Data Clone and Refresh (part 1)

In mid January we released the latest version of Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c, the 12cR4 Plugin Update.  This release included many enhancements in the cloud management space, making it the complete DBaaS automation solution.  The main areas of enhancement are:

  • Self Service Portal and Service Catalog, including add and remove standby capabilities, externalized database size and improved customization
  • Cloud Framework, with an improved self service portal, role and service type based access across all pages, and improved administration capabilities
  • Data Clone and Refresh, including an improved self service experience, admin flows for non-cloud cloning and refreshes, and additional storage certification
  • Fleet Maintenance, such as the ability to subscribe to database and grid infrastructure images, deploying them automatically to servers

In this posting, I'll be focusing on the data clone enhancements.  My next post will focus on the refresh enhancements.

Improved Self Service Experience

Enterprise Manager ships with an out-of-box self-service portal that allows developers, testers, DBA's, and other self service users to log on and request various services. It also provides an administrative interface for DBA's to deliver one-off or special requests for services. These services include:

  • New single instance (SI) and Real Application Clusters (RAC) databases using pre-defined golden standards. This is ideal for developers asking for standard databases with or without data.
  • New SI and RAC databases along with Data Guard standby databases either within the same data-center or across different geographical regions. This is ideal for production and semi-production workloads that have high availability requirements. 
  • Schemas hosted in one or more databases, and provided as Schema-as-a-Service.
  • Pluggable databases that are hosted in one or more Oracle Database 12c Multitenant container databases provided as Pluggable Database as a Service. 
  • Database thin clones, using the Enterprise Manager 12c Snap Clone feature that leverages storage Copy-on-Write (CoW) technology on Oracle and non-Oracle storage. Snap Clone lets users, such as functional quality assurance testers, to create multiple copies of the database in minutes without consuming additional space, take private backups, and refresh data from the original source. Snap Clone supports cloning of databases on file and on Oracle Automatic Storage Management with block storage. 
  • Database full clones using RMAN backups or RMAN duplicates. This could be ideal for intense testing, such as database upgrades and performance testing on Exadata. 
  • All cloning services come integrated with masking, and ability to change configuration and software versions. 
  • Fleet maintenance allows administrators to patch and upgrade database software, with near zero or zero downtime. The subscription based model enables updates at scale, and across the entire cloud ecosystem thus significantly reducing the time required for maintenance activities. 
Additionally, self service users can perform lifecycle operations like starting and stopping, checking the status, health monitoring, etc. on the requested databases and schemas. Provisioning can be done on both physical infrastructure using Deployment Procedures and on an Oracle VM virtualized server infrastructure using Virtual Assemblies and Virtual Templates. The portal provides access to a Service Catalog which lists various published service templates for standardized database configuration and versions. Users can review their past and outstanding requests, resource quotas, and current utilization as well as chargeback information for the databases and services they own. The portal also allows users to automatically backup their databases on a scheduled basis or take on demand backups. Users can restore the database to any of these backups. The self-service portal is the user's view into the cloud, thus it is designed to be easy to use and yet useful. The portal is also backed by both a command line interface and an API that can be used to request and manage cloud resources via scripts in lieu of the user interface.

Admin Flows for Non-Cloud Cloning and Refreshes

Often, people think of cloning as only important as a cloud operation, but  that’s not the only place that cloning can be important.  It’s ideal, for example, as a way to build environments for proofs of concept, test master creation, or indeed anywhere that you may need a one-off clone. With the Clone and Refresh functionality, you can clone from an existing snapshot of a database, or you can choose to clone to a particular point in time or SCN.  Not only that, you can integrate both masking and patching (for PSU’s) in this flow as well.  Once you have created a clone, you can then refresh it from the source later with a few clicks. And finally, once you’ve done cloning through the user interface, you might then decide to clone and refresh in a scripted manner, using the EM CLI verbs or REST API's that are provided for this.  You can even schedule the cloning through EM CLI to occur at a time that suits you.

Now let’s look at the details of what can happen as part of this clone and refresh flow, based on the environment you can see in the image below:



On the left hand side you can see our Production database.  In this example, this is an 11.2.0.4 database running in a 3 node RAC environment, with some RMAN backups already taken.  So what can I do with this database when I clone it?

Firstly, I can mask sensitive data.  Generally, when you take a copy of your Production database to another environment, you want to mask some of the data in that database, such as credit card numbers, salary details and so on.  The admin flow allows you to apply a pre-defined masking format to your data as it is cloned, or indeed execute your own custom SQL scripts to change the data as you need to.

Secondly, I can actually test patching as part of the flow.  In the example I’m showing here, I’m cloning my 11.2.0.4 Production database to an 11.2.0.4.2 test environment.

Thirdly, I can change the configuration as part of the admin flow as well.  Again, in the example shown here we're moving from a 3 node RAC environment in Production to a single instance test environment.

Finally, if my underlying storage supports copy on write technology, I can also take advantage of that and take a snap or thin clone of my Production environment, where blocks are only written to my test environment as they are changed in Production.  That means I can build a lot more snap clones and still require only a very small percentage of the storage of my Production environment.

Additional Storage Certifications

Earlier releases of the Enterprise Manager Snap Clone functionality provided two different solutions from a storage perspective.  If you already had either Oracle's Sun ZFS Storage Appliance or NetApp, you could create a vendor specific hardware solution.  If not, you could use either the Solaris ZFS File System or the CloneDB functionality provided sine Oracle Database 11g release 11.2.0.3.   More details on the EM12cR4 Snap Clone functionality is provided here.

In the January plugin release, we added additional storage certification, so you can now also use an EMC SAN with ASM to create snap clones.  If you want more details on the Snap Clone and EMC solution, you can find details about it here.

Further Information

You can find more information on the material I've just covered in Part VII of the Cloud Administration Guide in the online documentation here.  You can also watch the screenwatch we recorded to show you the cloning process in action here.

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