Database, SQL and PL/SQL

Plug into the Cloud

Consolidate, secure, and connect with the revolutionary multitenant architecture of Oracle Database 12c.

By David Baum

September/October 2013

Oracle Database 12 c is a true cloud environment, because it can support synchronous failover in multiple geographic sites. ”–James Lui,
Oracle Applications Database Administrator, ARAMARK Uniform Services

Five years in the making and boasting more than 500 new features, Oracle Database 12c is the latest incarnation of the world’s most popular enterprise relational database. According to Andy Mendelsohn, senior vice president, Oracle Database Server Technologies, Oracle designed Oracle Database 12c in response to customer requirements for database clouds: customers want greater database consolidation density to lower capital costs, plus the ability to manage many databases as one to lower operational costs.

Judging from beta customer feedback, Oracle’s customer focus is paying off. Three of these customers—LogicalTech Group, ARAMARK Uniform Services, and Postbank—offer their insights here on what Oracle Database 12c has shown them and how they plan to use it in their organizations.

A New Kind of Virtualization

Oracle Multitenant, an option of Oracle Database, Enterprise Edition, offers all the benefits of managing many databases as one yet retains the isolation and resource control of separate databases. A single multitenant container database hosts many virtual databases called pluggable databases. Each pluggable database appears to applications as a single Oracle Database instance, so no application changes are required to run applications in a pluggable database.

Martin Power is the general manager of the Oracle Professional Practices division at LogicalTech Group, a Melbourne, Australia–based company that provides a range of IT services, from strategy development to technical service delivery. Power sees the benefit of the multitenant architecture over traditional virtualization architectures.

ARAMARK Uniform Services
Location: Burbank, California
Industry: Consumer services
Employees: 13,000
Oracle Products: Oracle Database, Oracle Linux, Oracle E-Business Suite 12, Oracle Business Intelligence, Oracle Identity and Access Management, Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control, Oracle Hyperion product family

Deutsche Postbank AG
Location: Bonn, Germany
Industry: Financial services
Employees: 20,000
Oracle Products: Oracle Database, Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control

LogicalTech Group
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Industry: Technology consulting services
Oracle Products: Oracle Database, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle WebLogic Server, Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control

“It’s easy to generate traditional virtual environments, so you can quickly end up with hundreds of them—which becomes a management nightmare,” Power says. “Pluggable databases enable you to consolidate the databases and all of the management overhead and work associated with building and maintaining database environments.”

The multitenant architecture enables organizations to set up one cloud environment with dozens or even hundreds of pluggable databases in each container database.

“When you manage the container database, all of the pluggable databases inherit the work you do,” adds Power. “For example, if you back up the container database and there are, say, 50 pluggable databases associated with that container, all 50 of them will be backed up. Similarly you can restore the container or any of the pluggable databases independently. Your administrative overhead becomes 1/50 of what it was when you had 50 separate databases.”

Carl Olofson, research vice president of application development and deployment at International Data Corporation (IDC), describes the efficiency of the multitenant architecture: “If you’re going to virtualize the database operation, you should do it at the database level rather than at the operating system level. Oracle’s approach with pluggable databases enables you to move a database from one server environment to another without making substantial changes.”

This architecture also simplifies upgrades, adds Olofson, because you can set up a new container database, upgrade it to the latest release, and then move your production databases to it. “There’s almost no interruption, and you can add and remove databases at will,” he says. “For example, if you have an accounting database that is very busy at the end of the quarter, you can run it on a small server and then move it to a larger server during peak periods. Traditionally, it’s been a big deal to move a database from one server to another. A pluggable database obviates most of that activity and makes the move pretty straightforward.”

Automatic Security and Auditing

Security in the multitenant architecture is also straightforward. Each pluggable database has its own self-contained security level. System administrators can be granted access to a single pluggable database. Only administrators with container database rights can see all the pluggable databases in that container database.

Kyte’s 12 for 12

Tom Kyte has picked his top 12 features of Oracle Database 12c and put them into a presentation. Here are his picks:

  • Even better PL/SQL from SQL
  • Improved defaults
  • Increased size limits for some datatypes
  • Easy top-n and pagination queries
  • Row pattern matching
  • Partitioning improvements
  • Adaptive execution plans
  • Enhanced statistics
  • Temporary undo
  • Data optimization capabilities
  • Application Continuity and Transaction Guard
  • Pluggable databases

Kyte’s “12 for 12” presentation is part of the Oracle Database 12c launch webcast. Spoiler alert: Kyte covers three of these picks in his Ask Tom column in this issue.

