Wednesday Apr 18, 2012

Easy Made Easier - X-Windows

    In previous posts in this series, I highlighted some tips for making deployment of an Oracle Database Appliance using the Appliance Manager Configurator even easier. In order to use the Appliance Manager Configurator, you have to have a windowing environment. If you are deploying your Oracle Database Appliance through the ILOM RKVM capability, or by directly connecting a monitor, keyboard and mouse, you use the "startx" command to start up a simple X-Windows session. You can also start a VNC Server, see end of this post for more detail, allowing you to connect to the Oracle Database Appliance public network for a remote GUI interface. The basic look and functionality of the windowing environment, regardless of which of the above ways you are connecting, is the same. This windowing environment does have some quirks that may cause frustration if you haven't used it before, so let me give you some tips.

    First off, keep in mind that in order to interact with a window, like typing commands, the window must have focus. For this window manager, that means the mouse cursor must be within the window. You will notice in the first screen shot that the test cursor highlight, the rectangular block at the command line in the terminal window, is white, because the mouse cursor, in this case an X, is at the edge of the screen shot, half off the screen, but clearly not in the terminal window.



    You can see in this screen shot that the text cursor highlight is now black, which means that this window has focus and when you type it will show up on that command line. The mouse cursor in this case is both a white arrow and a funny bracket, as seen in the middle of the terminal window. Since I am referring to the terminal window, you will see that by default, it is off the screen. Even moving the terminal window further up will not allow the full window to be visible. Kinda makes it tough to see everything going on, so it makes sense to re-size the window. This is another tricky bit, as shrinking the window involves some dexterous mouse handling. To re-size, move the mouse cursor into the right hand upper corner block, the one that looks like 3 nested blocks, and hold down the left mouse button. Let's move to the next screen shot to continue the re-sizing.



    Below you see that a grid shows up to help guide re-sizing, and in the upper left corner of the screen is a small window showing the size of the window being re-sized. Now, in order to shorten the window, make sure you move the mouse cursor up to the top edge of the window, as seen in this screen shot. From there, you can move the mouse cursor downward, with the terminal window re-sizing as you go. While resizing the terminal window may not be as important for running the oakcli command to start the Appliance Manager Configurator, I use this windowing environment for most of my command line work. Why? Because it buffers whatever scrolls off the screen, so I can go back and see what may whip by.



    In this case, I ran an ifconfig -a, and with all the ethernet ports and bonds set up, the result scrolls beyond the window limits. Here again, the standard functionality is implemented in a way less familiar to many folks used to current OSes like Solaris, Linux, Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. In order to scroll up and down through the text in the terminal window, put the mouse cursor in the left hand scroll bar, and then use the right and left mouse button to scroll up and down. No need to move the mouse cursor, or to try dragging the scroll bar. There are many times when I want some information that has scrolled off the screen, so being able to scroll back through it helps a lot.



    Now, let's say you want to have more than one terminal window open, so you can do something in one based on content in another, or while something else is running. That's were the menu comes in. Click the left mouse button while the mouse cursor is in the background, and you get the windowing menu. Not a lot of options, and mostly what you would expect, like window managament items (resize, iconize, kill, delete, etc). There is the Xterm item for opening another terminal window. And if remembering to make sure the mouse cursor is in the window you want to interact with before you start typing is driving you crazy, the Focus/Unfocus items allow you to lock/unlock focus to a particular window. Of course this might drive you crazy when you try to do something in another window and forget to unlock the focus. :-)



    It's been quite a number of years since I used this type windowing environment, so I had to clear a cobweb or two off of some far corners of my mind when I got some hands on time with the Oracle Database Appliance. If nothing else, this post will be something I can refer back to should my skills get rusty again.

    I mentioned starting a VNC Server on the ODA to make remote GUI access a little easier. It's pretty simple, and keep in mind that it needs to be done after any reboots. Use the following command :

# /usr/bin/vncserver :1

    This will start up a VNC session on display 1, which means that when you fire up your VNC client, make sure it points to port 5901 on the Oracle Database Appliance's public IP address.

    This has been the third post in my series 'Easy Made Easier', and I hope you have found the tips useful.

Friday Apr 06, 2012

Easy Made Easier - Networking

    In my last post, I highlighted the feature of the Appliance Manager Configurator to auto-fill some fields based on previous field values, including host names based on System Name and sequential IP addresses from the first IP address entered. This can make configuration a little faster and a little less subject to data entry errors, particularly if you are doing the configuration on the Oracle Database Appliance itself.

    The Oracle Database Appliance Appliance Manager Configurator is available for download here. But why would you download it, if it comes pre-installed on the Oracle Database Appliance? A common reason for customers interested in this new Engineered System is to get a good idea of how easy it is to configure. Beyond that, you can save the resulting configuration as a file, and use it on an Oracle Database Appliance. This allows you to verify the data entered in advance, and in the comfort of your office. In addition, the topic of this post is another strong reason to download and use the Appliance Manager Configurator prior to deploying your Oracle Database Appliance.

