Tag Archives: vmware

Why I am anti host storage

So a friend of mine (@vaughanjt) tweeted that out to me today:

and I responded

At my employer, we’ve got around 500 VMs in one location, around 300 of which are various builds of the software we produce (vs back office stuff like Exchange, Oracle, etc). These 300 VMs are usually 10-30 copies of the same master with some small networking changes. At present time on our existing storage (EMC VNX 5500), doing those 10+ copies of the master are my bottleneck.

Yes, going to some sort of AFA (All Flash Array) could make this operation take alot less time. Yes, implementing something like vCAC / vRA (vCloud Automation Center / vRealize Automation) could definitely help with that bottleneck – linked clones off the master and all that, but simply, with my recent promotion and my need to backfill three personnel in the Infrastructure and Operations group, I simply don’t have the time to get that implemented in a robust and redundant way right now.

Couple that with other business challenges we face (the lease / maintenance on the VNX is due end of year, replication, etc among many other factors), and the best solution for my employer, based on our current constraints, was new shared storage that can provide the IOPS I need, yet greatly simply / speed up the management operations that are a bottleneck in our build cycle.

Host based storage (and IOPS in general) is a great thing, if it solves the problem you’re really facing. If, after solving the existing bottlenecks, I need more IOPs, I’m all for using host based storage (RAM, NVMe, SSD, etc) for caching to get me the IOPs.

Flash can be the proverbial hammer to solve a problem, but sometimes re-architecting your process is a better solution than throwing more IOPS at a problem.

Oracle Java 7 supported platforms updated but still no VMware or Microsoft support

As I’ve blogged about initially Oracle releases Java 7 with odd restrictions and then followed up with Oracle to update Java 7 planned supported system configurations, Henrik Stahl of Oracle said the supported platforms page would be updated and it has – but not with the updates he listed.

As of 11.40am, the Planned Supported System Configurations for Java now re-directs to here where the virtualization section has been modified from the previous revision with

1) Oracle VM 2.2 is now supported (previously just Oracle VM 3.X which is not released yet)
2) VMware (capitalization corrected) and Microsoft Hypervisors are still listed as not supported.

I understand Oracle is a large organization and things take time to update, but the page has now been updated and is still reading that VMware and Microsoft Hypervisors are not supported.

Oracle to update Java 7 planned supported system configurations

[Please see my latest blog update on this issue]

A few hours after my last post regarding Oracle explicitly not supporting Java 7 if run on an Oracle VM 2.X, VMware or Microsoft Hypervisor, I received the following comment in my blog from an IP address at oracle.com:

Submitted on 2011/07/28 at 3:39 pm

Hi – The supported platforms page was mistakenly created using a standard Oracle template which is not applicable to Java. It will be updated to clarify that we support Java explicitly on certified platforms (eg those called out in the page) and on other platforms as long as we don’t run in to platform specific issues. In that case (eg, if VMware is broken) you will have to go to the platform vendor for troubleshooting and a fix.

Henrik Stahl
Sr. Director, Product Management
Java Platform Group

As of the time of me writing this post, the Planned Supported System Configurations for Java page has not been updated but that’s understandable – things take time, and hey, it is launch day so some celebration is warranted!

As I wrote back to Henrik in my comments, I look forward to the webpage being updated and have one follow up question – Given Oracle’s support stance regarding VMware as specified in MOS Note 249212.1, I’m curious what standard Oracle template would say that VMware (and Microsoft Hypervisor) are NOT supported – certified, sure, but not supported?

I’ll let you know what, if anything, I hear back.
[Please see my latest blog update on this issue]

Oracle releases Java 7 with odd restrictions

Oracle releases Java 7 today, but with restrictions that could greatly inhibit it’s adoption.

[update: Since this blog post being published, I’ve received a comment from Henrik Stahl who is the Sr. Director, Product Management, Java Platform Group at Oracle who stated “Hi – The supported platforms page was mistakenly created using a standard Oracle template which is not applicable to Java. It will be updated to clarify that we support Java explicitly on certified platforms (eg those called out in the page) and on other platforms as long as we don’t run in to platform specific issues. In that case (eg, if VMware is broken) you will have to go to the platform vendor for troubleshooting and a fix.”]

So as I’ve written in the past here and here, Oracle appears to have a bad habit of not playing nice with others.

In today’s installment, we have Java.

