Thursday Jun 20, 2013

Hands-On Labs + Proctors = Genius

If Albert Einstein (image removed from blog) had attended OTN's virtual sysadmin days, he wouldn't have gotten so old figuring out his Theory of Relativity. Thanks to the relentless advance of technology, you can outsmart Einstein from the comfort of your own office. See below.

OTN Virtual Sysadmin Day - July 2013

It's free - register here

We held our first ever virtual sysadmin day for North America on January 15 of this year. Almost 600 sysadmins attended and over 80% of them remained online for the duration of the event. Which means they found it a good use of their time. If you missed that one, we're doing another one in July. Oddly enough, we chose the same date and time: the 15th at 9:00 am PT. Which is at exact same spot of the Earth's rotation, but on the other side of the sun and closer to our upcoming collision with Adromeda.

That galactic fender-bender aside, we have updated some of the hands-on labs about Oracle Solaris and Oracle Linux that we presented at our in-person sysadmin days, and we added three new labs about Oracle VM:

  • Deploying Infrastructure as a Service
  • How to Virtualize and Deploy Oracle Applications Using Oracle VM Templates
  • Creating an x86 Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure

Details here.

The event is free, but you do need to register. And there's a little homework involved. Nothing too complicated. We just expect you to have VirtualBox installed and the proper images already imported before we begin class. You'll see the instructions after you register.

When was that again?

Monday, July 15 at 9:00 am Pacific Time. (Time converter here.)

Register here

- Rick

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Friday Jun 07, 2013

How to Get Started Using DTrace on Oracle Linux

I. hate. slow. code. (Image removed from blog.)

We all hate slow code. Bunch of princesses is what we've become. During the American Civil War, they had to deliver their text messages by horseback! It took weeks! And half the time, they got blown off their horse by a cannonball to the neck!

Today? Today we have to have our stuff back in milliseconds, or we start tweeting about it. So, if you're developing or deploying applications, how do you keep them performing at the speed to which we have become accustomed? DTrace, of course.

"But I'm a Linux guy," you say. "I don't DO Oracle Solaris."

That's fine. The folks at Oracle Solaris are not only wicked smart, they are generous. Now you can use DTrace on Oracle Linux. Let me point out, by the way, that DTrace is just as useful for sysadmins as it is for developers. In this video, taken a couple of years ago, Brendan Gregg explains how sysadmins can make their deployed applications run faster even after the developers who wrote them pushed back the last bits of their code:

Video Interview: How to Improve the Performance of Deployed Applications Using DTrace

Brendan Gregg describes the best ways for sysadmins to tune deployed applications to get more performance out of them in their particular computing environment.

Bonus: More info about Brendan Gregg plus links to his personal and professional blogs.

If you'd like to try DTrace on Oracle Linux, here are some resources to get you started.

What DTrace Probes Are Available on Oracle Linux?

If you are running Oracle Linux 6 with the DTrace-enabled Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel Release 2 (2.6.39), you can run this command to list all the DTrace probes available on your system:

dtrace -l

If you are not running that version of Oracle Linux, you can download it from the ol6_x86_64_Dtrace_latest channel on the Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN). For more info about installing and configuring DTrace, see the DTrace chapter in the Oracle Linux Administrator's Solutions Guide for Release 6.

For each probe listed by dtrace -l, the output includes a name, the portion of the program where it resides, and the Oracle Linux kernel module that does the probing. Once you have that, go to Chapter 11 of the DTrace Guide to find out what each probe does.

Article: How to Get Started Using DTrace on Oracle Linux

DTrace is a powerful tool, and it can do some amazing things. But it's not that difficult to get started doing simple things. You can build up from there. In this article, Richard Friedman gives you a high-level overview of DTrace and its major components:providers, modules, functions, and probes. He explains how you can use either one-liner commands on the command line, or write more complex instructions in scripts, using the D language. He provides simple examples for each. It's a great way to get your feet wet.

Article: How to Get Started Using DTrace on Oracle Linux
Bonus: Brendan Gregg's one liners for DTrace (some of the existing DTrace one-liners will require modification to work on Oracle Linux).

The DTrace Book

You can get all the info you need about DTrace through the Dynamic Tracing in Oracle Solaris, Mac OS X, and FreeBSD, by Brendan Gregg and Jim Mauro. Of course, you can also buy your own paper or electronic copy through any of the major retailers. (We're working on getting a good discount for the book, but you'll have to subscribe to the OTN Systems Community Newsletter to find out about it.)

Bonus:How the DTrace book got done, by Deirdre Straughan

DTrace Forums

Lots of developers and sysadmins are using Dtrace and posting their questions and tips on the DTrace Forum. Here's an example of one conversation:

Q: Unexpected output of dtrace script
m1436 wrote a dtrace script to monitor the bytes returned by the read() system call to the user programme, but was getting strange results. He includes the dtrace script and the strange output.

A: kvh responds, explaining that the problem m1436 encountered is the result of a common misconception about copyin(). "It is intended to be used to copy content of userspace memory into a scratch buffer so that it can be accessed directly from within kernel space (where the DTrace core executes). That said, it is often interpreted as somehow being equivalent to malloc() whereas in reality it actually works like alloca() instead. So, what you are seeing is basically the artifact of the scratch buffer being overwritten with other data. ... in order for this to work, you should do things a bit differently.

The DTrace forum always has great discussions. Let me know if you find any that are worthy of highlighting. And good luck!

- Rick

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Tuesday May 28, 2013

What If I Want to Update Just Java?

Sometimes all you want to update is Java, and not your entire Oracle Solaris environment. But Java is packaged as part of the Oracle Solaris systems software, and Oracle recommends that you update all the system software at once, since it was tested together.

What can you do?

How to Update Only Java in Your Oracle Solaris Environment

by Peter Dennis and Alta Elstad

This article describes how to update one piece of software that is constrained by an incorporation without altering any other software that is constrained by that incorporation, and still end up with a supported system. This article by Peter Dennis and Alta Elstad explains how to do that. It focuses on Java, but you can use the same technique for other software.

