Monday Mar 24, 2014

Four High Performance Configurations for SuperCluster and SPARC Servers

When a surfing buddy of mine asked me to look at a banking application that runs on Solaris, I thought he'd been hit on the head by his board one too many times. Solaris is cool. Banking is not. But I looked into it, anyway, and to my surprise, I found the banking app had a certain amount of geek appeal.

If geek appeal is not enough to hold your interest, Mister Hair-on-Fire, the other reason for talking about this banking application is that it helped identify four high performance configurations for Oracle's SuperCluster and SPARC servers that might be useful for other types of applications. So keep reading. Or ...

Go directly to white paper (pdf) that describes the configurations.

What first caught my interest was the idea of a bank operating system. A traditional computer OS manages hardware devices and provides services for application software. A bank headquarters does something very similar. It manages the branches (hardware) and provides services for its operations (applications). Turns out, that's the idea behind Finacle's Core Banking Solution.

Core banking sounds dull as hell, but it's a big deal for banks. It replaces cumbersome end-of-day consolidation between branch banks and HQ. (I almost feel asleep just writing that.) In fact, centralized banks worldwide now mandate the implementation of core banking technology to prevent fraud and meet regulatory requirements.

As a result, Finacle's Core Banking Solution is designed as configurable modules with layered Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), straight-through processing (STP) capabilities, web-enabled technology, and support for 24 x 7 operations.

But no matter how sophisticated the application, the underlying architecture can limit its performance. Not a problem! Since Finacle 10 is now available on Oracle Solaris, it can be run on the screaming fast Oracle SuperCluster or Oracle’s SPARC T-Series servers. As you might expect, Finacle tested this combination for both batch and OLTP processing and found:

  • Batch results that processed 15% more accounts and 3.2 to 3.7 times the required minimum records per second, all achieved within one third of the specified time, with plenty of CPU resources available to handle further load.
  • OLTP results that exceeded Finacle acceptance criteria with more users and more transactions per second, all with sub-second response times and with considerable CPU resources remaining available.

White Paper: Infosys Finacle Core Banking Solution on Oracle SuperCluster and Oracle’s SPARC T-Series Servers

Roger Bitar provides technical details about the software and hardware layers in this solution, and describes the configurations that obtained the best performance:

  • Configuration for Fastest OLTP Processing on SuperCluster T4-4
  • Configuration for Fastest Batch Processing on SuperCluster T4-4
  • Configuration for Fastest OLTP Processing on SPARC T4-4 Server
  • Configuration for Fastest Batch Processing on SPARC T4-4 Server

About the Photograph

I took this picture of bike race taken in Durango, Colorado, in the Fall of 2012.

- Rick

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Tuesday Mar 18, 2014

Configuring COMSTAR to Provide Local iSCSI Storage

Oracle Solaris 11 introduced two storage capabilities that I wasn't aware of until Oracle ACE Alexandre Borges brought them to my attention.

A Solaris 11 system can serve as an iSCSI target that offers storage to other machines, or as an iSCSI initiator to access the storage offered by another iSCSI target. This capability is a real advantage, because any storage offered through the iSCSI protocol is available to an iSCSI initiator as local storage, without the need to use expensive technologies such as Fibre Channel (FC).

Solaris provides this service through a framework named Common Multiprotocol SCSI TARget (COMSTAR). Alexandre Borges shows you how to use it:

Tech Article: Using COMSTAR and ZFS to Configure a Virtualized Storage Environment

How to use COMSTAR to provide local iSCSI storage for any service that runs in Windows, Linux, or Mac OS. It also shows you how to configure authentication using the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) to secure the iSCSI storage against forbidden access. Part 1 of a series about ZFS.

About Alexandre Borges

Alexandre Borges is an Oracle ACE who worked as an employee and contracted instructor at Sun Microsystems from 2001 to 2010 teaching Oracle Solaris, Oracle Solaris Cluster, Oracle Solaris security, Java EE, Sun hardware, and MySQL courses. Nowadays, he teaches classes for Symantec, Oracle partners, and EC-Council, and he teaches several very specialized classes about information security. In addition, he is a regular writer and columnist at Linux Magazine Brazil.