When Oracle acquired Sun, Oracle acquired control of Java. With Java came many political battles involving Google, Apache and even Starbucks. The last one is an April Fool’s article, but honestly, would you be surprised?

Now it seems Oracle is planning to leverage Java to restrict customer’s choice of hypervisors.

Java 7 is being released today.

If you check out the Planned Supported System Configurations for Java, you’ll see that Java 7 will be supported on
Windows: XP, Vista, Server 2008, and Windows 7
Oracle Linux: 5.5+, 6.X
Solaris: 10u9+, 11.X
SuSE Enterprise Linux: 10 SP2+, 11.X
RedHat Linux: 5.5+, 6.X
Ubuntu: 10.04, 11.04

To make things clearer, the document also mentions a couple of interesting notes:
SuSE Enterprise Linux (with Java 7): Not Supported on Oracle VM
Ubuntu (with Java 7): Not Supported on Oracle VM

and then this bombshell:
System Virtualization Support

All supported platforms are supported when virtualized in a supported hypervisor
Supported hypervisors are: Oracle VM 3.x, VirtualBox 3.x, 4.x, Solaris Containers and Solaris LDOMs. Except where noted.
VMWare and Microsoft Hypervisor NOT supported

[emphasis added by me]

A couple of things to note here:

1) Oracle still hasn’t gotten the message regarding capitalization – it’s VMware, not VMWare (really surprising when you consider Java uses CamelCase aka HumpBack notation for file names)

2) Oracle VM 3.0 still is not released, which means that Java 7 isn’t supported on Oracle’s own current Type 1 Hypervisor. Although I expect Oracle will eventually release Oracle VM 3.x, Gartner expects more than 50% of all server workloads to be virtualized by end of 2012. Is Oracle chopping off the nose to spite the face?

3) Java 7 is explicitly NOT supported on VMware and Microsoft Hypervisors

Java is owned by Oracle. The same Oracle who has My Oracle Support note 249212.1 which says that Oracle will provide support for issues that occur on the guest OS or that can be demonstrated not to be caused by running the guest OS on VMware. So Oracle in the case of Java is going from a de-facto “it’s supported” type document to now an explicit VMware (sorry, VMWare) is not supported.

So what does this mean for companies running products on VMware that they want to use with Java 7? Probably nothing – people will try their products with Java 7 under VMware and I’m guessing it’ll work just fine.

But what about the more interesting case – those Oracle customers running Oracle products like Oracle E-Business Suite or Oracle Agile that rely heavily on Java? Will Oracle support deny support because Java 7 isn’t supported on VMware, even though My Oracle Support note 249212.1 says Oracle will support Oracle products on VMware?

Where does OpenJDK fit into this?

What are the support implications when running Windows XP or Windows 7 Desktops in a VMware View environment? VMware View environments run on a VMware Hypervisor.

I honestly don’t know those answers, but this sort of FUD will probably retard the adoption of Java 7, something I don’t think Oracle really desires.

Oracle versus RedHat and VMware

As I wrote earlier, there are many things to consider about when deciding what distribution is best for your environment when running Oracle under VMware. Over the past couple of years there’s been a quiet battle with Oracle on one side and RedHat with VMware on the other. As a customer, your dollars fund the game. Your choices will help determine who wins this battle.

First up, Oracle

In Oracle Database 11g, Oracle introduced a new features called Database Smart Flash Cache. The feature leverages any flash storage (aka Solid State Drives (SSDs) or Enterprise Flash Drives (EFDs)) on the system to act a second level cache behind RAM, increasing the database buffer cache without adding RAM to the system. There was a recent post on this topic on Oracle’s Linux blog which links to an interesting white paper if you want more detail on the inner workings of this feature.

Sounds great right? Here’s the thing: It’s only available on Oracle Solaris or Oracle Linux. Now Oracle Solaris on SPARC processors I could see – it’s a Big-Endian Unix whereas x86/x86-64 Linux is Little-Endian OS and Solaris on SPARC is a much more mature OS that Linux.

Oracle Linux is binary compatible with RedHat Enterprise Linux – so there is no technical reason why Database Smart Flash Cache shouldn’t work. I’m not the first to point this out. Dave Welch of House of Brick Technologies wrote about this in October 2009. I suggest you read his eloquent blog post on the subject. Note that this was all before the Oracle UEK Kernel was released and nothing in Oracle’s documentation states that UEK is required for Database Smart Flash Cache.

