Friday Jul 27, 2012

What To Give Your Favorite Sysadmin on Sysadmin Day

Source

Happy Sysadmin Day.

As the site says ...

This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work ..."

We understand that times are tight, so we don't expect you to buy your favorite sysadmin a Ferrari. That can wait till next year. But it wouldn't hurt to rent them one. Just for the weekend. To remind them what a weekend feels like.

- Rick

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Wednesday Jul 25, 2012

OTN Sysadmin Day in Denver, Colorado

Source

Can you find the sysadmin in the picture?

You might be able to on Thursday, August 23rd. OTN is hosting its next Sysadmin Day in Denver, Colorado, and we can never keep track of our sysadmins. In a place as purty as Colorado, it will be even harder.

Note: The date on the link above is incorrect. The correct date is Thursday, August 23rd.

Our previous OTN Sysadmin Day in Santa Clara had almost 100 attendees. The one in Denver will have similar presentations, but we're adding some content on virtualization. Which we hope to expand into a third track in the future. As usual, Pavel Anni opens our OTN Sysadmin Days with a talk about Oracle's dual OS strategy. He explains why Oracle offers two operating systems, and summarizes the main features of each one. Then we split off into two different groups to get our hands on each OS.

One group gets their hands on the ZFS filesystem, virtualization capabilities, and security controls of Oracle Solaris.

The other group gets their hands on the package management tools, services, and runs levels of Oracle Linux, plus its volume management tools and the Btrfs filesystem.

Both groups learn by doing, using the hands-on labs similar to those on OTN's Hands-On Labs page. Why attend an event in person when you could simply work the labs on your own? Two reasons:

  1. Since you are away from the obligations of the data center, you get to focus on working the labs without interruption.
  2. You get help from Oracle experts and other sysadmins who are working on the same labs as you.
The event is free. Here's the agenda:

Time Session
8:00 am System Shakedown
9:00 am Oracle's Dual OS Strategy
 

Oracle Solaris Track

Oracle Linux Track

10:00 am HOL: Oracle Solaris ZFS HOL: Package Management and Configuration
11:30 am HOL: Virtualization HOL: Storage Management
1:00 pm Lunch / Surfing OTN
2:00 pm HOL: Oracle Solaris Security HOL: Btrfs filesystem
3:00 pm Presentation: Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center 11g
3:30 pm Presentation: Oracle VM Manager
4:00 pm Discussion: What are the most pressing issues for sysadmins today?
5:00 pm Get lost in the mountains.

- Rick

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Monday Jul 23, 2012

My First Impression of Oracle University's On Demand Training

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I live in abject fear of lectures. I spent 12 years in and old fashioned Catholic School, complete with full uniform and wooden paddles. The first 8 years were a futile attempt to civilize me. During the remaining four years, the main thing I learned was how to sleep with my eyes open. And college wasn't much better. I don't know how I finished. I'm not even sure I finished. Instead, give me a few scraps of metal, a blow torch, and let me figure it out.

So when the folks from Oracle University offered to let me take one of their On-Demand online courses, I raised an eyebrow. Me? Are you sure? Maybe you should talk to Sister Mary Shackles, my high school principal.

But I decided to give it a try. After all, I am now a contributing member of society. I can probably pay attention for a few minutes without screaming. Holy Moly was I surprised. Hold still whilst I elucidate ...

Oracle University's Transition to Oracle Solaris 11 On-Demand Training - Course Format

Eric Siglin, the instructor, looked like he could head-butt me into the next building. If he'd been my high school principal I might have done better. Mister Siglin, which is how I'll refer to him so I remain in his good graces, has a background in Oracle Database, Solaris, Linux, and Oracle's Database Machine. Not bad.

Once you register for the course, you land in a dashboard of sorts that has three parts:

Selectable course outline

This one's pretty straightfoward ... a list of the course segments, and you can jump back and forth between them.

High-def video screen

Mister Siglin has a wicked black Fu-Manchu/white beard combo. And in full screen mode the resolution is good enough to verify that it's not a fake. When he needs to show you a screen, Mister Siglin simply replaces the video with a shot of the screen, and sometimes shows up live in the right corner of the screen.

As with those superbike crash compilations videos that I enjoy watching so much on YouTube, you can expand the window to full screen.

Scrolling Text Window

Below the screen is a scrolling text window that highlights the words as Mr Siglin speaks them. Reminds me of the Sing-Along-With-Mitch programs on American TV. You can turn off this feature with the little red lock icon a the top right of the text box, though I can't imagine why.

This is too cool: if you want to go back and review a portion of the lecture, you can click on the text below the window, and the video rewinds to the part where the instructor, Mister Siglin, spoke that word. And it advances normally from there.