    The most common source of hiccups in deploying an Oracle Database Appliance, based on my experiences with a variety of customers, involves the network configuration. It is during Step 11, when network validation occurs, that these come to light, which is almost half way through the 24 total steps, and can be frustrating, whether it was a typo, DNS mis-configuration or IP address already in use. This is why I recommend as a best practice taking advantage of the Appliance Manager Configurator prior to deploying an Oracle Database Appliance.

    Why? Not only do you get the benefit of being able to double check your entries before you even start on the Oracle Database Appliance, you can also take advantage of the Network Validation step. This is the final step before you review all the data and can save it to a text file. It can be skipped, if you aren't ready or are not connected to the network that the Oracle Database Appliance will be on. My recommendation, though, is to run the Appliance Manager Configurator on your laptop, enter the data or re-load a previously saved file of the data, and then connect to the network that the Oracle Database Appliance will be on. Now run the Network Validation. It will check to make sure that the host names you entered are in DNS and do resolve to the IP addresses you specifiied. It will also ping the IP Addresses you specified, so that you can verify that no other machine is already using them (yes, that has happened at customer sites).

    After you have completed the validation, as seen in the screen shot below, you can review the results and move on to saving your settings to a file for use on your Oracle Database Appliance, or if there are errors, you can use the Back button to return to the appropriate screen and correct the data. Once you are satisfied with the Network Validation, just check the Skip/Ignore Network Validation checkbox at the top of the screen, then click Next. Is the Network Validation in the Appliance Manager Configurator required? No, but it can save you time later. I should also note that the Network Validation screen is not part of the Appliance Manager Configurator that currently ships on the Oracle Database Appliance, so this is the easiest way to verify your network configuration.




    I hope you are finding this series of posts useful. My next post will cover some aspects of the windowing environment that gets run by the 'startx' command on the Oracle Database Appliance, since this is needed to run the Appliance Manager Configurator via a direct connected monitor, keyboard and mouse, or via the ILOM. If it's been a while since you've used an OpenWindows environment, you'll want to check it out.

Wednesday Apr 04, 2012

Easy Made Easier

    How easy is it to deploy a 2 node, fully redundant Oracle RAC cluster? Not very. Unless you use an Oracle Database Appliance. The focus of this member of Oracle's Engineered Systems family is to simplify the configuration, management and maintenance throughout the life of the system, while offering pay-as-you-grow scaling. Getting a 2-node RAC cluster up and running in under 2 hours has been made possible by the Oracle Database Appliance. Don't take my word for it, just check out these blog posts from partners and end users.

The Oracle Database Appliance Experience - Zip Zoom Zoom
http://www.fuadarshad.com/2012/02/oracle-database-appliance-experience.html

Off-the-shelf Oracle database servers
http://normanweaver.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/off-the-shelf-oracle-database-servers/

Oracle Database Appliance – Deployment Steps
http://marcel.vandewaters.nl/oracle/database-appliance/oracle-database-appliance-deployment-steps

    See how easy it is to deploy an Oracle Database Appliance for high availability with RAC? Now for the meat of this post, which is the first in a series of posts describing tips for making the deployment of an ODA even easier. The key to the easy deployment of an Oracle Database Appliance is the Appliance Manager software, which does the actual software deployment and configuration, based on best practices. But in order for it to do that, it needs some basic information first, including system name, IP addresses, etc. That's where the Appliance Manager GUI comes in to play, taking a wizard approach to specifying the information needed.

    Using the Appliance Manager GUI is pretty straight forward, stepping through several screens of information to enter data in typical wizard style. Like most configuration tasks, it helps to gather the required information before hand. But before you rush out to a committee meeting on what to use for host names, and rely on whatever IP addresses might be hanging around, make sure you are familiar with some of the auto-fill defaults for the Appliance Manager. I'll step through the key screens below to highlight the results of the auto-fill capability of the Appliance Manager GUI.

    Depending on which of the 2 Configuration Types (Config Type screen) you choose, you will get a slightly different set of screens. The Typical configuration assumes certain default configuration choices and has the fewest screens, where as the Custom configuration gives you the most flexibility in what you configure from the start. In the examples below, I have used the Custom config type.

    One of the first items you are asked for is the System Name (System Info screen). This is used to identify the system, but also as the base for the default hostnames on following screens. In this screen shot, the System Name is "oda".