In September of 2010 at Oracle OpenWorld 2010, Oracle announced Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK). As you can read in this datasheet on the UEK,the big selling points are that it’s a modern 2.6.32 linux kernel that shows “tremendous performance improvements” compared to a standard Enterprise Linux 5 kernel (which is a 2.6.18 kernel). Amazing right? Not really. RHEL 5 was released in March of 2007 and hits the end of Production 1 life cycle in Q4 of 2011. RHEL 6 was released in November of 2010 is also a modern 2.6.32 linux kernel. Key benefits of UEK according to Oracle’s FAQ are that it’s fast, modern, reliable and optimized for Oracle. RHEL 6 is fast modern and reliable too. Yes, the UEK does have some optimizations and bug fixes for Oracle but they or may not be relevant in your environment.

So why does Oracle beat up on RedHat? It’s about money. Oracle wants that OS support revenue.

How is Oracle beating up on VMware? It’s also about money. Virtualizing Oracle allows you to run more Oracle servers on the same hardware. That’s lost revenue to Oracle, unless you’re using their hardware (Exadata) or software (OracleVM). Oracle tries to discourage VMware use with Oracle’s infamous supported but not certified argument against VMware. There is also Oracle’s policy of having to license all the cores on a host regardless of how many cores your VM can see (unless you’re using Oracle’s virtualization solution of course). Here’s another one I came across recently: In the release notes for Oracle Linux 6 is this little nugget:

Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel doesn’t contain vmw_pvscsi driver (11697522)
As a workaround, when creating a new VM in VSphere, do not pick Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 x86-64 as the OS type but use Oracle Linux 5 x86-64 (or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5). ESX will then expose the LSI Logic SCSI controller in the VM and the 2.6.32-100.28.* kernel will see the devices properly.

I did a default install of RHEL 6 (which uses the RedHat Kernel instead of Oracle Kernel) and lo and behold, RHEL 6 automatically uses PVSCSI to get you better disk performance under VMware. Oracle’s Unbreakable Kernel is based off of RedHat’s Kernel. That means Oracle went out of it’s way to cripple performance by removing PVSCSI support when using their kernel under VMware. Oracle’s own virtualization product OracleVM doesn’t have any sort of PVSCSI enhancements, so what better way to erase the performance benefits you’d see virtualizing under VMware? As a customer, I find this behavior deplorable.

Next Up, RedHat

With the release of RedHat Enterprise Linux 6, RedHat stopped providing the source of a vanilla kernel and all their patches in different packages and now provides this all in one large tarball. It’s totally legal by the requirements of the GPL, but it makes it much more difficult for downstream vendors (such as Oracle) to figure out what optimizations RedHat has made to the vanilla kernel and to then incorporate those changes into their own customized kernel. Now why would RedHat do this? Let’s see what Brian Stevens, CTO, VP Worldwide Engineering for RedHat had to say in this press release

“When we released RHEL 6 approximately four months ago, we changed the release of the kernel package to have all our patches pre-applied. Why did we make this change? To speak bluntly, the competitive landscape has changed. Our competitors in the Enterprise Linux market have changed their commercial approach from building and competing on their own customized Linux distributions, to one where they directly approach our customers offering to support RHEL.

Frankly, our response is to compete. Essential knowledge that our customers have relied on to support their RHEL environments will increasingly only be available under subscription. The itemization of kernel patches that correlate with articles in our knowledge base is no longer available to our competitors, but rather only to our customers who have recognized the value of RHEL and have thus indirectly funded Red Hat’s contributions to open source that will advance their business now and in the future.”

Who is the number one seller of RHEL support behind RedHat? Oracle.

Finally, VMware

VMware has done a few things I can think of to fight back against Oracle:
1) Quite simply, Oracle’s UEK (Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel) is NOT supported under VMware. Yes, I’m sure it requires resources to test yet another kernel, but I don’t believe that’s the case here. Could it be because of the “optimizations” Oracle has made such as the deadline scheduler (not typically good when used under a hypervisor) or stripping PVSCSI support out of the UEK? Maybe.

2) Up until the last few weeks, Hot Memory Add wasn’t listed as supported with Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.X under VMware according to VMware’s Guest OS Compatibility List, even though RedHat Enterprise Linux (on which OEL is based) was supported. Maybe it was an innocuous typo … or maybe not.