More Information About Oracle Solaris Packaging

- Rick

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Thursday May 16, 2013

Draw, Partner!

Well, I’ve already made one reference reference to Clint Eastwood (image removed from blog), I might as well make another, if only indirectly. So, here goes: the topic today is drawing. That is, making drawings with Oracle hardware components.

For those of you who like to (or need to) create architectural drawings with reasonable renditions of components and all the requisite connections, you are probably already aware of Microsoft Visio, or for those of you who prefer Macs (such as myself), Omnigraffle Pro. Did you know that we have an open repository with a growing selection of components on VisioCafe? We just updated this Tuesday night, adding stencils of Oracle’s new SPARC T5 and SPARC M5 servers. You will find them in the zip bundle Oracle-Servers.

We have also added Visio templates for Oracle's Exadata Database Machines. In case you didn’t know the difference between stencils and templates, templates provide a more powerful (and efficient) representation that allows you to reorganize the racks to match your actual configuration.

For those of us who use OmniGraffle Pro, you will be pleased to note that we are now getting greater, but not always perfect, compatibility. So, your mileage may vary: our official target is Microsoft Visio.

So, what can I say? "Make my day! Draw, Partner!"

—Kemer

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Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

How to Build A Cloud for Family and Friends Using Oracle Solaris 11

image copyright 2013 by Rick Ramsey

When we talk about cloud, we tend to focus on The Cloud. Enterprise. Government. Scalable. Fast. Big. Bigger. Fastest. That's all wicked impressive, but it's not something I can do on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Now, I like and use Dropbox. There are other easy-to-use cloud services out there similar to Dropbox. But my Inner Geek wants his own cloud. Something modest and unassuming. Itty bitty, even. Just for fun. Kinda like putting a race cam on my Ducati 748: I don't need one, but I want to see if I can do it. Turns out it's nowhere near as involved as installing a race cam on a Ducati. And you don't need to get your hands greasy. Suk Kim, Oracle ACE Director, shows how.

How to Build a Web-Based Storage Solution Using Oracle Solaris 11

by Suk Kim, Oracle ACE Director

Combine AjaXplorer, Oracle Solaris 11.1, and Apache Web server to build a cloud-based storage service that is similar to Dropbox. These are the main tasks ... Install Oracle Solaris 11.1. Configure ZFS storage. Install the Apache and PHP packages. Set up Security. Connect to the client. Check ZFS compression and deduplication. That's all it takes. Suk Kim provides the instructions.

(In case it's not clear that the link is in the heading, Laura, you can also click here)

Suk Kim is an Oracle Ace Director for Oracle Solaris in South Korea. He is also chairman of the Korea Oracle Solaris User Network, manager of Oracle Solaris TechNet, manager of the Solaris School community, an adjunct professor at Ansan University, and a senior system and security consultant at NoBreak Co., LTD.

Follow Suk Kim here:

About the Cloud Picture

I took it from my house in Colorado in the summer of 2011 with a cheap Sony camera. 2013 has brought a snowy Spring to Colorado (next storm, on May 1, will drop 6 inches of snow on us), so it's likely we'll see a lot more of these storms in May, June, and July. I need to spring for a better camera so you can see how spectacular these storms are in the high country.

- Rick

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Friday Apr 26, 2013

Three Goodies About the ZFS Storage Appliance

Today we have three goodies about the ZFS Storage Appliance to share (image removed from blog):

Video Interview: The Top Capabilities of ZFS Storage Appliance Explained

Nancy Hart describes her favorite capabilities about the ZFS Storage Appliance, and Jeff Wright explains how each of them works. They cover Hybrid Columnar Compression, Direct NFS (makes data transfer more efficient), Remote Direct Memory Access, Oracle Intelligent Storage Protocol (database aware of the storage and vice versa), DTrace Analytics to optimize deployments, and more.

Blog: My Personal ZFS Storage Appliance Crib Sheet

We recently published some articles about really cool ways to use the ZFS Storage Appliance, so I spent a little time looking into the darned thing. It's easy to find out what the ZFS Storage Appliance does, but more difficult to find out what its components are. What can I yank out and replace? What can I connect it to? And what buttons and levers can I push? Or pull. So I put together this crib sheet. If you didn't grow up in The Bronx, see wikipedia's definition of crib sheet.

3D Demo

Pop the doors open, pull out the disk shelves, find out what's inside each one. Great demo, and you're at the controls.

Additional Resources

For more technical resources about the ZFS Storage appliance, use any of the four tabs on OTN's Technical Resources Center. And, to see other blogs about Oracle's storage products, select the "Storage" tab under Categories in the right margin, or click here.

- Rick

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Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

The Sysadmin as CEO

Bjoern Rost began his professional life as a sysadmin, and no doubt through the clever use of scripts became the CEO of his own consulting company (image removed from blog). Oracle recently announced his appointment to Oracle ACE Director. Here's some background information about Bjoern and his company, a video interview, and links to his most recent blog posts.

About Bjoern Rost, Oracle ACE Director

Bjoern is the co-founder of Portrix Systems, a service provider and consulting company focused on Oracle technologies including servers, storage, Solaris, Real Application Cluster databases, and desktop virtualization. He enjoys working with software developers to tightly integrate with existing Oracle features, is passionate about sharing knowledge, and has enjoyed speaking at several conferences and user group meetings including OpenWorld, UKOUG, COLLABORATE and DOAG. He also serves as the European Chair of IOUG's RAC special interest group.

Interview with Bjoern at Oracle Open World 2012

Before I knew that Bjoern was even being considered for Oracle ACE Director, I had the good fortune of chatting with him at Oracle Open World 2012. He's an excerpt from our conversation:

A Sysadmin CEO's Favorite Technologies in Oracle Solaris 11
Bjoern Rost, Orace ACE Director, was a sysadmin before he co-founded a consulting company, Portrix Systems. He describes how that happened, which Oracle technologies he used, what he used them for, and what his favorite parts of Oracle Solaris 11 are. Bonus: how engineered systems are leading to a confluence of the system admin and the database admin.