More content from Alexandre:

Exploring Installation Options and User Roles in Oracle Solaris 11

Part 1 of a two-part series that describes how Alexandre installed Oracle Solaris 11 and explored its new packaging system and the way it handles roles, networking, and services. This article focuses first on exploring Oracle Solaris 11 without the need to install it, and then actually installing it on your system.

Exploring Networking, Services, and the New Image Packaging System in Oracle Solaris 11

Alexandre walks you through the new way Oracle Solaris 11 manages networking, services, and packages, compared to the way it managed them in Solaris 10.

Articles in Linux Brazil Magazine (Portuguese)

Columns in Linux Brazil Magazine (Portuguese)

More About ZFS and COMSTAR

About the Photograph

Photograph of San Rafael Swell taken in Utah by Rick Ramsey on the way to Java One.

- Rick

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Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

Understanding The New Economics of Server Performance

See below for image license.

Garage nuts like me always enjoy a truce in the perennial Class War because it lets us enjoy the impressive automobiles the super rich get to drive. Or perhaps their chauffeurs get to drive. When the original Bugatti Veyron was launched in 2006, it had 1001 horses. The base model of the 2006 Honda Accord had 166 horses and cost around $20,000. If the cost of increasing horsepower were linear, going from 166 horses to 1001 horses would only increase the price by a multiple of 6. So, looking only at power, the Bugatti Veyron would cost only cost $120,000.

According to the Jalopnki blog, it costs $1.7 million dollars. Some of that is due to its luxury appointments, but most of it is due to the non-linear increase in cost that invariably accompanies a linear increase in power.

Lucky for us geeks, that's not true of hardware. Well, it was for a while, but that's changed. As these three video interviews explain.

Revolutionizing Server Economics

Interview with Renato Ribeiro

Deploying clusters of small systems used to be the most economical way to get compute power because you had to pay a premium to get all that power on a single system. That's no longer true. Renato explains why that's no longer true. And he has charts.

Horizontal vs Vertical Scalability

Video Smackdown: Michael Palmeter v Renato Ribeiro

Is Oracle's approach to large vertically scaled servers at odds with today's trend of combining lots and lots of small, low-cost servers systems with networking to build a cloud, or is it a better approach? Michael Palmeter, Director of Solaris Product Management, and Renato Ribeiro, Director Product Management for SPARC Servers, discuss.

Like Getting a Ferrari for the Price of a Toyota

Interview with David Lawler

Is buying hardware today like getting a Ferrari for the price of a Toyota? Yes, says Senior Vice President David Lawler, because Oracle has re-engineered the way we develop systems from the hardware side and the software side. You get tremendous performance AND low cost. David, who knows his numbers, explains how Oracle does it, and why our competitors aren't doing the same thing. Sound quality is poor, but content is worth it.

The image used in this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: M 93

- Rick

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Wednesday Jan 29, 2014

Man Vs. Machine

Man vs machine. Command Line vs GUI. It's not a new debate. In fact, when I was a little boy I watched this Paul Bunyan cartoon with the dismay of a sysadmin watching the increasing popularity of GUIs:

Cartoon: Paul Bunyan's Ax vs The Chain Saw

What Skills Do Sysadmins Need to Manage a Modern Data Center?

Video Interview with Brian Bream

When I wrote technical manuals for Oracle Solaris back in the day, I had the luxury of my very own lab. For instance, while writing the NIS+ books, I was able to discover my own procedures on a small network and, when I needed something larger, I could ask the sysadmins in Sun's bigger labs to try some experiments for me. Little did I know those were the Golden Years of technical writing.

They were also the Command Line Years. We used the command line for everything, including email, product testing and, of course, managing Solaris. The command line put the operator in control. You had a mental map of what you were doing, you were completely engaged, and if something became repetitive, you could always write a script for it. The shell was the interface, and emacs was the only tool you needed.

When GUI's first came out, we hated them on principle. They were slower than the command line, and they didn't really add any value. Plus, they weakened your skills.

