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

Thursday Apr 07, 2011

Cloning for Dummies

Clone TrooperIf it seems like we have published a lot of articles around the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance, it is because we have. Busy Oracle engineer and frequent contributor Sridhar Ranganathan has handed us another jewel: Oracle Database Cloning Solution Using Oracle Recovery Manager and Sun ZFS Storage Appliance. What a great pair of topics!

Let's forget for a minute that I work for Oracle, the leading database company in the World: that is a relatively new phenomenon. The truth is I've always known that databases dominate the solutions that computer hardware enables. Indeed, I vividly remember the early 1980s, when the emerging personal computer market was propelled largely by two primitive database applications: for balancing checkbooks and saving recipes. When Apple announced their new soft-sectored floppy drive, we had to get onto a waiting list to buy 360 KB of random access disk for our puny databases. The CEO of General Dynamics, where I worked at the time, discovered this power and the company was transformed almost overnight from analog to digital.

There are many important things DBAs do to secure their hefty compensation (had I anticipated that trend, I would have started off as a DBA, rather than as an actuary. Wait! I'm afraid there wasn't even the acronym "DBA" way back then...) One of these activities is that of cloning databases, which is done for a variety of reasons, including development, testing, and training without disrupting the actual database itself. As Sridhar points out, the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance provides an ideal platform for performing database cloning. It comes with a user-friendly interface for ease of management, a full set of data services for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes, multi-protocol support to cater to any infrastructure, analytics for monitoring and resolution purposes, and a hybrid storage pool for faster response time for test, development, and QA activities. With unlimited snapshots and cloning possibilities, many concurrent database instances can be launched for various purposes without impacting the production database.

This paper gives you a good look at the power of the graphical front end, includes examples, recommendations, best practices, and sizing considerations. As I said, this is another jewel, not to be missed.

- Kemer

Tuesday Mar 15, 2011

Long Title, Quick Start!

Linux RAC ClusterClustered applications are the keystone to highly available environments. Where you have clustering, you usually have databases – and where you have clustered databases, it is hard to avoid Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC).

Clustered databases aren't generally known for ease of setup. The Sun BluePrints Program was orginally created over ten years ago to focus on this topic specifically and numerous books and white papers were a mainstay. We once tried to write a book on this topic in six months and this was so complicated that it couldn't be done. However, technology has progressed and it is now much easier to create powerful solutions without all the pain-and-suffering.

As witnessed by Sridhar Ranganathan's and Jeffrey Wright's latest opus: Oracle9i Real Application Clusters Database Quick Start Install Guide for Sun ZFS Storage Appliance Using Oracle Linux. When we say "Quick Start," we mean it: long title, quick start! In the fewest pages possible they take you through everything you need, from downloading and installing the software, to setting up the disk, and creating the database itself.

No reason to shy away from clustering any longer.

- Kemer

Monday Mar 14, 2011

Did I Repeat Myself? Did I Repeat Myself?

RepeatThere are many aspects to optimizing storage utilization. We usually think in terms of compression: packing the bits into the minimal space. However, have you ever considered how often we save the same data multiple times? Like that amusing picture that everyone in the office saves a personal copy of. It all adds up.

Deduplication – one of those geeky terms that is efficiently self-descriptive – solves the problem by removing duplicated data. Frequent contributor Jeff Wright gives us the lowdown in Sun ZFS Storage Appliance Deduplication Design and Implementation Guidelines. Approaches to deduplication vary in both when and how: the when can be synchronous or asynchronous, the how can be block or file level.

The data deduplication feature provided in the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance is available with Software Release 2010.Q1. This feature is implemented to provide synchronous block-level deduplication and is designed to be applicable to any data stored on the appliance. Jeff's article provides practical application and performance guidelines, along with a list of known issues and limitations.

The Sun ZFS Storage Appliance is one powerful and nifty device. You can tell from the number of interesting articles we are publishing on it that there is a lot under the hood.

- Kemer

Wednesday Mar 02, 2011

Sharing the Breadbox

A Better BreadboxIf the Oracle Solaris ZFS is the greatest file system since sliced bread, then, well, the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance is the ultimate breadbox. (I had to work long and hard on that analogy, so stay with me...) The Oracle Solaris ZFS Datasheet summarizes it nicely:

Anyone who has ever lost important files, run out of space on a partition, spent weekends adding new storage to servers, tried to grow or shrink a file system, or experienced data corruption knows that there is room for improvement in file systems and volume managers. Oracle Solaris ZFS is designed from the ground up to meet the emerging needs of a general-purpose local file system that spans the desktop to the datacenter

The Oxford American Dictionary defines an appliance as 'a device or piece of equipment designed to perform a specific task.' We have all the pieces to build powerful storage appliances that marry this powerful file system with an optimal combination of both disk and flash storage. Implied in the term appliance is generally ease-of-use, and we also have an incredibly slick graphical front-end (formerly known as Fishworks) that ties it all together. It's not a surprise that the Sun ZFS Storage Appliances have been a hit.

Of course, to be a true network appliance, you have to manage competing protocols and file services. While some of us have lived in the world of NFS for seemingly most of our lives, one must not ignore Microsoft's Active Directory, common to the Windows environment. Supporting this, too, doesn't even break a sweat with ZFS Storage Appliances

Sun ZFS Storage Appliance Rule-based Identity Mapping Between Active Directory and NIS Implementation Guide, by Art Larkin, tells you in detail how you can configure it to support multiple file services. Art explains in detail how the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance identity mapping service manages users of both Active Directory services and Network Information Services (NIS) by associating the Windows and UNIX identities of each user. This allows shares, such as directories or files to which access is controlled by a password, to be exported and accessed by clients using either Common Internet File System (CIFS)/Server Message Block (SMB) or Network File system (NFS) protocols. Even if you aren't concerned about this specific configuration, you will find the paper is an excellent introduction into how painless it is to do non-trivial management through the graphical front end: this 30-page paper is full of illustrations.

- Kemer

Thursday Dec 30, 2010

Backing up the Toast

ZFS Storage Appliance

All hardware is vulnerable. You can live in a happy place, dreaming that disaster visits only others, but the day will come when it knocks on your door: usually at the most inopportune time. Think "quarter-end financial accounting!" This is why we back up everything we can. Or should...

Oracle's Sun ZFS Storage Appliances take care of many details for you, but they don't magically save your bacon: you have to work at it. Fortunately, they support the industry standard Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) to ensure efficient data protection for backup and recovery. The Sun ZFS Storage appliance works with a variety of industry-leading backup applications (such as Oracle Secure Backup, Symantec NetBackup, and EMC Legato Networker) to offer a complete solution for data protection needs.

We have just published a paper that lays it all out for you: what NDMP is, how to configure your Sun ZFS Storage Appliance, and features and limitations in using Oracle Secure Backup, Symantec NetBackup, and EMC Legato Networker. So, before you burn the toast and start a kitchen fire with bacon, take a look at NDMP Implementation Guide for the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance!

- Kemer

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

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