Thursday Apr 24, 2014

The case for Snap Clone over point tools

Today, I stumbled over a competitor blog, conspicuous by its factual incorrectness on Enterprise Manager Snap Clone. However, I must compliment the author of the blog, because inadvertently, he has raised a point that we have been highlighting all along. The author, with reference to Dataguard and storage technologies, argues against the cobbling of technologies together and adding another technology stack to the mix without any automated management

Precisely the point! In the wide realm of technologies, there are necessities and there are accessories aka nice-to-haves. The necessities are technologies that are needed anyway, such as a high fidelity, high performance storage from a reputed vendor or a good DR solution for a mission critical database environment. Similarly, for any Oracle DBA worth his/her salt, Enterprise Manager 12c is a necessity, a part of the daily life. The Enterprise Manager agent, keeping vigil on every host, is therefore not an overhead, but the representative (the "agent" in true sense) of the DBA. Deep diagnostics, performance management, large scale configuration management, patching and compliance management make Enterprise Manager the darling of any Oracle DBA. All surveys suggest that any DBA spends considerable amount of time in Enterprise Manager for performing things beyond just data cloning, so why invest in an accessory for the cloning of Oracle test databases and unnecessarily proliferate the number of point tools (and possibly several instances of them) that you need to manage and maintain, not to ignore the past history that cites that very few such point tools solved customers' CAPEX and OPEX problems over the long run. It is like using spreadsheet for expenses and ERP for all other financial tasks.This is not to suggest that these point tools do not have good, innovative features. Over my tenure in the industry, I have come across several such tools with nice features, but often the hidden costs outweigh the benefits. Our position in this aspect has been consistent, whether it is on a competitor’s tool or our own. Few years back, we integrated My Oracle Support into Enterprise Manager with the same consistent goal that Enterprise Manager will serve as the single pane of glass for the Oracle ecosystem. Same has been our position on any product that we acquire.

Snap Clone's support for Dataguard and native storage stems from popular customer demand to leverage technologies they already invested in, and not create standalone islands of automation. Moreover, several customers have voiced in favor of the performance and scalability advantages that they would get by leveraging the native storage APIs. How else would you support one of the world's largest banks, a Snap Clone customer, who performs 60,000 (sixty thousand) data refreshes per year! In any case, that should not imply that we bind ourselves to any of those technologies. We do support cloning on various storage systems based on ZFS filesystem. Similarly, the Test Master refresh can be achieved with one among RMAN, Dataguard, Golden Gate or storage replication and optionally orchestrated with EM Job System.

Enterprise Manager 12c has taken a great step in delivering features via plugins that can be revisioned independent of the framework. An unwanted side effect is that the awareness often lags what is actually supported in the latest version of the product. For example, the filesystem support was introduced last Fall. And of course Enterprise Manager 12c Snap Clone supports RAC. My esteemed colleague and DBA par excellence, in her blog has highlighted some of these to dispel some of the prevalent awareness issues. Snap Clone's usage among the E-Business Suite and Developer community does not need any special accreditation. It is heavily used by the world's largest E-Business Suite Developer community-the Oracle E-Business Suite Engineering organization itself! It is true that Snap Clone does not support  restoration to any arbitrary point in time, but then our customers and prospects have not voiced a need for it. In reality, most customers want to perform intermediate data transformation such as masking and subsetting as they clone from production to test, and Enterprise Manager 12c already boasts of sophisticated data masking technologies, again via the same interface. It also includes testing features like Real Application Testing (RAT) that can complement and follow the test database creation. Future releases of Enterprise Manager will support a tighter integration among these features.

Snap Clone is delivered as a part of the Database as a Service feature set that has been pioneering, industry-leading and getting adopted at a great pace. Little wonder that we have already received a copious amount of Openworld paper submissions on the topic. In this emerging trend of DBaaS adoption, we find no reason to fragment the tasks such as fresh database creation, pluggable database provisioning and cloning across silo'ed point tools (not to mention broader PaaS capabilities which may be needed for complete application testing). Each use case could be different but needs a single service delivery platform. EM12c is that platform for Oracle. Period. So, think twice before 'adding another technology to the mix'. You do not need to.

Tuesday Apr 22, 2014

After the Conference: Enterprise Manager at Collaborate14

Attendees at the Collaborate14 User Conference held in Las Vegas earlier this month were offered fantastic opportunities to hone their expertise in Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c (EM) while building a network with increasing numbers of IT professionals focusing their passions around EM.  These pros seek to take advantage of EM’s ability in a quest to reduce downtime, improve staff productivity, reduce capital expenditures and increase IT agility while lowering the cost of managing IT.