Bjoern's Blog

Bjoern's Blog is actually a team blog with contributions from three Euro-techies named Florian, Markus, and Ole. Recent topics are:

About Portrix Systems

Portrix Systems, an Oracle Gold Partner, is a full service provider helping customers run and operate complex IT systems by integrating infrastructure and services. From their home page:

"We started as the internal system administration division of the PORTRIX group. Duties involved setting up test and development systems for software developers and consulting about their optimal use. This soon evolved into services we provided for our customers who leveraged the potential to receive ISV software products bundled with integration and operation services by the same people who were already involved in development.

Congratulations, Bjoern! We're very glad to have you with us.

- Rick

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Thursday Apr 18, 2013

Why Solaris Loves Python

It's not well known that Oracle Solaris 11 includes a healthy dose of Python code, and that Solaris engineering uses Python tools. These four videos provide more of the story.

How Oracle Solaris 11 Uses Python

Oracle Solaris 11 installation tools use Python to access C libraries more quickly and easily than if they were coded in C. Drew Fisher explains why the Solaris engineering team chose Python for this purpose, what he personally likes about it, and what it implies for the future of Solaris development.

Why Is Oracle Solaris Engineering Looking for Python Developers?

Martin Widjaja, engineering manager for Oracle Solaris, describes the development environment for Oracle Solaris and why Oracle wants to hire more Python developers to work on Solaris.

Why I Started Developing In Python

David Beazly was working on supercomputing systems at Los Alamos National Laboratory when he began to use Python. First, he used it as a productivity tool, then as a control language for C code. Good insights into Python development for both systems developers and sysadmins from the respected author.

How RAD Interfaces In Oracle Solaris 11 Simplify Your Scripts

Every time a new release of Oracle Solaris changes the syntax or output of its administrative commands, you need to update any scripts that interact with those commands. Until now. Karen Tung describes the RAD (Remote Administration Daemon) interfaces that Solaris 11 now provides to reduce the need for script maintenance.

- Rick

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Tuesday Apr 16, 2013

Evaluating Oracle Solaris and Oracle Linux From Your Laptop

Evaluating Oracle Linux From Inside VirtualBox

After importing your Oracle Linux virtual image, you can use the yum install command to download additional packages into your Linux environment. Yuli explains how.

But what's really cool about evaluating an OS from inside VirtualBox is that you can assign each virtual image a unique IP address, and have it communicate with the outside world as if it were its own physical machine on the network. Yuli describes how to do this, and also how to install guest additions to, for instance, share files between the guest and host systems.

Evaluating Oracle Solaris 11 From Inside VirtualBox

In this article Yuli shows you how to create and manage user accounts with either the GUI or the CLI, how to set up networking, and how to use the Service Management Facility (SMF) to, for instance, control SSH connections to the outside world.

Both article cover the basics to get you started, but also very valuable are the links that Yuli provides to help you move further along in your evaluation.

- Rick

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Monday Apr 15, 2013

Eight Cylinders of Virtualization

source made freely available by desktop machine

I've been on the lookout for a quick techie overview of Oracle's virtualization offerings. Detlef Drewanz, Matthias Pfützner, and Elke Freymann had strung together a series of articles doing just that. Lenz Grimmer jumped in with some context on Linux, and the result was this 8-part series for OTN.

1 - The Role of Oracle VM Server for SPARC in a Virtualization Strategy

by Matthias Pfützner

Overview of hardware and software virtualization basics, including a breakdown of different types and styles of virtualization, and where Oracle VM Server for SPARC fits into a virtualization strategy.

2- The Role of Oracle VM Server for x86 in a Virtualization Strategy

by Matthias Pfützner

Oracle VM Server for x86 is an Oracle technology that existed before Oracle acquired Sun. It is a virtualization product based on the Xen hypervisor and like its SPARC counterpart, Oracle VM Server for SPARC, it is a thin Type 1 hypervisor that performs hardware virtualization and uses paravirtualization.

3 - The Role of Oracle Solaris Zones and Linux Containers in a Virtualization Strategy

by Detlef Drewanz and Lenz Grimmer

Oracle Solaris zones are referred to as lightweight virtualization because they impose no overhead on the virtualization layer and the applications running in the non-global zones. As a result, they are a perfect choice for high performance applications. Instead of retrofitting efficiency onto full isolation, Linux Containers started out with an efficient mechanism and added isolation, resulting in a system virtualization mechanism as scalable and portable as chroot.

4 - Resource Management As an Enabling Technology for Virtualization

by Detlef Drewanz

When you have one person in one phone booth, life is simple. But when you fit 25 college students into one phone booth, you have resource management challenges. Not to mention security risks. Same goes for virtualization. Detlef explains how resource management can help.

5 - Network Virtualization and Network Resource Management

by Detlef Drewanz

Using hypervisor-based virtualization and Oracle Solaris Zones with network virtualization plus network resource management enables a whole range of network-based architectures. This article describes what's involved in using network resource management in conjunction with hypervisors, containers, and zones in an internal virtual network.

6 - Oracle VM VirtualBox: Personal Desktop Virtualization

by Detlef Drewanz

Oracle VM VirtualBox consists of a base software package that is available for each supported host OS; guest additions that add support for shared folders, seamless window integration, and 3D; and extension packs.

7 - The Role of Oracle Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in a Virtualization Strategy

by Matthias Pfützner

This technology is no longer available.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is the practice of hosting a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) running on a hosted, centralized or remote server. Matthias Pfützner explains.