3) In November 2010, Oracle changed their support policy to explicitly INCLUDE Oracle RAC when virtualized. Before that time, Oracle RAC was explicitly NOT supported by Oracle under VMware. Oracle’s yearly conference, Oracle OpenWorld, was held in September – before the change in the Oracle RAC on VMware support policy – and VMware had a booth there. I attended a number of sessions at that booth and at least two of them (one by Todd Muirhead of VMware, one by David Welch of House of Brick Technologies) talked about running Oracle RAC virtualized under VMware. Both presenters made it very clear that this wasn’t supported by Oracle, but one has to wonder why VMware would take the time to talk about a solution that wasn’t supported by Oracle? Maybe they knew Oracle was going to change their support policy and were just letting customers know it could be done “if only Oracle would support it”… or maybe VMware was preparing a more offensive role regarding Oracle RAC on VMware. I don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.

So what’s a customer to do? To me the answer is simple: If you’re going to run Oracle virtualized, I’d highly recommend running it on RHEL Linux on VMware and buying my support for RHEL Linux from RedHat. If you buy support for RHEL from Oracle, assuming the support quality level is the same as RedHat’s, you’re helping Oracle to stifle true innovation that benefits everyone. If you decide to run OL, not only are you helping Oracle to stifle innovation that benefits everyone, you’re also telling Oracle you’re fine with them limiting features to customers (such as Smart Flash Cache) entirely for anti-competitive marketing reasons.

Don’t reward bad behavior.

What Linux distribution should you use for Oracle virtualized on VMware

Recently Tim Hall of Oracle-Base fame wrote an article “Which Linux do you pick for Oracle Installations?” which addresses Oracle on non-virtualized Linux. Tim’s article is excellent but doesn’t take VMware virtualization into account, so without further ado, which Linux distribution should you use for Oracle virtualized on VMware?

When virtualizing Oracle with VMware, most Oracle DBAs are going to run it on some flavor of Linux. Oracle generally supports three distributions of Linux for their enterprise products: Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and Oracle Linux (OL). Each Operating System has costs, features and support implications that make it unique. You need to determine which is best for your environment. In the United States, RHEL is most popular, whereas in Europe SLES is most prevalent. Almost all of my experience is with RHEL or on downstream distributions (such as CentOS or OL) of it, but my biases shouldn’t have an impact on this evaluation. The file system for VMware’s vSphere ESX and vMA (vSphere Management Assistant) and many of the VMware appliances from EMC and PHD Virtual are RedHat/CentOS based. This shouldn’t be a deciding factor when deciding what OS for your database system, but this does come in useful in the event of the occasional esoteric troubleshooting situation.

With some minor exceptions, RHEL and OL are the same to operate — the files are almost entirely in the same location, the commands are the same, etc.

For the purpose of this evaluation, I am limiting my comparison to the latest two versions of the 64-bit x86 platform for each distribution and how they differ when run on VMware’s latest released version of vSphere (4.1U1). Partially this is being done to save me time and effort, but also these are the platforms you would decide between if you were looking to maximize database system performance.

Note: At the time of this writing, RHEL 6 and OL 6 were NOT certified for most Oracle products. This is due to the fact these versions are relatively recently released and Oracle is still certifying their products on the new versions. Also note that the VMware / SLES promotion is limited to SLES 11.

Your main consideration here is whether you just want access to patches and updates or if you want actual support with your issues. In my nine years of running Oracle on Linux, I’ve had to open a total of two tickets on Linux support – once with RedHat, once with Oracle.

o SLES – If you’re running vSphere 4.0U2 or later and are active on qualifying VMware vSphere Software and Services SKUs, you can run an unlimited number of virtual machines and get free subscriptions to patches and updates of SLES 11 SP1. Phone and online support has varying levels and costs. You can read more about VMware’s SuSE agreement.
o OL – Oracle Linux is free to download in compiled form. If you want a subscription to patches and updates only, the cost is $119 per year per server for an unlimited number of physical CPUs. Phone and online support has varying levels and costs. You can read more about Oracle Linux in the Oracle Linux FAQ. You can also check out the Oracle Linux support pricing guide.
o RHEL – RedHat Linux can only be downloaded in compiled form with a subscription. The cheapest subscription is a Self-Support subscription which comes with a subscription to patches and updates and no other support for $349 per year per server, where each server is limited to a 2 socket configuration with 1 virtual guest. Phone and online support has varying levels and costs. You can check out the various support options and their cost on the Redhat website.