There was certainly a lot from which to choose, as I reported in my prior blog.   After getting back from the conference and attending several of those sessions, it seemed as if EM was everywhere!  Well over fifty Collaborate14 lectures, workshops, expert sessions and quick-tip sessions featuring EM exclusively or significantly were delivered.  Most of the sessions were given by partners and customers, all of whom desire to share their significant EM expertise with others. 

On pre-conference Monday, the three hands-on workshops (Cloud Odyssey, Oracle Database  Lifecycle Management and Application Management for Oracle EBS) were fun and deeply educational, proving you had to be there in order to appreciate fully.  And the conference sessions were well attended both in person and online, covering the waterfront in terms of effectively managing the enterprise.

Just some of the focus areas:

  • Techniques and best practices to monitor and manage the IT environment effectively through the use of the EM framework and through EMCLI
  • Deep-dives into Oracle Database 12c in diagnosing, tuning and managing the lifecycle of Oracle Database 12c
  • How to provide and manage Oracle in the cloud, specifically in the area of Database as a Service (DBaaS) and quick provisioning of the storage it goes with
  • Advanced management of Oracle Applications

I would be remiss to not mention the new Special Interest Groups (SIGs) formed or being formed around Enterprise Manager.  In addition to the networking opportunities and the one-to-one best practice sharing that naturally occurs when like-minded folks get together, SIGs work to enhance critical skills and foster professional growth.  Make sure you sign up for them so you don’t miss out on the events being planned.  At the conference:

  • IOUG’s rapidly growing Enterprise Manager SIG drew at least fifty at their “Birds of a Feather” meeting.  Request to join this SIG here.  More info about this SIG and how to join it is at the IOUG Enterprise Manager SIG Community site.
  • The IOUG Cloud Computing SIG, considered a companion to EM since it prominently features it, had a good crowd.  Find out more at the IOUG Cloud Computing SIG.
  • An inaugural OAUG Enterprise Manager for Oracle Applications SIG formation meeting had significant attendance and interest.  Look for more about this SIG and how to participate in it in a future post. 

Wire-to-wire it was well worth it, and next year it will be even more so.  Until that time, expect to hear a lot from the regional user groups and the SIGs about EM.

Monday Apr 21, 2014

Leveraging Target Properties to Enhance Enterprise Manager Capabilities

Do you still maintain a spreadsheet with Database or Server contact or business unit ownership?  In Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c (EM) Target Properties allow you to store descriptive target information, such as Contact or Location, which can then be used in dynamic/administration group definition, reports, incident rules and notifications.   This blog will show you how you can better leverage the features of EM to store your configuration data and utilize it to the fullest extent. 

The out-of-the-box target properties include: 

  • Contact
  • Cost Center
  • Customer Support Identifier
  • Department
  • Life Cycle Status (Development, Test, Staging, Mission Critical, Production)
  • Line of Business
  • Location
  • Operating System – populated by collected configuration data
  • Platform Target Type – populated by collected configuration data
  • Target Version – populated by collected configuration data

[Read More]

Wednesday Apr 16, 2014

RMAN Backups using Cloud Control

Friends, a technical article was recently published on the Oracle Technical Network:

Back Up a Thousand Databases Using Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c

This detailed technical article explains the set up and scheduling of full and incremental RMAN Database backups for  thousands of databases using Enterprise Manager 12c, and how this is done more easily and efficiently than the older, more time-consuming, manual method of performing Unix shell scripting, RMAN scripting, and CRON jobs for each database to be backed up.

And with the Database Group Backup feature new to Enterprise Manager 12c, it can be even faster to set up RMAN backups for multiple databases - even if there are thousands - that are part of an Enterprise Manager Database Group (one kind of target group).

The article also highlights the advantages of using Pluggable Databases (PDBs) in Oracle Database 12c and backing them up using RMAN. RMAN cannot backup individual schemas, and it has always been difficult to perform point-in-time-recovery (PITR) at an individual schema level, since schemas can easily be distributed across multiple tablespaces. The advantage in using PDBs in a Container Database is that you can easily set up RMAN backups at the Container Database level, and yet perform PITR at the PDB level. This is a clear technical advantage of the Multi-tenant architecture of Oracle Database 12c.

The set up and scheduling of RMAN database backups forms a part of the Base Database Management features of Enterprise Manager that enables numerous customers to get familiar with the day-to-day use of Enterprise Manager 12c. The full list of Base Database Management features can be found in the Enterprise Manager Licensing Information guide here.

In fact I had personally introduced Enterprise Manager to one of India’s largest financial services organizations in India in 2007 for the purpose of their RMAN backups, they started using it for the first time, and today we are proud to say that they are an Enterprise Manager reference customer who have presented in OOW for the last 2 years. The following slide is from their recent OOW presentation.