“Oracle Database 12c includes fine-grained auditing right out of the box, and a lot of the auditing features are turned on by default,” says James Lui, senior Oracle Applications database administrator at ARAMARK Uniform Services, who also serves on the board of directors of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG). “You don’t have to think about it—the database is secured to begin with, by means such as automatic complex passwords and automatic auditing. All the options we used to have to turn on manually as part of our postcreation processes are now part of the database build.”

ARAMARK Uniform Services is a leading supplier of uniforms and workplace supplies (mats, mops, and towels and other restroom items) to companies throughout the United States. Its Oracle technology stack includes software for enterprise resource planning, identity management, business intelligence (BI), performance management, and many other business functions. Lui and his team tested Oracle Database 12c with Oracle E-Business Suite 12 and 1 terabyte of data.

“We were very impressed with the quality of this beta release,” Lui says. “Even though Oracle had not yet certified Oracle E-Business Suite 12 with the beta release we were testing, everything worked—the patching, the administration tools, the monitoring, the Oracle E-Business Suite applications.”

Simpler Management and Integration

ARAMARK deployed the Cloud Control feature of Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c more than a year ago to simplify the management of its large database infrastructure. According to Lui, Oracle Database 12c will further simplify routine IT tasks—a fact ARAMARK demonstrated during the beta test by plugging many existing Oracle Database instances into one container database.

Lui believes that ARAMARK’s DBA staff will spend less time on routine training and installation because of the robust set of agents packaged with Oracle Database 12c. “The Oracle Universal Installer, Upgrade Assistant, Oracle RAC Assistant, and others are so much easier to use and provide so much more control,” he says. “The built-in wizards will help streamline the way we deploy, upgrade, and troubleshoot problems.”

Greater Availability

ARAMARK also examined Oracle Active Data Guard enhancements for Oracle Database 12c, which enable Oracle Active Data Guard to operate over a wide area network in synchronous mode. “Prior to this, Oracle Database supported Oracle Active Data Guard in synchronous mode only on the same local area network,” Lui explains. “Active Data Guard Far Sync enables us to run that same Oracle Active Data Guard for zero-data-loss failover across a wide area network.”

This new disaster recovery architecture facilitates cloud computing by enabling ARAMARK to place Oracle Active Data Guard instances at multiple geographic locations. “Oracle Database 12c is a true cloud environment, because it can support synchronous failover in multiple geographic sites,” Lui continues. “The distances don’t matter anymore.”


For more information on Oracle Database 12c, Oracle Magazine recommends the following articles in this issue: Cloud Computing Breakthrough: Here’s the journalistic who, what, when, where, and how on Oracle Database 12c. Many in One: Oracle Magazine frequent contributor and stand-up Oracle technologist Arup Nanda demystifies the container database architecture and pluggable databases in Oracle Database 12c.

PL/SQL Enhancements: PL/SQL guru Steven Feuerstein looks at a handful of key new and improved PL/SQL features in Oracle Database 12c.

On Oracle Database 12c, Part 1: Tom Kyte addresses 3 of his top 12 new features in Oracle Database 12c. (He’ll address the other 9 in upcoming issues.)

LogicalTech was similarly enthusiastic about the capabilities of the Oracle Automatic Storage Management feature of Oracle Database 12c, especially a new feature called Oracle Flex Automatic Storage Management (Oracle Flex ASM).

“We’ve been searching for a zero-xdowntime solution for provisioning database systems,” says LogicalTech’s Power. “Oracle Flex ASM enables us to decouple a database from the Oracle Automatic Storage Management storage layer, provision that storage layer on a cluster of Oracle Flex ASM nodes, and then connect database processing nodes to the Oracle Flex ASM cluster environment. This architecture enables us to upgrade the Oracle Flex ASM nodes in a rolling fashion. We can also replicate the data between data centers and enable the primary Oracle Automatic Storage Management environment to fail over to a secondary site through Oracle Flex ASM provisioning while still keeping the database nodes up in the primary site. When we couple Oracle Flex ASM with Oracle Database’s new Application Continuity features, users aren’t even aware of interruptions.”

Turnkey Database as a Service for Dev/Test Environments

Interruptions to system access are simply not an option at Postbank, one of Germany’s largest retail banks. “We are in an information-intensive industry, and we must be able to process transactions instantaneously and have services available when customers and employees need them,” says Jens-Christian Pokolm, analyst, IT services and database design, at Postbank. “Customers expect instantaneous access to their accounts at all times, so performance and availability are extremely important for us.”