8 - Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center as a Management Tool for Virtualization

by Elke Freymann

Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center offers complete infrastructure management with a focus on Oracle hardware (servers, switches, storage appliances) and Oracle operating systems, plus non-Oracle Linux variants that are supported on Oracle servers. Although Oracle VM VirtualBox and Oracle VDI include management capabilities, Ops Center has the best overall toolset for central virtualization management.

- Rick

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Thursday Apr 11, 2013

How Oracle Solaris Engineering Thinks: Liane Praza

It's not often you get a glimpse into how the brightest minds at Oracle think (image removed from blog). And Liane is certainly one of the brightest minds at Oracle. In these two short videos (about 2 minutes each), taken at the recent Oracle Solaris Innovations Workshop, she explains:

Video Interview: Why We Build Virtualization Into the OS

Liane Praza explains why Oracle Solaris engineering continues to build virtualization capabilities into the OS instead of adding more features and better management to the hypervisor.

Why The OS Is Still Relevant

Sysadmins are handling hundreds or perhaps thousands of VM's. What is it about Solaris that makes it such a good platform for managing those VM's? Liane Praza, senior engineer in the Solaris core engineering group provides an engineer's perspective.

- Rick

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Tuesday Apr 09, 2013

What Sysadmins and Netadmins Spend Their Time Doing

source

This survey covers a wealth of topics, including how the jobs of sysadmins and netadmins are changing.

A large percentage of both sysadmins and netadmins agree that their jobs are getting more complex and they are spending more time on the job performing more duties with fewer resources.

The survey includes a breakdown of what sysadmins and netadmins spend their time doing on the job, and the number of hours they typically spend on each task. But it also includes a wealth of other data about sysadmins and netadmins. Did you know that ...

75% of sysadmins have at least some influence in IT decisions, and 20% have strong influence, whereas 100% of network admins have from strong to complete decision making authority.

Interestingly enough, the amount of influence they have on IT decisions corresponds to their job satisfaction:

Network Admins find their job more enjoyable, are more satisfied, and feel more appreciated. Sysadmins are much more frustrated with many aspects of their jobs, and are more likely to see themselves in a different career in the future.

The percentage of male to female sysadmins was about the same, but more network admins were men. As you might expect, the most popular TV show among both sysadmins and netadmins was ...

The Big Bang Theory

Find the Survey Results Here

The survey focused on Australia's sysadmins and netadmins. If you know of similar surveys in other countries, let me know!

Slideshare: Survey Results

- Rick

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Friday Apr 05, 2013

Migrating to Oracle Linux: How to Identify Applications To Move

source

One of the first things you need to make when migrating from SUSE Linux to Oracle Linux is an inventory of your applications. A package management tool such as Yet Another Setup Tool (YAST) is a big help here. So is the rpm command. Here are some ways to use it.

To List All The Installed Packages

Use the -qa option.

# rpm –qa
filesystem-11.1.3.5.3
sles-release-DVD-11.2.1.234
...

To Save the Output in a File

You can move that file to any location and, anytime later,search through the package list saved there to look for a package of interest:

# rpm –qa > rpmlist.txt

To Sort the Packages

To see the installed packages sorted by install time, use --last. The packages installed most recently will appear at the top of the list, followed by the standard packages installed during the original installation:

# rpm –qa --last
VirtualBox-4.2-4.2.6_82870_sles11-0-1
...

To Find Out If A Particular Component Is Installed

To find out whether a particular component is installed and what version it is, use the name option. For example:

# rpm –qa python
python-2.6.0-8.12.2

To Find Out What Dependencies a Package Has

Use the -qR option:

# rpm –qR python-2.6.0-8.12.2
python-base = 2.6.0
rpmlib(VersionedDependencies) <= 3.0.3-1
...

The Linux Migration Guide

You can find out more about migration steps with either rpm or YaST, including the benefits of migrating to Oracle Linux, by downloading the white paper from here:

Download the Oracle Linux Migration Guide

- Rick

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Thursday Apr 04, 2013

The Screaming Men of Finland and Oracle SPARC Chips

source

In response to the release of Oracle's SPARC T5 and M5 chips, which are dramatically faster than those of IBM, IBM responded by saying that speed was not as important as other qualities. Forbes begged to differ:

Forbes Article: For Big Data Customers, Top Performance Means High Speed And Low Cost

Assuming you agree, you'll be interested in some dyno runs of not only our SPARC chips, but also our applications running on them. Did I say dyno runs? I'm sorry, I meant benchmarks.

World's Fastest Database Server

Oracle’s new SPARC mid-range server running Oracle Solaris is the fastest single server for Oracle Database:

  • Oracle’s SPARC T5-8 is the fastest single server for Oracle Database
  • Oracle's SPARC T5-8 server has a 7x price advantage over a similar IBM Power 780 configuration for database on a server-to-server basis.
See Benchmarks Results Here
Why Oracle Database runs best on Solaris

World's Fastest Server for Java

As you might expect, Java runs fastest on Oracle servers.

SPECjEnterprise2010 Benchmark World Record Performance
SPECjbb2013 Benchmark World Record Result
Why Solaris is the best platform for Enterprise Java

Optimizations to Oracle Solaris Studio COmpilers

The latest release of Oracle Solaris Studio includes optimizations for the new SPARC chips in its compilers. Larry Wake has more:

Blog: Oracle Solaris and SPARC Performance - Part I

I'll Optimize Yours If You Optimize Mine

Since the Solaris and SPARC engineers get along so well, they have each optimized their technologies for each other:

SPARC Optimizations for Oracle Solaris
Oracle Solaris Optimizations for SPARC

Happy Burnouts.

- Rick

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Wednesday Apr 03, 2013

Miss MoneyPenny and the Oracle Solaris 11 Provisioning Assistant

source

In the following video, Bart Smaalders, from the Oracle Solaris core engineering team, explains why they decided not to provide a direct upgrade path from Oracle Solaris 10 to Oracle Solaris 11, and the best way for a data center to perform an indirect upgrade.