Since then it's been a tossup. GUI's have gotten steadily better, but they didn't add enough value to overcome our attachment to the command line. In fact, we kinda resented them because they were used as a pretext to hire less experienced and cheaper sysadmins.

However, with the advent of vertically-integrated systems such as Oracle's Exadata and SuperCluster, the GUI may have finally come into its own. Listen to Brian Bream explain why.

Watch video interview here

Photograph of bicycle in Durango taken by Rick Ramsey in Oct 2012

- Rick

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Monday Jan 13, 2014

Lab - How to Deploy Oracle Software in Minutes Using Oracle VM Templates

In my first 12 years of school I had a natural ability in Math and Science, but had to work hard at English and History.

When I went to college, I didn't do well in Math and Science, so I transferred into Liberal Arts, where strangely enough, I did well. After all these years I just realized why. I never had to study for Math and Science. I just understood the material. If I did any homework, I did it during class. Which means I never listened to lectures. As a result, I never learned how to learn what I didn't know. So, when college presented me with more advanced topics that I couldn't just grok, I didn't know what to do. I fell behind. I assumed I wasn't any good. The opposite was true with Liberal Arts. Literature, History, Economics, it all confused me. So I listened in class. And I studied after class. SoI did well.

And that's why I'm not an engineer.

If you're a hands-on learner like me and Joel Schallhorn, the guy doing bicycle tricks in the picture, you'll appreciate our latest hands-on lab.

Lab: How to Deploy a Four-Node Oracle RAC 12c Cluster in Minutes, Using Oracle VM Templates

Hands-On Lab by Olivier Canonge with contributions from Christophe Pauliat, Simon Coter, Saar Maoz, Doan Nguyen, Ludovic Sorriaux, Cecile Naud, and Robbie De Meyer

This lab demonstrates how easy it is to deploy software environments with Oracle VM Templates. It uses a single-instance, Oracle Restart (Single-Instance High Availability [SIHA]), and Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) for Oracle Database as an example. During this lab, you are going to deploy a four-node Flex Cluster (three hubs and one leaf) with a dedicated network for Oracle Flex ASM traffic.

See more of Joel Schallhorn on Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

- Rick

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Friday Jan 10, 2014

It's Friday, Ask Your Boss to Dance

Happy Friday, OTN Garage!

- Rick

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Thursday Jan 09, 2014

Why Are So Many People Smarter Than Me?

When Tim said "Heisenbug," I pictured a large dirigible exploding and heard a radio reporter cry, "Oh the Humanity!"

As Tim started talking, I realized he'd said "Heisenbug," not Hindenbug. So I pictured my favorite chemistry teacher. Here is a link to his likeness:

Picture of Heisenberg

It was only when I heard my deceased physicist father-in-law's voice growling his favorite endearment "Rick, you dumbass," that I finally realized Tim was talking about Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Although I wasn't completely sure.

Video Interview: How Ksplice Crushes the Heisenbug

As it turns out, Tim was talking about that phenomenon that happens to all of us when we call in a sysadmin to fix a problem with our system. When the sysadmin shows up, the problem disappears. I know you guys write scripts to make that happen on purpose, but Tim doesn't. And neither does the Ksplice team. So they developed some very cool technology to diagnose these heisenbugs and get our systems running properly again. Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. And everyone who reads this blog.

In any case, you can find out how Ksplice crushes the Heisenbug in this short video:

Video Interview: How Ksplice Crushes the Heisenbug

Here's a video of the Hinderburg crash

- Rick

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Tuesday Dec 31, 2013

Is it Over, Already?

That was a helluva year. Here's hoping 2014 is just as wild and crazy.

You can find the articles we posted during 2013 here:

Thursday Nov 21, 2013

How to Limit Upgrades Beyond a Prescribed Version of Oracle Solaris

by Bart Smaalders and Alta Elstad

The Oracle Solaris 11 Image Packaging System (IPS) provides various methods to control the operating system version to which a server can be upgraded. One method is to provide a custom incorporation package.

