Oracle internal cloud session updates from VMworld Day 1

This week I’m at VMware VMworld in San Francisco. Yesterday was day one of the event and the Oracle related highlight for me was session

EA7061 Creating an Internal Oracle Database Cloud Using vSphere by Jeff Browning of EMC.

I’ve been to Jeff’s sessions before and always found them entertaining and informative. Below are some of my thoughts from what was covered at the session.

The most striking informative graphic was an X-Y graph where the X axis was scalability and Y was availability. At the high end of both were Oracle RAC. At the low end of both was MS Access and MySQL. In the sweet spot was Oracle standard edition coupled with VMware vSphere HA clusters.

What does this say to the DBAs? What many of us already knew – not every workload is appropriate for being virtualized under VMware. If your system or the business it’s supporting cannot survive the downtime you’d have in the event of a host failure and subsequent HA restart, you should spend the $$ for Oracle RAC. However, Jeff pointed out that in his experience roughly 90% of systems can survive the downtime associated with a HA event – that’s 90% of the databases out there being good candidates for virtualizing Oracle under VMware vSphere.

One of Jeff’s great examples of why to virtualize was to reduce database sprawl. He cited a Fortune 100 company with 824 physically booted Oracle databases and they pay $228 Million a year to support those machines.

To reduce this sprawl, you’ve got two approaches – according to Jeff, Oracle’s preferred way is to use RAC and come up with one global instance where you can put all your various products. Unfortunately that just doesn’t strike me as realistic in any sort of large company. I run primarily Oracle’s own products and even they can’t run on the same database version in many cases. Oracle E-Business requires Oracle 10g or Oracle 11gR2. Yet Oracle Email Center requires an Oracle 9i database (which needs RedHat 4). A global RAC instance just doesn’t make sense.

The other approach is to virtualize the machines – now I’ve got a RedHat 4 32-bit OS machine running Oracle 9i database on the same hardware as a RedHat 5 64-bit OS running a 11gR2 database. There’s lots of cost savings on both Oracle licensing and reducing the amount of hardware that one can gain with this approach.

One thing I hadn’t really thought about that Jeff brought up with regards to VMware vSphere and Oracle is that the time to vMotion your Oracle database can be longer than with other types of virtual machines – sometimes taking as long as twenty minutes. The reason for this has to deal with how vMotion works – its basically copying the contents of RAM for that VM to another server and then copying over memory blocks that have changed since the first copy, over and over till the delta is very small. Oracle heavily uses memory for its SGA (System Global Area) and so for heavy transaction OLTP systems, vMotions can take a longer than expected time.

The final thing I want to share from Jeff’s presentation was the relevant performance of different protocols and file systems with regards to Oracle and VMware. On the NAS (NFS) storage side, Jeff assigned a value of 95% efficiency when accessing database datafiles via Oracle Direct NFS (DNFS) offering. Compare this to 65% efficiency running VMDKs over traditional NFS. That’s a huge performance difference. As a result, Jeff recommends just using this for a boot / OS disk and definitely not for your database files. On the SAN side, Jeff noted the best performance (100% relative efficiency) comes from using Oracle’s Automatic Storage Management (ASM) with VMWare Raw Disk Mapping (RDM) containers. Compare this with a 98% efficiency with ASM using VMware Virtual Machine Disk Format (VMDK) containers. This is another example of how the Oracle DBAs need to communicate with the VMware administrators when planning out their environment. Many times DBAs don’t even realize they’re running in a virtual environment, and you can’t expect a VMware admin to know about the performance benefits of Oracle DNFS or ASM.

Overall it was a great session and I’m definitely looking forward to applying what I learned to my environments when I get back home.

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