting) funded / paid for ? How does the local DEll EMC (Think DELL folks) Business Units generate revenue from a Madora engagement?

Bart: I assume this question was asked by one of our Dell EMC colleagues on the call. But sharing it with everyone because no secrets…

I’ve had this question before several times so it’s an important point, and we should have that in a future version of the presentation. There is no formal partnership between Madora and Dell EMC, because Madora must be able to provide a completely independent advice to customers and not be biased because being sub-contracted by Dell EMC. So for Dell EMC sales teams there is no direct revenue stream, however, the chance of winning infrastructure deals increases because

  • customers can save money and spend it on the infrastructure that is needed to achieve those savings
  • customers can eliminate uncertainty and make sure they are – and stay – compliant and don’t have to worry about project risks
  • bringing in license expertise can eliminate the objections raised by the customer on licensing, support, audits etc.

The relationship is purely an informal one but that said, we’ve cooperated succesfully on a number of occasions.

Question: How and why can a Customer move to Standard Edition?

Bart: If you have a database on Enterprise Edition and want to move to Standard Edition (Standard Edition 2 – SE2 – in future deployments as of Oracle version 12) then you must consider if there are any Oracle features in use that are not available in SE/SE2. If that is not the case, you can install a server with SE and move the datafiles, then restart the database. Again, test the scenario before go live as the devil is often in the details. Also you need to make sure you have enough SE(2) licenses because you are not allowed to run Standard Edition using Enterprise Edition licenses (it is essentially a different product). Madora may be able to help converting or re-negotiating licenses. Oracle will probably push back because it’s a huge reduction in their revenue stream.

Question: Can you convert Exadata quarter rack to ovm and reduce the licenses of DB and reuse them in DR site ? without buying new licenses.

Bart: (assuming OVM is Oracle Virtual Machine) – As long as the total number of physical processors is licensed then that should be possible from a licensing standpoint. Note that with OVM you have many of the same (perceived or real) license issues as with VMware (but Oracle doesn’t tell you that). Note that I would not recommend running OVM for consolidation of mission critical systems as it’s not best practice and does not offer the same level of performance management, 3rd party tooling integration and features as VMware, however, on Exadata it may be your only viable option next to running physical. I haven’t seen any customers yet who run OVM on Exadata for mission-critical workloads yet (but there sure will be a few out there – let me know your experiences!) so make sure you know what you are doing before starting such a journey.

Final thought:

I get many more questions during my customer meetings. Maybe I should put a static FAQ page on the topic that I update with new questions, answers and insights… Let me know what you think!

This post first appeared on Dirty Cache by Bart Sjerps. Copyright © 2011 – 2017. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.

The IOPS race is over

emc-f1-carInfrastructure has always been a tough place to compete in. Unlike applications, databases or middleware, infrastructure components are fairly easy to replace with another make and model, and thus the vendors try to show off their product as better than the one from the competition.

In case of storage subsystems, the important metrics has always been performance related and IOPS (I/O operations per second) in particular.

I remember a period when competitors of our high-end arrays (EMC Symmetrix, these days usually just called EMC VMAX) tried to artificially boost their benchmark numbers by limiting the data access pattern to only a few megabytes per front-end IO port. This caused their array to handle all I/O in the small memory buffer cache of each I/O port – and none of the I/O’s would really be handled by either central cache memory or backend disks. This way they could boost their IOPS numbers much higher than ours. Of course no real world application would ever only store a few megabytes of data so the numbers were pure bogus – but marketing wise it was an interesting move to say the least.

With the introduction of the first Sun based Exadata (the Exadata V2) late 2009, Oracle also jumped on the IOPS race and claimed a staggering one million IOPS. Awesome! So the gold standard was now 1 million IOPS, and the other players had to play along with the “mine’s bigger than yours” vendor contest.
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Baking a cake: trading CPU for IO?

Sometimes I hear people claim that by using faster storage, you can save on database licenses. True or false?

The idea is that many database servers are suffering from IO wait – which actually means that the processors are waiting for data to be transferred to or from storage – and in the meantime, no useful work can be done. Given the expensive licenses that are needed for running commercial database software, usually licensed per CPU core, this then leads to loss of efficiency.

Let’s see if we can visualise the problem here with a common world example – Baking a cake.