Features offered by VMware:
Do you want to use VMware features such as Paravirtualized SCSI (PVSCSI), Hot Add Memory or Hot Plug vCPUs? Do you have a specific requirement for Enhanced VMXNET Networking?

Not all the distributions and versions support all these features. For example, if your database workloads are very I/O intensive, SLES is probably not a good choice.

o SLES 10 – Networking: e1000, Enhanced VMXNET and VMXNET3 are supported. A standard install will default to e1000.
– Storage: PVSCSI is NOT supported
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs NOT supported
o SLES 11 – Networking: e1000, Enhanced VMXNET and VMXNET3 are supported. A standard install will default to e1000.
– Storage: PVSCSI is NOT supported
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs supported
o RHEL 5.6 – Networking: e1000, Enhanced VMXNET and VMXNET3 are supported. A standard install will default to e1000.
– Storage: PVCSCI is supported. PVSCSI is NOT supported on hard disk 1 of the virtual machines.
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs NOT supported
o RHEL 6.0 – Networking: e1000, VMXNEXT3 supported. Enhanced VMXNET NOT supported. A standard install will default to VMXNET3.
– Storage: PVCSCSI is supported. A standard install will default to PVCSCI.
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs supported
o OL 5.6 – Networking: e1000, Enhanced VMXNET and VMXNET3 are supported. A standard install will default to e1000.
– Storage: PVCSCI is supported. PVSCSI is NOT supported on hard disk 1 of the virtual machines.
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs NOT supported
o OL 6.0 – Networking: e1000, VMXNEXT3 supported. Enhanced VMXNET NOT supported. A standard install will default to VMXNET3.
– Storage: PVCSCSI is supported. A standard install will default to PVCSCI.
– Hot Add: Hot Add Memory supported, Hot Plug vCPUs supported

Note: Previously OL 5.6 was listed in VMware’s certified list as NOT supporting Hot Add memory, but this has been changed recently.

Note: On OL, the new Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) is NOT supported under VMware. You will have issues installing the VMware Tools if you are running this kernel.

Many companies standardize on one or two operating systems for their organization to minimize support costs. When bringing virtualization into the mix, your organization should re-evaluate your operating system choices to to get the performance and features you need.

Happy Birthday and thank you to John Troyer of VMware

Among the VMware communities, I’m a bit of an outsider – I come from a career background of Oracle and am one of the few Oracle DBAs. Sure, there are a number of people who might manage Oracle databases as part of their daily responsibilities, but first and foremost Oracle is always my primary job role. I’ve been involved in various Oracle-related communities since the mid-1990s and various VMware-related communities since the mid-2000s.

When I started participating in the VMware communities, I was *amazed* at the differences in the social buzz between VMware and Oracle – VMware has more discussion, people appear more open to sharing what they know, it’s about more than just the technology itself … it’s an actual community – not just a discussion list or a forum. It’s hard to describe just how special and unique it is to find a community centered around a large corporate software technology product.

So how can a smaller vendor like VMware develop and foster community so much better than a company with the resources of Oracle? The answer is many little intangible things, but one thing that stands out is a cult of personality. People who, at least for parts of the company, become the public face of a community.

For Oracle, when I think of people that are public faces of Oracle corporation, I think of Larry Ellison, Tom Kyte, and Steven Chan. Steven, especially with his outgoing and friendly attitude, does a great job of fostering sense of community, but he’s really just trying to foster communication with his external customer base and in the range of Oracle’s products, that is a very small group.

For VMware, when I think of the public faces, two come to mind. VMware’s CTO Steve Herrod and VMware’s social media strategist, John Troyer. John and his team manage to make VMware cool – from the Chewbacca cameos in VMware webex sessions with the CTO, to the lab team shirts at VMworld, to the trinkets and contests that various parts of VMware are always performing. I’m sitting here writing this on laptop with a I “heart” VMware sticker that glows from the apple logo on my MacBook Pro from Apple (another company that gets social media). I think I’ve got a wine bottle stopper from Oracle somewhere in a drawer.

Fostering these sorts of cults of personality is an art, and John Troyer is a master of that art. Many thanks to John Troyer for all he does for VMware and its communities to make them true communities. Community is an extremely hard thing to foster, and John’s skill and subtlety make it look effortless.