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Why Engineering Did Not Provide a Direct Upgrade Path to Oracle Solaris 11

Miss MoneyPenny to the Rescue

If you saw Skyfall, you probably noticed two things. First, that the latest Miss Moneypenny is a lot more interesting than past Miss Moneypennies. Second, that she's always there when 007 needs her.

Just like Oracle Solaris 10.

Oracle Solaris 10 has just released a nifty tool called Oracle Solaris 11 Provisioning Assistant. It lets you run the automated installer from Oracle Solaris 11 on a Solaris 10 system. That means you can set up an IPS (Image Packaging System) repository on your Solaris 10 system, and use it to provision one or more Solaris 11 systems.

In fact, if you have already set up a JumpStart server on your Solaris 10 system, you can use it to provision the Solaris 11 systems. Kristina Tripp and Isaac Rozenfeld have written an article that explains how:

TECH ARTICLE: How to Use an Existing Oracle Solaris 10 JumpStart Server to Provision Oracle Solaris 11 11/11

Note:
The Provisioning Assistant only provisions Solaris 11 11/11 systems. It does not provision Solaris 11.1, and there are no plans to extend its functionality to provision future releases of Oracle Solaris 11. Once you have set up your Solaris 11 system, use its automated installer to provision systems with the Solaris 11.1 or future releases. For more info, see the Upgrading to Oracle Solaris 11.1 documentation.

- Rick

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Monday Apr 01, 2013

Oracle To Acquire Ducati

source

"To handle all that speed and power, today's high-performance motorcycles need traction control, active suspension, ABS, and a multitude of electronic systems that gather an enormous amount of data. Oracle Database is uniquely positioned to process that data at the speeds today's riders require to remain competitive. And, with the Oracle Cloud, that data and those services are available from even the most remote racing circuits on the planet."

Several well placed sources inside both companies confirmed high-level discussions and high speed laps around the streets of Bologna between Oracle and Ducati executives over the last few weeks.

"Oracle is obsessed with speed. Just look at what they did with the SPARC systems last week. And Ducati? Need we say more?"

Industry pundits agree that there is a natural symbiosis between the two corporate cultures. But that's not the only reason for an acquisition of Ducati by Oracle.

"The high tech industry is highly competitive and Oracle is always looking for ways to reduce costs. By joining forces with Ducati, the combined companies can realize a significant discount on red paint."

"Imagine the parties!" a member of the Oracle Technology Network said in response to the speculation. "Oracle Open World! World Ducati Week. Both in San Francisco. It blows my mind."

"We will not turn San Francisco into another MotoGP circuit," the mayor of San Francisco assured concerned citizens while behind him executives of both companies discussed the merits of different routes around, over, and through Nob Hill.

"Lombard Street on a Desmosedici? I'm coming back!"
- Valentino Rossi

As you can imagine, at the OTN Garage, we're thrilled by the possibilities, and we'll be following this story closely.

"Oracle does not comment on potential acquisitions. This is probably some dumb April Fools prank."
- Oracle spokesperson

- Rick

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Thursday Mar 28, 2013

Is Tape Storage Still Harder to Manage Than Disk Storage?

source

-guest post by Brian Zents-

Historically, there has been a perception that tape is more difficult to manage than disk, but why is that? Fundamentally there are differences between disk and tape. Tape is a removable storage medium and disk is always powered on and spinning. With a removable storage one piece of tape media has the opportunity to interact with many tape drives, so when there is an error, customers historically wondered whether the drive or the media was at fault. With a disk system there is no removable media, if there is an error you know exactly which disk platter was at risk and you know what corrective action to take.

However, times have changed. With the release of Oracle’s StorageTek Tape Analytics (STA) you are no longer left wondering if the drive or the media is at risk, because this system does the analysis for you, leaving you with proactive recommendations and resulting corrective actions … just like disk.

For those unfamiliar with STA, it’s an intelligent monitoring application for Oracle tape libraries. Part of the purpose of STA is to allow users to make informed decisions about future tape storage investments based on current realities, but it also is used to monitor the health of your tape library environment. Its functionality can be utilized regardless of the drive and media types within the library, or whether the libraries are in an open system or mainframe environment.

STA utilizes a browser-based user interface that can display a variety of screens. To start understanding errors and whether there is a correlation between drive and media errors, you would click on the Drives screen to understand the health of drives in a library. Screens in STA display both tables and graphs that can be sorted or filtered.

In this screen ...

... it is clear that one specific drive has many more errors relative to the system average.

Next, you would click on the Media screen:

The Media screen helps you quickly identify problematic media. But how do you know if there’s a relationship between the two different types of errors? STA tracks library exchanges, which is convenient because each exchange involves just one drive and one piece of media. So, as shown below, you can easily filter the screen results to just focus in on exchanges involving the problematic drive.

You can sort the corresponding table based on whether the exchange was successful or not. You can then review the errors to see if there is a relationship between the problematic media and drive. You may also want to review the drive’s exchanges to see if media that’s having issues has any similarities to other media that’s having problems. For example, a purchased pack of media could all be having similar problems.

What if there doesn’t appear to be a relationship between media and drive errors? Part of the ingenuity of STA is that just about everything is linked, so root causes are easy to find. First, you can look at an individual drive to see its recent behavior, as show on this screen:

From the table you can see that this particular drive was healthy until recently. The drive indicated it needed a cleaning, and somebody performed that cleaning. However, just a few exchanges later, it started reporting errors. In this case, it’s clear that the drive has an issue that goes beyond the relationship with a specific piece of media and should be taken offline. On the other hand, if the issue appears to be related to the media itself, you should identify a method to transfer the data off of the media, and replace the media.

- Brian Zents

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Wednesday Mar 27, 2013

Why Become a Solaris Sysadmin?

On the one hand Oracle is telling you that Solaris is the key component of the Oracle stack, that we've been investing heavily in it, and that it provides the best platform for managing the stack. Watch these videos:

On the other hand, we are telling your boss to buy our engineered systems because they'll not only reduce the complexity of managing the data center, but they'll need fewer sysadmins to run them.