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Looking back and forward

I have been enjoying a short holiday in which I decided to totally disconnect from work for a while and re-charge my battery. So while many bloggers and authors in our industry were making predictions for 2013, I was doing some other stuff and blogging was not part of that ;-)

Now that we survived the end of times let’s look back and forward a bit. I don’t want to burn myself making crazy predictions about this year but still like to present some thoughts for the longer term. Stay tuned…

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VMware is really expensive

costcalcA while ago somebody forwarded me a research paper from an “independent” research firm in which the cost of VMware and Oracle VM were compared. Interesting!

Now you might wonder why, as someone working for EMC, I would care about such comparisons. Why would I be bothered by VMware in the first place?

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Oracle Exadata X3 Database In-Memory Machine: Timely Thoughtful Thoughts For The Thinking Technologist – Part I

Awesome post by Kevin! Recommended read if you are interested in Oracle Exadata.

Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases and Storage

Oracle Exadata X3 Database In-Memory Machine – An Introduction
On October 1, 2012 Oracle issued a press release announcing the Oracle Exadata X3 Database In-Memory Machine. Well-chosen words, Oracle marketing, surgical indeed.

Words matter.
Games Are Games–Including Word Games
Oracle didn’t issue a press release about Exadata “In-Memory Database.” No, not “In-Memory Database” but “Database In-Memory” and the distinction is quite important. I gave some thought to that press release and then searched Google for what is known about Oracle and “in-memory” database technology. Here is what Google offered me:

Note: a right-click on the following photos will enlarge them.


With the exception of the paid search result about voltdb, all of the links Google offered takes one to information about Oracle’s Times Ten In-Memory Database which is a true “in-memory” database. But this isn’t a blog post about semantics. No, not at all. Please read on.

Seemingly Silly…

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Thank you, Larry Ellison

My colleague Vince Westin published this great post on his blog:

During his opening keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2012, Larry Ellison launched the new Exadata X3.
LarryOOW2012 The new version appears to have some nice new capabilities, including caching writes to EFD, which are likely to improve the usability of Exadata for OLTP workloads. And he was nice enough to include the EMC Symmetrix VMAX 40K in detail on 30% of his slides as he announced the new Exadata. And for that, I give thanks. I am sure that were similarly thankful when Larry focused so much of his time on their product in his keynote last year.

Read the rest of his post here.

The post provides a bunch of good reasons why EMC VMAX might be a better choice for customers that run high-performance mission-critical environments. A highly recommended read!

Oracle snapshots and clones with ZFS

Another Frequently Asked Question: Is there any disadvantage for a customer in using Oracle/SUN ZFS appliances to create database/application snapshots in comparison with EMC’s cloning/snapshot offerings?

Oracle marketing is pushing materials where they promote the ZFS storage appliance as the ultimate method for database cloning, especially when the source database is on Exadata. Essentially the idea is as follows: backup your primary DB to the ZFS appliance, then create snaps or clones off the backup for testing and development (more explanation in Oracle’s paper and video). Of course it is marketed as being much cheaper, easier and faster than using storage from an Enterprise Storage system such as those offered by EMC.

Oracle Youtube video

Oracle White paper

In order to understand the limitations of the ZFS appliance you need to know the fundamental workings of the ZFS filesystem. I recommend you look at the Wikipedia article on ZFS (here and get familiar with its basic principles and features. The ZFS appliance is based on the same filesystem but due to it being an appliance, it’s a little bit different in behaviour.

So let’s see what a customer gets when he decides to go for the Sun appliance instead of EMC infrastructure (such as the Data Domain backup deduplication  system or VNX storage system).

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Exadata Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) for (storage) dummies

Columnar Basalt Landscape

Although EMC and Oracle have been long-time partners, the Exadata Database Machine is the exception to the rule and competes with EMC products directly. So I find myself more and more in situations where EMC offerings are compared directly with Exadata features and functions. Note that Oracle offers more competing products, including some storage offerings such as the ZFS storage appliance and the Axiom storage systems, but so far I haven’t seen a lot of pressure from those (except when these are bundled with Exadata).
Recently I have visited customers who asked me questions on how EMC technology for databases compares with, in particular, Oracle’s Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC) on Exadata. And some of my colleagues, being storage aliens and typically not database experts, have been asking me what this Hybrid Compression thing is in the first place.

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