Today is John’s birthday so I, along with many others active in the VMware community wanted to give John some recognition for all he does. If John has made your career more fun and community focused, give @jtroyer a shout out on twitter with hashtag #vTHNX.

p.s. John, given my love of goofy costumes, my original plan was to rent a Wookie costume and have said Wookie wish you happy birthday from the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk. Unfortunately circumstances conspired against me to prevent this from happening, but rest assured the force is strong with you 🙂

Choosing the right input output scheduler for Oracle on Linux

As I’ve wrote about before, having an understanding of the stack of software and hardware you are running workloads on is critical to getting the best performance out of your environment.

In all Linuxes (SuSE, RHEL, OL) for which Oracle supports running Oracle database, the kernel is responsible for scheduling the I/O in the system. There are multiple schedulers built into the kernel to allow you to choose the best scheduler for your disk I/O profile. For example, a database server is going to have a much different disk I/O profile than a webserver.

As you can read in this 2005 article from RedHat on RHEL 4 or this last revised 2008 pdf, there are significant benefits to be gained for your OLTP database server by changing your I/O scheduler from the default cfq (Completely Fair Queuing) to “deadline”. Deadline scheduler attempts to reduce latency of any given single I/O by waiting as long as possible before writing buffers to disk.

It’s interesting to note that, according to the Oracle Linux 6 release notes, Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux (UEK) kernel uses the deadline scheduler. Compare this with RedHat’s kernel which uses cfq by default. I wonder how much of Oracle’s performance improvements supposedly from UEK are actually from using a more appropriate scheduler for typical database workloads? I also wonder if deadline would be the right choice for Exadata, which uses UEK, since it has SAN type storage built in.

So the answer here is always use deadline scheduler, right?

Not so fast. What if I’ve virtualized my database and I’m running it under VMware or on a Storage Area Network (SAN)? VMware has designed vSphere as an Operating System (OS) optimized to run other OSes. You can find a fascinating thread on quora about vSphere and how it compares to other OSes.

Is deadline still most likely the best choice?

No. Even as of May 2010 in this paper from VMware on Oracle Databases on vSphere 4, there is NO mention of what scheduler to use.

So, as always, you should be diligent and work with your system administrators to test out what works best in your environment. Having said that, based on my experience and that of others, I typically set the scheduler to noop (No Operations) on all my linux VMs, regardless of if they are running Oracle or not.

More support available when virtualizing Oracle under VMware

What if your management wants more assurances about support for Oracle under VMware?

I’ve talked with many consultants and a few companies over the last year who have been concerned about getting support for their Oracle environment once it’s virtualized under VMware. I’ve written about this multiple times (Oracle listened, customers win! RAC supported on VMware, Oracle support on VMware, and Number One question at VMware booth at Oracle Openworld)

Oracle database, including the latest version ( of Real Application Clusters (RAC) IS supported under VMware. It’s not certified by Oracle, but neither is almost any other hardware not made by Oracle (i.e. Your Dell servers and Cisco switches aren’t certified by Oracle). What this means is that (according to My Oracle Support (MOS) note 249212.1 ), in the unlikely event Oracle Support determines your known problem’s solution doesn’t work when virtualized, or if the problem is determined not to be a known Oracle issue, Oracle Support may refer you to VMware Support and will continue to work the issue when the customer can demonstrate the issue occurs on native (non-virtualized) hardware.

This has caused some organizations to give pause to virtualizing their Oracle environments under VMware. No organization wants to pay thousands of dollars in support only to find it isn’t there when they need it the most. To help reduce this anxiety over virtualizing Oracle products under VMware, VMware Global Support Sevices (GSS) provides support for VMware customers running Oracle 10g or 11g on VMware vSphere. You can read more about VMware’s Oracle Support policy at on VMware’s dedicated Oracle Support page.

In the event you are running into an issue with Oracle 10g or 11g issue under VMware vSphere 4, you should not only open a ticket with Oracle Support, but also a separate ticket with VMware Global Software Support (GSS). VMware will then use their expertise and resources to troubleshoot your issue to determine if the virtualization layer is the cause of the issue. If VMware deems the issue is not related to virtualization, VMware will escalate the ticket back through TSANet to Oracle Support.