An incorporation package specifies the versions of other packages that can be installed. An incorporation package ensures that if you install an incorporate dependency package of that incorporation package, only the prescribed version of the dependent package can be installed. You can create your own custom incorporation package to specify the constraints you want. Using a custom incorporation to control the version of software that can be installed enables you to easily maintain different versions of Oracle Solaris on different machines without maintaining multiple package repositories. Each image can install a different version of the custom upgrade control incorporation package. All systems share the same package repository that contains all versions of software needed by any of the systems.

In the example in this article, a system has been newly installed with Oracle Solaris 11.1. The solaris publisher origin is the Oracle Solaris support repository, which includes many updates since Oracle Solaris 11.1 was released. The IT department in the example company has not yet qualified the most current support updates, and they want to limit administrators to upgrading to only the latest update that is qualified for their environments, not the latest update that is available from the package repository.

Create a Custom Incorporation Package

The versions of core operating system packages that can be installed in an image are controlled by the pkg:/entire incorporation package. To control system upgrades, create a package that specifies a particular version of the pkg:/entire package as an incorporate dependency.

The following example shows a manifest named upgradectrl.p5m for a custom incorporation package that controls the version of the pkg:/entire package that can be installed. Some of the settings in this manifest are described below.

set name=pkg.fmri value=upgradectrl@1.0
set name=pkg.summary value="Incorporation to constrain the version of the OS"
set name=pkg.description value="This package controls the version of \
pkg://solaris/entire that can be installed."
set name=info.classification value="org.opensolaris.category.2008:Meta Packages/Incorporations"
set name=pkg.depend.install-hold value=core-os
set value=global value=nonglobal
set name=variant.arch value=sparc value=i386
depend fmri=feature/package/dependency/self type=parent
depend fmri=pkg://solaris/entire type=require
depend fmri=pkg://solaris/entire@0.5.11,5.11- type=incorporate
  • pkg.depend.install-hold This setting ensures that if a user updates the upgradectrl package, the pkg:/entire package is automatically updated as well.

  • This setting enables this package to be installed in both global and non-global zones. See also the description of the parent dependency.

  • variant.arch This setting enables this package to be installed on both SPARC and x86 systems.

  • parent dependency This package can be installed in a non-global zone only if it is already installed in the global zone.

  • require dependency The upgradectrl package can be installed only if the pkg://solaris/entire package is already installed or can be installed in this same operation.

  • incorporate dependency The pkg://solaris/entire package must be installed at the specified version. More than one version can satisfy an incorporate dependency, depending on how many places of accuracy are specified. In this example, specifies Oracle Solaris 11.1 SRU 0. This upgrade control package will keep systems at the newly installed Oracle Solaris 11.1 version, no support updates. This upgrade control package will, however, allow packages that are not contrained by the pkg:/entire incorporation to be updated.

Publish the upgradectrl package to a local file-based repository. This repository is for developing and testing this new package. If you create a repository for general use, you should include additional steps such as creating a separate file system for the repository. For information about creating package repositories for general use, see Copying and Creating Package Repositories in Oracle Solaris 11.2.

Create a package development repository on your system. See the pkgrepo(1) man page for more information about the pkgrepo command.

$ pkgrepo create myrepo

Set the default publisher for this repository. The default publisher is the value of the publisher/prefix property of the repository.

$ pkgrepo -s myrepo set publisher/prefix=site

Publish the upgradectrl package to the development repository.

$ pkgsend -s myrepo publish upgradectrl.p5m

Notice that the repository default publisher has been applied to the package FMRI.

Examine the repository to confirm that the package was published.

$ pkgrepo -s myrepo list
PUBLISHER NAME                                       O VERSION
site      upgradectrl                                  1.0,5.11:20131120T010105Z
$ pkg list -vg myrepo
FMRI                                                                         IFO
pkg://site/upgradectrl@1.0,5.11:20131120T010105Z                             ---

Deliver the package to a local repository in a separate ZFS file system in a shared location.

$ pkgrecv -s myrepo -d /export/IPSpkgrepos/Solaris upgradectrl
Processing packages for publisher site ...
Retrieving and evaluating 1 package(s)...
PROCESS                                         ITEMS    GET (MB)   SEND (MB)
Completed                                         1/1     0.0/0.0     0.0/0.0

Verify the package in the repository and the version of pkg:/entire that it incorporates.