    When you get to the next screen (Generic Network screen), you enter your domain name, DNS IP address(es), and NTP IP address(es). Next up is the Public Network screen, seen below, where you will see the host name fields are automatically filled in with default host names based on the System Name, in this case "oda". The System Name is also the basis for default host names for the extra ethernet ports available for configuration as part of a Custom configuration, as seen in the 2nd screen shot below (Other Network). There is no requirement to use these host names, as you can easily edit any of the host names. This does make filling in the configuration details easier and less prone to "fat fingers" if you are OK with these host names. Here is a full list of the automatically filled in host names.
<systemname> <systemname>1 <systemname>2 <systemname>1-vip <systemname>2-vip <systemname>-scan <systemname>1-ilom <systemname>2-ilom <systemname>1-net1 <systemname>2-net1 <systemname>1-net2 <systemname>2-net2 <systemname>1-net3 <systemname>2-net3






    Another auto-fill feature of the Appliance Manager GUI follows a common practice of deploying IP Addresses for a RAC cluster in sequential order. In the screen shot below, I entered the first IP address (Node1-IP), then hit Tab to move to the next field. As a result, the next 5 IP address fields were automatically filled in with the next 5 IP addresses sequentially from the first one I entered. As with the host names, these are not required, and can be changed to whatever your IP address values are. One note of caution though, if the first IP Address field (Node1-IP) is filled out and you click in that field and back out, the following 5 IP addresses will be set to the sequential default. If you don't use the sequential IP addresses, pay attention to where you click that mouse. :-)




    In the screen shot below, by entering the netmask value in the Netmask field, in this case 255.255.255.0, the gateway value was auto-filled into the Gateway field, based on the IP addresses and netmask previously entered. As always, you can change this value.




    My last 2 screen shots illustrate that the same sequential IP address autofill and netmask to gateway autofill works when entering the IP configuration details for the Integrated Lights Out Manager (ILOM) for both nodes. The time these auto-fill capabilities save in entering data is nice, but from my perspective not as important as the opportunity to avoid data entry errors. In my next post in this series, I will touch on the benefit of using the network validation capability of the Appliance Manager GUI prior to deploying an Oracle Database Appliance.







Thursday Jul 07, 2011

Sun Ray coolness ala iPad

    I've been a fan of Oracle's Sun Ray technology since I first saw it as a Sun Labs project 14 years ago. I've blogged on it many times, and while I am not as directly involved in the sales process for Sun Ray and other desktop virtualization technologies, I still try to stay on top of what is going on. I also try to get some hands on time as well, but that's not as easy as it used to be.

    What makes me excited enough about Sun Ray technology to again take to my blog? My iPad 2. I got an iPad 2 a few weeks ago, and I'm still working on getting the most from it, beyond just being a bigger version of my iPhone 4, which has it's merits for my aging eyes. I really love the Smart Cover, and the size has made it even easier for me to do stuff that I used to prefer doing on my MacBook, but in a lighter and quicker to access form factor. I like my iPad a lot, but my iPhone is still my ultimate 'portable' computer.

    I've played with a couple apps for getting remote access to a desktop machine, for accessing my kid's PC at home and my PC at work. Heck, I even have it set up to remotely access my MacBook, when my MacBook is left running somewhere. But none of them are as seamless and full featured as the Sun Ray at home I had when working for Sun. Wouldn't it be neat to have that kind of access, with the portability of an iPad? Yes it would, and it is now available. Oracle has just announced the Oracle Virtual Desktop Client App for iPad.

    For those that didn't just dash off to get it, here is the link to it on the Apple AppStore. And did I mention that it is free. Obviously you will need access to a Sun Ray server, but that's the point, isn't it. This takes the existing Oracle Virtual Desktop Client (OVDC), available on Windows, Oracle Linux and Oracle Solaris, to a new, more portable platform that has not only created a new market, but is extremely popular, and continuing to sell faster than they can stock them.

    I got the chance to try this iPad OVDC internally and I'm impressed. One thing I really love about it is the keyboard. By tapping with 3 fingers at once, it brings up the on-screen keyboard, which includes access along an additional row across the top to various additional capability. This includes a button to bring up all the function keys (F1-F12), another button to bring up cursor keys, as well as toggle-able Control, Alt, and Shift keys, and Esc, Tab and Del keys. Man, I wish there was a way to get that keyboard for many of my other iPad apps. :-) You can use the standard iPad gestures for zooming and moving around the screen. A quick 2-finger swipe to the right brings back the connection panel, allowing you to easily change connections or disconnect the current session. It also has a button for getting help on supported gestures.

    It's probably just the geek in me, but I'm loving this new client. If you have access to a Sun Ray environment and have an iPad, check it out. For years customers have wanted Sun Ray laptops and tablets. I can't think of a better option for filling that need. For those of you who try it out, please let me know in the comments your impressions. Mobile corporate computing just got more accessible. Congratulations to the Sun Ray engineering team for a great addition to the Sun Ray family.
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A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.

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