One thing I forgot to include in the article (and yes, it is a long article) was on reporting of the RMAN backups. A few readers asked me that question after the article’s publication, both inside and outside Oracle.

I told them that if they were using an RMAN catalog, the catalog would have this information and could easily be queried. If they were not using a catalog, then this backup information would be stored in the control file, and they would have to query each database’s control file (using V$ views) to get the backup report. BI Publisher, installed as an add-on to Enterprise Manager, could be used for this purpose. However note that if BI Publisher is used to query information from a source other than the Enterprise Manager repository database, a license is payable for each database it accesses.

Read the full article at “Back Up a Thousand Databases Using Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c”, and enjoy the world of Oracle Enterprise Manager.


Porus Homi Havewala (OCM 11g/10g).

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Tuesday Apr 08, 2014

Consolidated Database Replay: Playing Nice Together

Here is a great article from resident Oracle ACE, Arup Nanda, who details insight into predicting the impact of consolidating separate database workloads into one. The article outlines a typical consolidation scenario and explains how Oracle Real Application Testing's Consolidated Database Replay capabilities can help measure the impact of the workload consolidation. A must read for those considering a consolidation project in the near future. Read the article.

Database work load patterns of two applications.

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Friday Apr 04, 2014

Webcast: Database Cloning in Minutes using Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Database as a Service Snap Clone

April 10 — 7:00 a.m. PT | 10:00 a.m. ET | 4:00 p.m. CET
April 24 — 10:00 a.m. PT | 1:00 p.m. ET
May 8 — 7:00 a.m. PT | 10:00 a.m. ET | 4:00 p.m. CET
May 22 — 10:00 a.m. PT | 1:00 p.m. ET

Since the demands from the business for IT services is non-stop, creating copies of production databases in order to develop, test and deploy new applications can be labor intensive and time consuming. Users may also need to preserve private copies of the database, so that they can go back to a point prior to when a change was made in order to diagnose potential issues. Using Snap Clone, users can create multiple snapshots of the database and “time travel” across these snapshots to access data from any point in time.

Join us for an in-depth technical webcast and learn how Oracle Cloud Management Pack for Oracle Database's capability called Snap Clone, can fundamentally improve the efficiency and agility of administrators and QA Engineers while saving CAPEX on storage. Benefits include:

  • Agile provisioning (~ 2 minutes to provision a 1 TB database)
  • Over 90% storage savings
  • Reduced administrative overhead from integrated lifecycle management

Register Now!

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Wednesday Apr 02, 2014

Cloud Odyssey in London

The Cloud Odyssey event happened in London recently. Here is the Storify from the event. Enjoy!

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Tuesday Apr 01, 2014

Managing Pluggable Database as a Service: Questions and Answers

Since the launch of Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Release 3, we have received tons of questions around managing Oracle Multitenant, an Oracle Database 12c Enterprise Edition option, and pluggable databases (PDBs)—more specifically; questions about pluggable database as a service (PDBaaS). In this blog, we provide answers to some of the common questions from people.

Question: What qualifies a database to be pluggable?
Answer: A pluggable database must be a current Oracle Database 12c database, configured for multitenant through a new enterprise edition option called Oracle Multitenant. It delivers a new architecture that allows a multitenant container database (CDB) to hold many pluggable databases (PDBs). An Oracle Database in the old architecture (a “non-CDB”) may be upgraded to the multitenant architecture via a simple process known as “adopting the non-CDB as a PDB”. A PDB is a self-contained, fully functional Oracle Database, and includes its own system, sysaux and user tablespaces. You can learn more about Oracle Multitenant and pluggable database in this whitepaper.

Can the pluggable databases be plugged and unplugged across multiple platforms such as Solaris, AIX, and Linux?
The pluggable database must be endian compatible. Cross endian operations require OGG, Data pump or restore from backup.

In terms of database consolidation, what are the differences between using VMs, dedicated schemas and pluggable databases?
To describe the advantages of using pluggable database vs. other consolidation methods, it can be best illustrated in a simply comparison table.

Comparison of Database as a Service Consolidation Models

Pluggable database combines the best of all the other models and offers excellent consolidation, isolation, manageability and is suitable for any application that is certified to run on Oracle Database 12c. With the other models, we see certain shortcomings. For example, server virtualization offers good isolation but creates compliance and administrative headaches. Schema based consolidation offers ease of management and patching, but limited isolation.

How do you track configuration drift with a pluggable database? I certainly understand drift in the container database, but in what ways would a pluggable database drift from its standard baseline?
This pertains to Configuration Drift Tracking via Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c. One can compare any two Enterprise Manager targets or a complete system such as an Oracle Exadata Database Machine. When you compare at the PDB level, they can differ in the tablespace names, the storage settings of tablespace with same name, or users, etc. Using Oracle Enterprise Manager to track drift, it is particularly useful in comparing difference in your development, testing, and production environments. It is even useful for comparing your standby systems to set standards for compliance requirements.