But wait! There's more. Enter a word into the search window, and the progress bar indicates where in the recording Mister Siglin has said that word. Click on the indicator, and the video rewinds to that spot. Along with the scrolling text, of course. Unless you're the kind of guy who turns off the cool scrolling text. You probably pay for your fast food with small coins, don't you?

Course Content

As cool as all those bells and whistles are, the best part is the content. Here's an example of Mister Siglin's introductory comments.

"We are assuming that you have some prior Solaris experience coming in here, because we're going to address what's new with Solaris. We're going to talk about the image packaging system. Now, the image packaging system reminds me an awful lot of what we have in the Linux environment. The automated installer, which is a replacement for Jumpstart...

"Plus, we're also going to come up with some ideas to help it make it easier for you to transition from Solaris 10 to Solaris 11...

"So we're going to look at managing the software packages in Solaris 11. And that's going to continue perhaps until tomorrow. That's one of the nice things about having a small group like this one, that makes our schedule a little more flexible. So then we're going to talk about enhancements to the installation process. We have a couple of different ways of looking at that, because the installer's been improved. We have several options. And then we're going to get into Solaris Zones. We're going to take a look at what is new with the Solaris Zones, new with networking, especially since we're dealing with a lot more virtualization. And then on the last day, we're going to get into storage enhancements. There are some major enhancements with ZFS, for example. We're going to address those. And then the security enhancements that are in this version of Solaris.

If you get a minute ...

In a couple of weeks I'll tell you what I think about what I've been learning. Till then, here's another motorcycle crash video. And, for those of you who have not surrendered the romance in your soul to the rigors of keeping an IT shop humming, here's another enthusiastic sing-a-long from Mitch.

- Rick

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Tuesday Jul 17, 2012

How to Protect Your Oracle Linux System from the Higgs Boson

Now that the Higgs Boson particle has been gently coaxed out of hiding, you know what's gonna happen, don't you? Your boss is gonna walk into your office and demand a plan for protecting your Oracle Linux system against it.

You could act like a smart aleck sysadmin and inform him or her that it took a team of scientists 10 years and 500 trillion collisions to get conclusive evidence of its existence, and let's not even talk about how difficult it was for God to create the elusive thing, but that would violate the first law of corporate survival:

Never, ever make your boss look stupid

Instead, jump out of your chair and say "OMG! I hadn't though of that!" Then read our latest article and use what you learn to write up a plan that will make your boss look real good to his or her boss. (Just make sure your name appears nowhere.)

Tips for Hardening an Oracle Linux Server

Lenz Grimmer and James Morris provide guidelines for:

  • Minimizing the software footprint
  • Minimizing active services
  • Locking down network services
  • Disabling or tightening use of SSH
  • Configuring mounts, file permissions, and ownerships
  • Managing Users and Authentication
  • Other Security Features and Tools
  • Cryptography
I hope you enjoy reading the article as much as I did. And good luck with your career.

- Rick

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Thursday Jul 12, 2012

Smaller/faster: what's not to like?

200 MB DiskpacksOne might think that things like disk space and even computer speed had become irrelevant. After all, our cell phones have more computing power and storage than million dollar computers of fifteen years ago. (Stop me if I’ve told this story too many times: 25 years ago we sold a terabyte of disk using the big 200 MB disk platters. So, that was a total of over 4,000 disks. Since this is ancient history, the details are hazy, but I do remember that it involved a sizable facility for the storage alone and an even more sizeable commission for the sales rep. Those were the good ol’ days!)

The truth is, there is always an opportunity to take advantage of more resources. Indeed, we are in the era of big data and it would seem that our big limitation now is the speed of light. Rather than brute force, clever engineers continually come up with better ways of doing things. The RDBMS world has tended to think in terms of rows, but there is a new trend to organize it in columns instead. Wikipedia has a great summary of the pros and cons worth taking a look at, if this is new to you. In a nutshell, columnar databases can provide real performance advantages for data warehouses.

Oracle’s Hybrid Columnar Compression technology is nicely described in this paper. Long time storage specialist Art Licht has written a paper about a study he did, explaining How We Improved SAN and NAS Performance with Hybrid Columnar Compression with some remarkable results: 19x reduction in required storage space and an average 6x increase in database query performance.

Art provides specifics on how to do this using the Pillar Axiom Storage System and Sun ZFS Storage Appliance, with detailed test results. This is an article you don’t want to miss: a real hands-on description that quickly brings you up to speed with the technology and its application in the real world. Cache Accesses

–Kemer

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Contributors:
Rick Ramsey
Kemer Thomson
and members of the OTN community

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