So, which is it?

Video Interview: Why Become a Solaris Sysadmin?

I asked Larry Wake, Solaris old-timer. Tell me what you think of his answer.

Video Interview: Why Become A Solaris Sysadmin?.

A year or two ago, Justin asked Marshall Choy a similar question. Watch that video here:

Video Interview: Impact of Engineered Systems on the Sysadmin

- Rick

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Thursday Mar 21, 2013

How to Protect Your Oracle Solaris Zone Cluster

source

We just published an article by Subarna Ganguly that describes how to build a secure zone cluster. In other words, a zone cluster with trusted extensions. If you want to go straight to the article, scroll down to the bottom of this blog. If you're new to zones, clustering, or trusted extensions, I'll try to explain what's interesting about this article.

Vanilla Solaris

In the beginning there was root and user. Root could do anything anywhere, user could do very little. We improved that with the notion of roles. Access rights (permissions) were assigned to roles instead of users. And individual users were assigned to one or more roles. Access Control Lists (ACL) improved this even more.

Oracle Solaris has about 80 different roles. You can see the privileges each one has by looking at the /etc/user_attr.d directory

Trusted Extensions

Trusted extensions add "sensitivity" labels. These labels are similar to a security clearance in the military: confidential, secret, top secret, etc. With trusted extensions, you first label users, data, processes, peripherals, and pretty much everything that a user or process can access. Then you give uses and processes their own label. A user or process can only access something that has a label with the same or greater access.

"Trusted extensions ... is not something that can be just 'turned on' like a firewall. Trusted extensions fits into a framework where there's a formal security policy, possibly an LDAP server where users and their clearances are defined, as well as network access points that are labeled."
- Book: Oracle Solaris 11 System Administration, Chapter 18

Solaris Zones

Zones are virtual instances of the Solaris environment launched and controlled from the base OS environment, known as the non-global zone.

"Oracle Solaris Zones let you isolate one application from others on the same OS, allowing users to log in and do what they want from inside one zone without affecting anything outside that zone. In addition, Oracle Solaris Zones are secure from external attacks and internal malicious programs. Each Oracle Solaris Zone contains a complete resource-controlled environment that allows you to allocate resources such as CPU, memory, networking, and storage."
- OTN Article: How to Get Started Creating Zones in Oracle Solaris 11

Solaris Cluster

Oracle Solaris Cluster lets you deploy the Oracle Solaris operating system across different servers. If the server in your Barbados data center gets washed away by a hurricane that hates you and dropped off in West Africa, the other servers pick up the load, and the operating system continues to operate without interruption.

"Oracle Solaris Cluster delivers the high availability and disaster recovery capabilities of Oracle Solaris 11 and extends, with version 4.1, its built-in support for the Oracle software and hardware stack, to protect business critical application deployments in virtualized and traditional environments."
- White Paper: Oracle Solaris and Oracle Solaris Cluster

Zone Clusters

A zone cluster is a cluster created from Solaris zones that are physically located on different servers. That's similar to a regular cluster, but it uses zones instead of entire OS instances.

"Such large amounts of idle processing capacity present an almost irresistible opportunity for better system utilization. Organizations seek ways to reclaim this unused capacity, and thus are moving to host multiple applications on a single cluster. However, concerns about interactions between applications, especially in the areas of security and resource management, make people wary. Virtualization technologies address these security concerns and provide safe ways to host multiple applications in different clusters on a single hardware configuration.
- White Paper: How to Deploy Virtual Clusters and Why

Trusted Zone Clusters and Saburna's How To Article

Oracle Solaris Trusted Zone clusters became available in Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1. They are zone clusters with the security capabilities (mandatory access control or MAC) provided by Trusted Extensions. The zones in the cluster are labeled in the same way that other objects are labeled, so that only other objects with the same (or higher) sensitivity label can access them. Saburna Ganguli walks you through the steps required to set one up:

OTN Article: How to Build a Trusted Zone Cluster with Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1

More Cluster Resources

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- Rick

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Monday Mar 04, 2013

What It Takes to Deploy and Manage a Private Cloud

source

That's what your private cloud will look like if you do it wrong. And there are so many things that can go wrong.

Oracle offers several ways to set up your own private cloud. Richard Friedman describes what's involved in not only deploying it with Oracle VM, but managing it.

Article: What It Takes to Deploy and Manage a Private Cloud

Here are three excerpts:

"A few days ago I had dinner with my friend Dave. He’s a systems administrator for his company’s private cloud. Until recently, his company had relied on a mashup of customized applications, scripts, and handwritten procedures for doing everything from allocating storage to users to provisioning virtualized servers, updating and patching operating systems, and deploying applications over the network. He had been complaining for months about the difficulties of trying to satisfy requests from users and clients quickly and how these custom environments were becoming more and more unreliable and difficult to maintain...

"Organizations typically follow a layered approach to implementing a cloud. The proper layering is important not only from an architecture perspective, but also from an organizational perspective. As Dave mentioned, he has specialized storage administrators for managing storage; sysadmins for managing servers and the operating system infrastructure; and database, middleware, and application administrators for higher layers of the stack. "The cloud is like an orchestra," he said; all these performers play in unison, while being still accountable for their respective components...

"Dave also pointed out that to make his new private cloud fully operational, he needed self-service, elasticity, and chargeback capabilities, and the ability to integrate with third-party components, such as a help desk implementation. Moreover, to offer platform as a service (PaaS) capabilities, the infrastructure management has to be done within the context of platform components, such as the database and middleware. This is where Oracle Enterprise Manager fits in. It can work seamlessly with Oracle VM Manager to provide a fully automated, self-service, capacity-on-demand environment."

Don't do it wrong. Read Richard's article.