$ pkg info -g /export/IPSpkgrepos/Solaris upgradectrl
          Name: upgradectrl
       Summary: Incorporation to constrain the version of the OS
   Description: This package controls the version of pkg://solaris/entire that
                can be installed.
      Category: Meta Packages/Incorporations
         State: Not installed
     Publisher: site
       Version: 1.0
 Build Release: 5.11
        Branch: None
Packaging Date: November 20, 2013 01:01:05 AM 
          Size: 0.00 B
          FMRI: pkg://site/upgradectrl@1.0,5.11:20131120T010105Z
$ pkg contents -Hro fmri -t depend -a type=incorporate upgradectrl

See “Creating and Publishing a Package” in Packaging and Delivering Software With the Image Packaging System in Oracle Solaris 11.2 for more detailed information about creating and delivering IPS packages.

Set the origin for the site publisher.

$ pkg set-publisher -g /export/IPSpkgrepos/Solaris site
$ pkg publisher
solaris                origin   online F
site                   origin   online F file:///export/IPSpkgrepos/Solaris/

Install the Upgrade Control Package

Install the upgrade control package. In this case, few changes should be made because the installed version of pkg:/entire is the same as the version incorporated by the upgrade control package.

$ pkg list -v entire
FMRI                                                                         IFO
pkg://solaris/entire@0.5.11,5.11-           i--
$ zoneadm list
$ pkg install upgradectrl
           Packages to install:  1
       Create boot environment: No
Create backup boot environment: No

Planning linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Planning linked: 1/1 done
Downloading linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Downloading linked: 1/1 done
PHASE                                          ITEMS
Installing new actions                           9/9
Updating package state database                 Done 
Updating image state                            Done 
Creating fast lookup database                   Done 
Reading search index                            Done 
Updating search index                            1/1 
Executing linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Executing linked: 1/1 done

The following commands show that versions of pkg:/entire that are newer than the installed version are available from the configured solaris publisher, but an attempt to upgrade is controlled by the newly-installed upgrade control package.

$ pkg list -af entire
NAME (PUBLISHER)                                  VERSION                    IFO
entire                                            0.5.11-    ---
entire                                            0.5.11-    ---
entire                                            0.5.11-    ---
entire                                            0.5.11-    ---
entire                                            0.5.11-    ---
$ pkg update
pkg update: No solution was found to satisfy constraints
Plan Creation: Package solver has not found a solution to update to latest available versions.
This may indicate an overly constrained set of packages are installed.
latest incorporations:
Try specifying expected results to obtain more detailed error messages.
$ pkg update -nv entire@0.5.11-
pkg update: No matching version of entire can be installed:
  Reject:  pkg://solaris/entire@0.5.11,5.11-
  Reason:  This version is excluded by installed incorporation pkg://site/upgradectrl@1.0,5.11:20131120T010105Z

Update the Upgrade Control Package

When you are ready to allow users to upgrade their systems to a new version, update the upgradectrl.p5m manifest, and republish and redeliver the new upgrade control package. In the following manifest, the version of the upgrade control package and the version of the pkg:/entire incorporation are updated. As an aid for users, the version of the upgrade control package matches the updated version of the pkg:/entire package.

set name=pkg.fmri value=upgradectrl@1.10
set name=pkg.summary value="Incorporation to constrain the version of the OS"
set name=pkg.description value="This package controls the version of \
pkg://solaris/entire that can be installed."
set name=info.classification value="org.opensolaris.category.2008:Meta Packages/Incorporations"
set name=pkg.depend.install-hold value=core-os
set value=global value=nonglobal
set name=variant.arch value=sparc value=i386
depend fmri=feature/package/dependency/self type=parent
depend fmri=pkg://solaris/entire type=require
depend fmri=pkg://solaris/entire@0.5.11,5.11- type=incorporate

The following commands republish and redeliver the upgrade control package:

$ pkgsend -s myrepo publish upgradectrl.p5m
$ pkgrepo -s myrepo list
PUBLISHER NAME                                      O VERSION
site      upgradectrl                                 1.10,5.11:20131120T021902Z
site      upgradectrl                                 1.0,5.11:20131120T010105Z
$ pkgrecv -s myrepo -d /export/IPSpkgrepos/Solaris upgradectrl
Processing packages for publisher site ...
Retrieving and evaluating 1 package(s)...
PROCESS                                         ITEMS    GET (MB)   SEND (MB)
Completed                                         1/1     0.0/0.0     0.0/0.0
$ pkg refresh site
$ pkg list -af pkg://site/upgradectrl
NAME (PUBLISHER)                                  VERSION                    IFO
upgradectrl (site)                                1.10                       ---
upgradectrl (site)                                1.0                        i--

Upgrade the Image

The following pkg update command updates all packages to the newest available versions allowed because no packages are specified. The command updates to the newest available version of the upgrade control package, which upgrades the image because the pkg.depend.install-hold setting in the upgradectrl package causes the pkg:/entire package to be updated when the upgradectrl package is updated. The image is upgraded to the version of the pkg:/entire incorporation that is specified in the new upgradectrl incorporation.

$ pkg update --be-name s11u1_10
            Packages to remove:   1
            Packages to update: 186
           Mediators to change:   1
       Create boot environment: Yes
Create backup boot environment:  No

Planning linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Linked image 'zone:z1' output:
|  Packages to remove:  1
| Packages to install:  3
|  Packages to update: 73
| Mediators to change:  1
|  Services to change:  3
Planning linked: 1/1 done
DOWNLOAD                                PKGS         FILES    XFER (MB)   SPEED
Completed                            187/187   16139/16139  507.9/507.9  562k/s

Downloading linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Downloading linked: 1/1 done
PHASE                                          ITEMS
Removing old actions                       1473/1473
Installing new actions                     3451/3451
Updating modified actions                16378/16378
Updating package state database                 Done 
Updating package cache                       187/187 
Updating image state                            Done 
Creating fast lookup database                   Done 
Reading search index                            Done 
Building new search index                    851/851 
Executing linked: 0/1 done; 1 working: zone:z1
Executing linked: 1/1 done

A clone of s11u1_0 exists and has been updated and activated.
On the next boot the Boot Environment s11u1_10 will be
mounted on '/'.  Reboot when ready to switch to this updated BE.
$ pkg list entire upgradectrl
NAME (PUBLISHER)                                  VERSION                    IFO
entire                                            0.5.11-    i--
upgradectrl (site)                                1.0                        i--
$ pkg -R /mnt list entire upgradectrl
NAME (PUBLISHER)                                  VERSION                    IFO
entire                                            0.5.11-    i--
upgradectrl (site)                                1.10                       i--
$ beadm unmount s11u1_10

See Also

Bart Smaalders’ blog

Packaging and Delivering Software With the Image Packaging System in Oracle Solaris 11.2

Copying and Creating Package Repositories in Oracle Solaris 11.2

About the Authors

Bart Smaalders is one of the senior engineers in the Oracle Solaris Core OS group, and led development of the IPS packaging system.

Alta Elstad is a technical writer supporting Oracle Solaris 11 packaging.

photograph of strange plants copyright Beth Ramsey

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Monday Sep 16, 2013

Cloud Building with Oracle Solaris 11

Three resources to help you build clouds with Oracle Solaris 11

Training Class - How to Build a Private Cloud with Oracle Solaris 11

by Oracle University

This training class combines multiple enterprise level technologies to demonstrate a full cloud infrastructure deployment using SPARC technology. Learn To:

  • Plan for and deploy a private Infrastructure as a Service cloud
  • Combine various Oracle technologies into a robust cloud infrastructure
  • Practice cloud component creation and configuration tasks by performing a series of guided hands-on labs
  • Perform the critical steps associated with the configuration of cloud and related facilities.

Tech Article - How to Build a Web-Based Storage Solution Using Oracle Solaris 11.1

by Suk Kim

Have you ever wanted to build a cloud just to see if you can? Turns out it's not that difficult. Install Oracle Solaris 11.1 on your laptop via VirtualBox, set up a little ZFS storage, a little access control, and configure AjaXplorer so you and your friends can manage your files. Don't neglect to drop phrases like "Download that from the cloud I just built" into casual conversation.