Postbank has approximately 14 million customers, 1,100 bank-owned branches, and 4,500 Deutsche Post partner branches. The Postbank DBA staff maintains between 400 and 450 production Oracle databases, ranging from a few gigabytes to 45 terabytes—about 280 terabytes of Oracle Database data in all. There are also 600 to 700 databases in development, plus hundreds more in testing.

Postbank is migrating its SAP business applications from a DB2 database on an IBM system to Oracle Database on multiple x86 servers running Oracle Linux and Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC).

“With help from Oracle Database 12c, this consolidation will be much more cost-effective and efficient than we imagined,” says Pokolm. “The Oracle Database environment will significantly reduce hardware costs and facilitate greater consolidation.”

Pokolm and his group are responsible for architecting, developing, and managing the complete database infrastructure for Postbank. They currently use Oracle Database 11g to support many parts of the bank’s retail division, from back-office systems to automated teller machines, core banking services, and online banking applications. Previously the Postbank team achieved some degree of consolidation by installing multiple databases on the same server, but it still had to manage each database separately.

“In the past, we put each application on a separate, dedicated database, and a simple patch or upgrade involved many people,” says Pokolm. “The Oracle Database 12c multitenant architecture enables us to consolidate those databases into one container database, which simplifies installations, upgrades, and patch management.”

Now Oracle Database 12c will make it easy to allocate CPU resources between database containers, giving Postbank very fine-grained control over the processing workload. “Oracle Database 12c enables us to tune performance for particular pluggable databases and container databases as well as to shift resources to accommodate different workloads and processing needs—such as customer-facing applications during the day and BI queries or interest rate calculations at night,” Pokolm says.

To take advantage of these performance gains and maintenance savings, Postbank is evaluating the possibility of consolidating at least 25 percent of its production databases and nearly 50 percent of its test-and-development databases into an Oracle Multitenant environment. Pokolm foresees overall time savings from 30 to 35 percent from this new architecture, along with better performance due to more-efficient sharing of the servers and storage equipment.

Oracle Database 12 c enables us to tune performance for particular pluggable databases and container databases. ”–Jens-Christian Pokolm,
Analyst, IT Services and Database Design, Postbank

“We are getting really good feedback from customers that plan to move their test-and-development environments to Oracle Database 12c,” says Oracle’s Mendelsohn. “The multitenant architecture is ideal for what dev/test departments want to do: very quickly provision new databases. If you’re using a storage environment that has snapshot storage, such as Oracle ZFS, you can instantly provision a new dev/test database by cloning an existing pluggable database.”

Addressing Market Demands for SaaS Vendors and Enterprise Customers

Mendelsohn identifies four key use cases for the Oracle Multitenant option: consolidation, dev/test, software as a service (SaaS), and database as a service (DBaaS). He predicts that SaaS will be particularly popular with cloud vendors, especially when Oracle Fusion Applications run on top of the multitenant architecture. “We are making it easy to provision mission-critical databases for enterprise and SaaS deployments,” he contends. “And combining Oracle Exadata with the multitenant architecture is an especially powerful foundation for database clouds.”

DBaaS will be popular for organizations interested in a service-based model, either on- or off-premises, in a private or a public cloud. Mendelsohn foresees that Oracle Exadata will also play a prominent role in DBaaS deployments.

Mendelsohn believes that customers for all Oracle Database 12c use cases will also like the new Heat Map and advanced data optimization features of the database, which automate the process of figuring out when to compress data by tracking all reads from and writes to the database. “Heat Map monitors usage information at the row and segment levels, generating statistics that enable database administrators to easily gauge how frequently data is used,” he explains. “They can see at a glance how access patterns change over time and across different storage tiers.” And once database administrators understand how their data is being used, they can create policies to automatically move and compress database objects, based on the activity of the data.

As part of its consolidation and dev/test initiatives for Oracle Database 12c, Postbank also looks forward to Oracle Database 12c’s new table recovery features, which enable administrators to quickly restore individual tables from a database. “That’s a really nice feature if you have loaded the wrong data or inadvertently destroyed some of your data,” Postbank’s Pokolm says. “Now you can restore individual tables.”

Postbank plans to move into production with Oracle Database 12c by the end of 2013. “All of our DBAs are quite happy at the moment,” Pokolm sums up. “The new release is rich in useful features and well developed. It’s easy to handle; it’s easy to manage.”

Next Steps

 DOWNLOAD Oracle Database 12c

 READ “Plug into the Cloud with Oracle Database 12c

 READ more about Oracle Database 12c

 WATCH the Oracle Database 12c launch webcast


Photography by Hao Wang,Unsplash