- Rick

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Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

Performance Tuning an Exalogic System

source

I tend to get annoyed at my engineering pals for designing performance into automobiles such as the Chevy Corvette, instead of letting the driver feel the satisfaction of increasing performance by improving his or her technique. Many sysadmins feel the same about their craft. But as the story of Paul Bunyan demonstrates, we must adapt or die.

In a previous post I discussed how Exalogic changes the way you handle provisioning. In this post, I'll focus on the way Exalogic changes the way you handle performance tuning. First, the optimizations that are already done for you, then the optimizations you can still perform yourself.

Performance Optimizations Designed Into Exalogic

Because Oracle engineering knows the exact details of the environment in which each component is operating, Oracle has configured Exalogic components to use the internal network, memory, and storage for optimum performance, availability and security. It employs two types of optimizations:

Generic Optimizations (Exabus)

These optimizations will benefit any software running on the Exalogic machine, whether Oracle or 3rd party, in physical or virtual environments. The collection of Exalogic–specific optimizations are referred to as Exabus. The purpose of Exabus is primarily to integrate Infiniband networking seamlessly into all the hardware, software, and firmware distributed throughout the system. Examples include:

  • Changes to the firmware and drivers in the network switches that increase performance by skipping protocol stack conversions
  • Use of Exalogic solid state disk caching to increase the speed and capacity of local (shared) data read and write operations, such as JMS queues and run time metadata.
  • Built in high availability at network and storage levels
  • Native Infiniband integration with any other engineered systems, such as additional Exalogic machines, ZFS storage appliances, or Exadata Database machines.
  • The ability to define Infiniband partitions, which ensure application isolation and security.

Optimizations to Run-Time Components

Oracle has engineered optimizations for Exalogic directly into Oracle WebLogic Server (WLS), Coherence, and Tuxedo. They benefit any application running on those software components, but they can only be activated on the Exalogic platform. They address performance limitations that only become apparent when the software is running on Exalogic's high-density computing nodes and very fast Infiniband switches. Examples include:

  • WebLogic Server session replication uses the SDP layer of IB networking to maximize performance of large scale data operations. This avoids some of the typical TCP/IP network processing overhead.
  • Cluster communication has been redesigned in Coherence to further minimize network latency when processing data sets across caches. Its elastic data feature increases performance by minimizing network and memory use in both RAM and garbage collection processing.
  • Tuxedo has been similarly enhanced to make increasing use of SDP and RDMA protocols in order to optimize the performance of inter–process communications within and between compute nodes.

Tuning You Can Perform on Exalogic

Benchmarks and other tests show that applications that run well on Oracle middleware will run better on Exalogic. The degree to which they run better will be affected by how well optimised they are to take advantage of the Exalogic system, as well how well the Exalogic components are set up to balance resources.

However, if your workloads or configurations change, you may need to tune your Exalogic. Here are some general notes, extracted from the Exalogic: Administration Tasks and Tools white paper.

Tuning the Middleware

At the middleware and application level most of the standard options and techniques are available to you. WebLogic Server, JRockit, Coherence and iAS, etc. operate as they do on traditional platforms.

As for the rest of the Exalogic platform, Oracle's recommendation is: leave it alone.

Tuning The Platform

Exalogic manages itself, so you don't need adjust it unless you are sure that something needs changing. This is a major change in approach, since you are used to spending considerable time tweaking your systems to accommodate the needs of different groups. Knowing exactly when and how much (or how little) to tune an Exalogic system is a big topic, but here are some general guidelines.

  • Because Exalogic has such a high density of compute resources across such a fast network, small configuration changes can have a large impact.
  • Try out your changes in a test environment, first. Make sure its resources, configurations, and workload match those of your production system as closely as possible. Oracle Application Replay is a good tool for assessing the impact of configuration and infrastructure changes on the performance of your applications. Give it a try.
  • Focus on reducing response times for users and applications. If response time is not a problem, you probably don't have an issue to resolve, regardless of internal alerts and indicators you may be noticing.
  • Capture the right performance baselines ahead of time so you can compare the results of your tuning to them.

Tuning the Infrastructure

Storage, Infiniband, and OS are set up during initial configuration, so further tuning is not usually needed. If you need to review the kernel settings, network bonding, and MTU values, or perhaps the NFS settings, use Enterprise Manager. Finding the optimum changes tends to be an iterative process that varies with application workload.

Tuning the Middleware Runtime Environment

Ensure that Exalogic optimizations for WLS Suite are switched on (see MOS note 1373571.1), since they affect replication channels, packet sizes, and the use of the SDP protocol in the Infiniband networks.

Oracle Traffic Director is currently a unique feature of Exalogic, so is not available on other platforms. You can alter traffic routing rules for each application at any time. As workloads change and grow this is likely to be a key tuning task.

Tuning the Applications

At present you can tune business applications just as you would on traditional platforms. One possible side effect of running your business applications on Exalogic is that its enhanced performance may unmask poorly tuned applications or poorly written customizations.

For More Information

For more information, read the Exalogic: Administration Tasks and Tools white paper.

- Rick

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Friday Feb 22, 2013

How to Configure the Linux Kernel's Out of Memory Killer

source

Operating systems sometimes behave like airlines. Since the airlines know that a certain percentage of the passengers won't show up for their flight, they overbook the flights. As anyone who has been to an airport in the last 10 years knows, they usually get it wrong and have to bribe some of us to get on the next flight. If the next flight is the next morning, we get to stay in a nice hotel and have a great meal, courtesy of the airline.

That's going to be my lodging strategy if I'm ever homeless.

Linux kernel does something similar. It allocates memory to its processes ahead of time. Since it knows that most of the processes won't use all the memory allocated to them, it over-commits. In other words, it allocates a sum total of memory that is more than it actually has. Once in a while too many processes claim the memory that the kernel promised them at the same time. When that happens, the Linux kernel resorts to an option that the airlines wish they had: it kills off processes one at a time. In fact, it actually has a name for this function: the out-of-memory killer.

Robert Chase explains.