Tech Article - How to Put Oracle Solaris Zones on Shared Storage for Easy Cloning

We liked this blog so much when Jeff Victor first posted it, that we turned it into a bonafide OTN tech article. You might recognize it. It's about ZOSS: zones on shared storage. Why? When you configure a zone on shared storage, you can quickly clone it on any server that uses that storage. Jeff explains how.

Bonus! - Oracle VM Templates with Oracle Solaris 11

picture of cloud taken in Colorado, copyright Rick Ramsey

- Rick

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Friday Sep 13, 2013

About LTFS - Library Edition

Oracle just launched the T10000D tape drive with its incredible 8.5 TB of native capacity and LTFS-Library Edition (LTFS-LE), which expands the LTFS concept to an entire library. The Oracle T10000D has some neat features that I would like to address in the future, but today I’d like to talk about LTFS-LE since it really is a new concept.


LTFS is an open source specification for writing data to tape on single tape drives. It is supported by Oracle and other tape vendors. The version you can download from Oracle is called StorageTek LTFS, Open Edition (LTFS-OE).

When an LTFS-compatible T10000 or LTO tape is formatted for LTFS, it is split into two partitions. The first partition holds the metadata that tells the user which files are on the tape and where they are located. The second partition holds the files themselves.

Benefits of Using LTFS-LE

There are a few nice benefits for those who utilize LTFS. Most important is the peace of mind that you will always be able to recover your data regardless of your backup application or any other proprietary software because it’s based on an open source specification. It also improves the portability of tape because two parties don’t both need the same application to read a tape. In fact, LTFS has seen tremendous adoption in industries that require the ability to transport large amounts of data.

The limitation with the open source version of LTFS is that it’s limited to just a single drive. Users with even the smallest archives would like to have their entire environment to be LTFS-based. That’s the impetus for StorageTek LTFS, Library Edition (LTFS-LE), but it also serves as a backup application eliminator because of how it’s architected. With LTFS-OE, after you download the driver, a tape looks like a giant thumb drive. LTFS-LE makes the tape library look like a shared drive with each tape appearing as a sub-folder. It’s like having a bucket full of thumb drives that are all accessible simultaneously!

Just as before, you don’t need any additional applications to access files. And end users are almost completely abstracted from the nuances of managing tape. All they need is a Samba or CIFS connection and they have access to the tape library. LTFS-LE is agnostic to corporate security architectures so a system administrator could make some folders (tapes) available to some users while restricting others based on corporate security guidelines.

Security and Performance Considerations

However, security is arguably one of the more straightforward considerations when deciding how to integrate an LTFS-LE implementation into your environment. An additional consideration is to ensure that LTFS-LE can meet your performance expectations. Tape drives are remarkably faster than they are given credit for (the Oracle T10000D can write at 252 MB/sec.), but sometimes networks aren’t designed to handle that much traffic so performance requirements need to be considered accordingly. In addition, it may take some time before a read operation actually starts as the library needs time to mount a tape. As a result, system administrators need to be cognizant of how end user applications will accept response times from any tape storage-based solution.

A final performance consideration is to be aware of how many tape drives are in your library relative to how many users may be accessing files directly from tape. If you have a disproportionately large number of users you may want to consider a more traditional enterprise-level archiving solution such as StorageTek Archive Manager (SAM), which writes files based on the Tape Archive Record (TAR) open source standard.

Ultimately, LTFS-LE provides exciting new opportunities for system administrators looking to preserve files with a format that isn’t dependent on proprietary solutions. It also makes it easy for users who need access to large amounts of storage without a lot of management difficulties. Support for LTFS continues to grow. Oracle is actually one of the co-chairs of the SNIA committee that’s working towards standardizing LTFS. And this is just the start for LTFS-LE as well, as Oracle will continue expanding its capabilities in the near future.

picture of 2008 Harley Davidson FXSTC taken by Rick Ramsey
- Brian Zents

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Thursday Sep 12, 2013

Should You Consolidate Your Servers Onto Oracle SuperCluster?