TSANet (thankfully not associated with that TSA) is a vendor-neutral infrastructure that allows members such as Oracle, RedHat, Microsoft, NetApp, EMC and VMware to collaborate behind the scenes when a possible multivendor problem exists to resolve the customer issue. Typically customers aren’t even aware TSANet is being used between the vendors for communication.

In addition to support from Oracle and VMware, your storage vendor also has expertise you can leverage when experiencing issues.

If you’re running NetApp storage, check out their best practices for Oracle on NetApp. I’ve also been in contact with numerous people at NetApp regarding support resources and every NetApp person I contacted was extremely quick and resourceful in helping me find information. In a matter of hours, I had responses from a Virtualization Solution Architect, the Director of Global Support Services and Solutions, and the Senior Vice President of Support. Wow. Anyhow, NetApp has dedicated Virtualization and Oracle teams and also has a Joint Escalation Team (JET) with Oracle, VMware, Cisco etc. Even if you’re running a NetApp v-series controller in front of an EMC array, NetApp will support you and help you out. One final note, Oracle Corporate runs their Global Single Instance (their EBS instance) on NetApp according to the last published documentation I can find.

If you’re running EMC storage, they also have a Virtual Escalation Team process for Oracle on VMware vSphere on EMC. You can read more about EMC’s support of Oracle under VMware vSphere at Chad Sakacc’s blog post on Oracle, x86, VMware and update on support.

Odds are, whatever issue you’re running into or concerned about with virtualizing Oracle has been seen by someone else at VMware and your storage provider. With all the major vendors talking to each other under TSANet, you won’t be left to fend for yourself.

Don’t be scared to run your Oracle products under VMware vSphere. It’s supported by Oracle. It’s supported by VMware. Your storage vendor probably even has a specific team dedicated to Oracle on VMware.

Which would your CEO prefer

Would your CEO choose to give up a negligible amount of system performance at peak system load in exchange for a reduction of risk during system upgrades and an alternative to hours of downtime?

I suspect the answer is yes.

What’s the cost of such a technology? Believe it or not, it’s free. It’s the snapshot functionality that’s built into VMware’s vSphere Hypervisor (based on ESXi) that you can leverage once you virtualize your Oracle database or any other x86 systems. Is the performance impact truly negligible? Don’t take it from me; you can read it in Oracle’s own words.

Recently RedHat and Oracle have come out with updates to their mainstream distributions (RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.6 and Oracle Linux 5.6) and each has come out with an entirely new version (RedHat Enterprise Linux 6 and Oracle Linux 6). System and database administrators all around the world are updating their critical systems. Applying those updates to critical systems requires testing and downtime.

The best practice for operating system upgrades is to test the upgrade on the same exact hardware, software and data as in production. But are your test and production systems identical? Same motherboard? Same processors? Same amount and brand of RAM and same exact operating system packages installed? Pretty unlikely. With virtualization, all those configurations are identical.

With VMware virtualization, I can take take a clone of the entire production server while it’s live and being used by users. Now I have a truly identical copy of production to test my upgrade. Note that to do a clone of the entire production server while it’s live requires VMware vCenter which isn’t free, but vSphere Essentials (which includes vCenter) starts at $1000 as of the time of this writing.

With snapshots (which are free and don’t require vCenter), you take a snapshot (3 mouse clicks and less than 10 seconds) of the virtual machine and then do the upgrade. If you run into issues, just revert / rollback the snapshot to the state it was in when you took the snapshot. The time to do that revert / rollback is only the time necessary to reboot your virtual machine – 5 minutes? If the upgrade and testing goes smoothly, you just merge the snapshot into the virtual machine while the system is up and available to users. Total time spent doing non-upgrade activities such as backups or restores? Essentially zero.

Compare this to how you would handle a critical system without virtualization: you’d take the system offline for the upgrade, take a full backup of the system, do the upgrade (hoping it works just like it did in the similar but most likely not identical test system), have the users test, and, if there’s an issue, possibly spend hours restoring from backup. You do trust your backups… right?

Enterprise DBAs and the companies that employ them tend to be risk adverse when it comes to losing data or experiencing downtime. Virtualizing the hardware allows you to ensure your test and development systems are the exact same systems as production, thereby reducing risk of unforeseen issues during the upgrade. Utilizing snapshots allows you to very quickly take a save point of your entire server and rollback to it very quickly in the event of unforeseen issue, almost entirely eliminating (minutes vs. hours) the downtime associated with recovering from an unforeseen issue.