How to Configure the Out of Memory Killer

Robert Chase describes how to examine your syslog and how to use the vmstat command for clues about which processes were killed, and why. He then shows you how to configure the OOM killer to behave the way you prefer. For instance, you can make certain processes less likely to be killed than others. Or more. Or you can instruct the kernel to reboot instead of killing processes.

More Oracle Linux Resources

- Rick

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Thursday Feb 21, 2013

Can You Figure Out Which Teenager Took the Cash?

source

Dads like me are familiar with a phenomenon known as Silent Dollar Disappearance. This tends to occur when there is a confluence of money in your wallet and teenage children in your home. You never actually see it happen, but if you are paying attention, you might detect that it has happened. As when, for instance, you try to pay for beer and brats at the grocer. It becomes difficult to know for sure whether it was the teenagers. What if you already spent the money on something else? That's what my teenage daughters always said. Or perhaps you had a wallet malfunction, and it flew out. So difficult to pin-point the actual cause.

Linux, like any OS, is vulnerable to a similar phenomenon. It's called silent data corruption. It can be caused by faulty components, such as memory modules or storage systems. It can also be caused by -God forbid- administrative error. As with Silent Dollar Disappearance, it's difficult to detect when data corruption is actually happening. Or what the exact cause was. But, as with Dads and teenagers, you eventually figure out that it has happened.

It may be impossible to identify the culprit after the data has been corrupted, but it's not impossible to stop the culprit ahead of time. Oracle partnered with EMC and Emulex to do just that. And they were kind enough to explain how the did it and how you can benefit. In this article:

Preventing Silent Data Corruption in Oracle Linux

An excerpt ...

"Data integrity protection is not new. ECC and CRC are available on most, if not all, servers, storage arrays, and Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs). But these checks protect the data only temporarily within a single component. They do not ensure that the data you intended to write does not become corrupt as it travels down the data path from the application running in the server to the HBA, the switch, the storage array, and then the physical disk drive. When data corruption occurs, most applications are unaware that the data that was stored on the disk is not the data that was intended to be stored.

"Over the last several years, EMC, Emulex, and Oracle have worked together to drive and implement the Protection Information additions to the T10 SBC standard, which enables the validation of data as it moves through the data path to ensure that silent data corruption does not occur."

Interesting stuff. Give it a read.

- Rick

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Tuesday Feb 19, 2013

Provisioning Oracle Exalogic: What's Involved

source

In this interview from 2012, Marshall Choy explains to dear old Justin how Oracle's engineered systems and optimized solutions will impact the job of a sysadmin.

I was just reading a recently published Oracle White Paper that goes into a little more detail...

"While the core middleware or applications administration role is largely the same as for non-Exalogic environments, significantly less work is required to manage storage, OS, and networks. In addition, some administration tasks are simplified."

That sounded interesting, so I kept reading. Here is an excerpt of what it says about provisioning.

Provisioning New Environments

Provisioning is done so frequently in some organizations that it's almost a continuous effort. Exalogic was designed as a multi-tenant environment in which many applications and user communities can operate in secure isolation, but all running on a shared compute infrastructure. As a result, provisioning environments for development, testing or other projects is simply a case of re-configuring these existing shared resources. And it takes hours rather than weeks.

The typical steps involved are:

  1. Storage – using the ZFS BUI
    1. Create NFS v4 shares
    2. Define Access Control List
  2. Compute nodes – via standard OS commands
    1. Decide which nodes are to be used for this project. In the current Exalogic X3-2 machines each node has 16 processing cores and 256 GB RAM. For each node:
      1. Create the root OS user, if it does not already exist.
      2. Add a mount point entry for the shared storage to the /etc/fstab file and issue the mount command to enable access to it from the compute node.
  3. Network – using the Exalogic IB subnet manager
    1. Identify IP addresses for the compute nodes to be used. Add any new virtual IP addresses to be used to ensure middleware high availability.
    2. Define new virtual network interfaces (VNICs) to enable connections to Exalogic from the rest of the data Center.
    3. Associate the pre-set external facing IP addresses to the VNICs.
    4. Define Exalogic Infiniband partitions to create secure groups of compute nodes / processors.

No physical cabling is required as network configuration is defined at the software level. In the event of a major failure, however, you may need to re-image the OS on some or even all compute nodes as a faster alternative to restoring from backup.

This whole process should take no more than an hour, after which a new, fully functioning compute platform is available for the project. It does not require any other data Center resources.

Further details are available in the Exalogic Enterprise Deployment Guide

I'll keep reading it and sharing some nuggets here. See the entire paper.

- Rick

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Monday Feb 18, 2013

Three Oracle VM Hands-On Labs On OTN

source

We put the hands-on labs from the virtualization track of the OTN Virtual Sysadmin Days on OTN.

Lab 1 - Deploying an IaaS Environment with Oracle VM

Planning and deployment of an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) environment with Oracle VM as the foundation. Storage capacity planning, LUN creation, network bandwidth planning, and best practices for designing and streamlining the environment so that it's easy to manage.

Lab 2 - How to Virtualize and Deploy Oracle Applications in Minutes with Oracle VM

How to deploy Oracle applications in minutes with Oracle VM Templates. Find out what Oracle VM Templates are and how they work. Deploy an actual Oracle VM Template for an Oracle application. Plan your deployment to streamline ongoing updates and upgrades.

Lab 3 - Deploying a Cloud Infrastructure with Oracle VM 3.x and the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance

This hands-on lab will demonstrate what Oracle’s enterprise cloud infrastructure for x86 can do, and how it works with Oracle VM 3.x. How to create VMs. How to migrate VMs. How to deploy Oracle applications quickly and easily with Oracle VM Templates. How to use the Storage Connect plug-in for the Sun ZFS Storage Appliance.

By the way, the picture of that ranch in Colorado was taken by my good friend
Mike Schmitz. See more of his photography here. Follow it on Facebook here.

- Rick

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

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