"Are you planning to consolidate a server running a business-critical application that you want to update with future releases over upcoming years, or are you trying to get rid of an old server running a legacy application that will not be updated anymore?"

This is just one of the questions Thierry asks in his article, which is a great resource for sysadmins, systems architects, and IT managers who are trying to decide whether to consolidate individual servers onto an Oracle SuperCluster. Your answer will determine whether you should put your application in native or non-native Oracle Solaris zone.

Other questions Thierry and friends ask:

  • Is my server eligible for physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration?
  • Are you planning a long-term or short-term migration?
  • How critical are performance and manageability?

Once he has helped you determine your general direction, he discusses these architectural considerations:

  • SuperCluster domains
  • Network setup
  • VLAN setup
  • Licensing considerations

Finally, he provides a thorough step-by-step instructions for the migration itself, which consists of:

  • Performing a sanity check on the source server
  • Creating a FLAR image of the source system
  • Creating a ZFS pool for the zone
  • Creating and booting the zone
  • Performance tuning

And just in case you're still not sure how it's done, he concludes with an example that shows you how to consolidate an Oracle Solaris 8 Server Running Oracle Database 10g. It's all here, give it a good read:

Technical Article: If Virtualization Is Free, It Can't Be Good, Right?

Article by Thierry Manfé, with contributions from Orgad Kimchi, Maria Frendberg, and Mike Gerdts

Best practices and hands-on instructions for using Oracle Solaris Zones to consolidate existing physical servers and their applications onto Oracle SuperCluster using the P2V migration process, including a step-by-step example of how to consolidate an Oracle Solaris 8 server running Oracle Database 10g.

Video Interview: Design and Uses of the Oracle SuperCluster

Interview with Alan Packer

Allan Packer, Lead Engineer of the Oracle SuperCluster architecture team, as explains how the design of this engineered system supports consolidation, multi-tenancy, and other objectives popular with customers.

By the way, that's a picture of an 01 Ducati 748 that I took in the Fall of 2012.

- Rick

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Tuesday Jul 30, 2013

Hands-On Labs for Oracle VM

photo copyright 2013 by Rick Ramsey

Our last virtual sysadmin day was held on July 15. If you missed it, you can still watch the video recordings of the lab sessions on the OTN Garage (aka "Oracle BigAdmin") channel on YouTube.

For instance, these are the videos for the Oracle VM track.

Technology Overview

This session explores the Oracle VM architecture and key features, and introduces the 3 hands-on labs that will follow.

Video - Lab Prep - Downloading and Installing VirtualBox

How to download and install VirtualBox in preparation for the labs.

Video - Lab 1 - Deploying Infrastructure as a Service

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.

Video - Lab 2 - Deploying Applications Faster Using Templates

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 on going updates and upgrades.

Video - Lab 3 - Deploying an x86 Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure

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


You can see more unique cars from the Golden Age of American Automobile at the Gateway Automobile Museum.

- Rick

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Monday Jul 29, 2013

How to Bend Bare Metal to Your Will

photo copyright 2013 by Rick Ramsey

The fins on this 1957 DeSoto were shaped during a time when Americans weren't afraid of offending anyone with their opinions, right or wrong. We have, perhaps, grown a little more introspective, a little more considerate, but our cars have paid the price. They all look alike. Their edges have been worn away by focus groups. They have no personality. They cringe at the sight of their own shadows.

I weep for my adopted country.

Well, if you like classic American cars as much as I do, you may on occasion feel the need to bend bare metal to your will. Here's your chance.

Tech Article: How to Get Best Performance From the ZFS Storage Appliance

Disk storage. Clustering. CPU and L1/L2 caching size. Networking. And file systems. Just some of the components of Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance that you can shape for optimum performance. Anderson Souza shows you how. Go ahead. Give your appliance a pair of tail fins. (Link is in the title.)

You can see more unique cars from the Golden Age of American Automobile at the Gateway Automobile Museum. If you can't get to the border between Utah and Colorado to appreciate them in person, like I was fortunate enough to do, you can enjoy them through your browser at

- Rick

Follow me on:
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Logan Rosenstein
and members of the OTN community


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