What is a zone? Is it physical? Regional?
The Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Cloud resource model involves pooling the same target types where it’s combining similar hosts, databases, hardware or other similar resources in to a zone. Zones can therefore be defined by the boundary of the Cloud and exposed through Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c’s self-service portal. In terms of the pluggable database as a service model, you can create Oracle Multitenant container databases and group them to form a database pool that users can then draw from. When the self-service user provisions a pluggable database, they need to simply specify the Zone where they want to deploy. Internally, Oracle Enterprise Manager uses load or configuration driven algorithms to place the PDB in the right CDB.

What will be the DBA and SYSADMIN role in the pluggable DBaaS environment?
With pluggable databases you have common users and local users as well as common roles and associated privileges and local roles and associated privileges. You can isolate user/role/privilege to the PDB by defining only local user/role/privilege. To leverage the manage many as one, you would define common user/role/privilege to act on all PDBs or a subset of PDBs where the common user has create session privileges within the PDB. You would define DBA roles and SYSADMIN roles based on common and/or local user roles.

What if you need custom configurations on a pluggable database? Once the database is deployed via self-service how do you make changes?
Some parameters are modifiable at the PDB level. You would check v$parameter ISPDB_MODIFIABLE value to determine what can be changed. Some customization can be done at the CDB level; however, they would affect all PDBs for that CDB. Oracle Enterprise Manager’s self-service provides a TNS Connect string to connect to the PDB with the right privilege and execute “ALTER SYSTEM” for the parameters that are permissible to change.

If I'm an application developer and I request a database with a certain pre-defined service level, what level of permissions should I expect with that database? Am I getting DBA or SYSDBA privileges with that request?
It depends on what was negotiated as part of the service definition and associated user/role/privileges defined for that service.

Are the pluggable database as a service capabilities for Oracle Database 12c included in Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c? Do we need a plug-in? Do we need to license Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Database Management Packs?
You need the Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c database and cloud plug-ins. License-wise; the self-service provisioning from Oracle Enterprise Manager is licensed as part of Cloud Management Pack for Database. The Oracle Multitenant option must be licensed if two or more PDBs are plugged into a single CDB.
Watch this short demo called “Using Pluggable Database as a Service (PDBaaS) Self-Service Portal” for a better understanding of deploying PDBaaS using Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c.

Which Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Management Packs are required to be able to provide DBaaS?
You need the Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Cloud Management Pack for Database and Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c Lifecycle Management Pack for Database to do database as a service. Both of which must be licensed.

If you have shared memory and background processes in the container database, how do you allocate server resources to a particular pluggable database? Can you assign specific amount of CPU cycles, RAM and IOPS for a given pluggable database?
SQL execution is scoped to the PDB as identified by the con_id created during session create. In Oracle Database 12c, Resource Manager (RM) has been extended to include support for Oracle Multitenant. Policies may be defined at the PDB level in terms of the simple-yet-powerful concepts of “caps” and “shares” to determine the allocation of resources between PDBs. In this way, resource manager can control allocation of CPU, sessions and parallel execution servers. Additionally, on Oracle Exadata, Resource Manager can also manage IO and network. Memory management currently is implicitly managed through SGA LRU algorithms and CPU share management.

What is the largest number of pluggable databases you can deploy on Oracle Exadata?
Currently the PDB limit per CDB is 252 PDBs. In Oracle Real Application Clusters environments such as Oracle Exadata, the density of PDB consolidation greatly increases as you may have multiple CDBs per physical server and 252 PDBs per CDB. The maximum limit would be bound by compute resource constraints/limits. And as mentioned in the question on Zone, Oracle Enterprise Manager gives an ability to combine multiple CDBs into a Pool and handle transparent placement. The Oracle Enterprise Manager self-service user therefore won’t be exposed to the underlying limit.

Can I use pluggable database as a service if the target database is 9i or 10g?
You would need to migrate the Oracle Database 9i, 10g and 11g databases to Oracle Database 12c non-CDB and convert them into pluggable databases. The architectural changes within Oracle Database 12c are not backward compatible.

Can Active Data Guard be configured for selective pluggable databases from a container database? I do not want all pluggable databases to have a standby.
In the current release, Oracle Active Data Guard operates at the container level, however, PDB annotations are tagged in the redo stream, so PDB operations on the primary are reflected on the standby.

Does RMAN support pluggable databases?
Scheduled backups are at the CDB layer and include all PDBs. Ad-hoc backups can be executed on individual PDBs. Individual PDBs can be restored from backup.

For complete details of managing pluggable database as a service, be sure to watch this webcast: Delivering Pluggable Database as a Service

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