Wednesday Jan 27, 2010

Live Migration of EBS Services Using Oracle VM

[Editor: This is the fifth of a five-part series on virtualization and cloud topics from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group.]

Breaking news: you can now achieve live migration of E-Business Suite instances on Oracle VM (OVM).  This is the High Availability and Fault Tolerance Holy Grail.  In an environment configured to support live migration, end-user sessions running on one node in a virtual machine server can be migrated transparently to a different node on a different virtual machine server.  You have asked for this functionality for more than a dozen years and many Oracle partners offer solutions to achieve this.  After all these years, Oracle can provide you a solution for E-Business Suite environments using Oracle VM.

Why was this so hard for Oracle E-Business Suite?  Well, the short answer is that we have hundreds of products using many different technologies as part of the E-Business Suite, and many of them had complicated session state handling (some in the database, some on the middle-tier), caches that needed to be kept synchronized, and so on.  While all technical problems are soluble, this one was just not feasible to solve within E-Business Suite itself. 

Architecture diagram showing failover of virtual server in an HA-enabled server pool

Virtualization Changes Things

In an conventional (non-virtualized) architecture, the failure of a specific application tier node would force a logout of all end-users with sessions on that particular node.  Any transactions that were mid-stream on that application tier node would have been lost.  On a virtualized platform, end-user sessions can be migrated from one machine to another without the end-user noticing. 

OVM's live migration feature has some requirements, including the need to have look-alike machines on same subnet.  These requirements are discussed in detail in:
Oracle VM also currently restarts the VM if the Virtual Machine Server fails, which would mean the end-user session does need to be restarted. We expect that these behaviors should improve over time.

In addition to the great live migration feature, OVM also has cloning functionality, which work seamlessly work if you use our EBS templates or virtualization kit.

Your Feedback is Welcome

This concludes my mini-series on virtualization and the E-Business Suite.  We're extremely interested in hearing about your use cases and your experiences with our new templates and virtualization kit.  Tell us what you think via our new OVM Templates discussion forum.

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Sunday Jan 17, 2010

Deploying E-Business Suite on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

[Editor: This is the fourth of a five-part series on virtualization and cloud topics from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group.]

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is the quintessential public cloud.  Oracle has partnered extensively with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and in this article I hope to clarify were we currently stand with using E-Business Suite on Amazon EC2.

Public Clouds can introduce uncertified stack additions in the virtualization layer (hypervisor, provisioning tools). They also introduce a lack of control over physical hardware: neither the end-customer nor Oracle has control of the hardware or the virtualization stack below the OS.  This is a new factor in the relationship between Oracle and its customers.


Amazon EC2 for non-production EBS environments

For the time being, the novelty of public clouds and the currently-low number of proof points means that we must initially take a prudent and cautious strategy for using Amazon EC2 to host E-Business Suite instances.

Since Amazon EC2 uses a virtualization engine that is not supported by Oracle and has not been certified with E-Business Suite, this environment is not supported for production usage of E-Business Suite.  Using Amazon EC2 for hosting E-Business Suite instances may be suitable for non-production instances such as demonstration instances, test environments, and development environments.

For non-production instances, Oracle will provide support for issues that reproduce on standard certified configurations.  Users will be directed to Amazon for any virtualization-related issues.

Four Reasons to use Amazon EC2 Features for E-Business Suite environments

  1. Virtual private cloud: VPN-based extension to the customer's intranet
  2. Elastic IPs: allow sticky IP addresses for persistent references between nodes
  3. Large file import service: for DBFs larger than 5 TB, it is better to ship them on 2TB disks to Amazon -- you could have your instance up in 4-5 days
  4. High-memory instance types: EBS needs higher memory-to-CPU ratios, and higher I/O bandwidth
We expect the future to bring more great functionality and even tighter integration between E-Business Suite and Amazon's web services. Stay tuned...

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Wednesday Jan 06, 2010

On Clouds and Virtualization in EBS Environments (OpenWorld 2009 Recap)

[Dec. 31, 2013 update: Note 465915.1 has been withdrawn.  Refer to the Certifications system on My Oracle Support for the latest certified combinations of EBS + Oracle VM]

[Editor: This is the third of a five-part series on virtualization and cloud topics from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group.]

In my two previous articles, we announced the availability of our EBS Oracle VM (OVM) templates, and then announced the availability of the EBS Virtualization Kit. So now let's go through some highlights from my OOW'09 presentation:


Q:  Why use virtualization?

To increase CPU utilization at the cost of more disk

This answer uncovers my roots in software performance.  Physical hardware resources are frequently sized for -- and locked into -- a particular configuration that might be sub-optimal for a project's overall lifecycle.  For example, during a single development cycle for a given project, the project's environment can go through a number of stages: preparation (patching, configuration, spot testing), broad testing (all hands, RT tools, consultants), and wrap-up (trailing issue resolution, spot testing).  The project's hardware was sized to accommodate the maximum load, despite the fact that the intensive testing period with a hundred testers would last only a few weeks.  In this case, the hardware would lie mostly-unused for the majority of the environment's life.

Another example is different environments being used in different time zones. Physical-world time-slicing is hard, as it's hard to capture all runtime components and their integrations' dependencies on other servers.  In the virtual world, shutdown, suspend, and startup actions are much faster and cleaner.

Of course, home-grown tools and manual optimization tries to compensate for some of this.  And they still fall short!  In the virtual world, moving resources is faster and easier.  It will spoil you -- you will feel as if you have more hardware.  And your customers will feel spoiled once you can quickly provision environments.

Q. What is a cloud?

A:  Virtual resource swarm present on your network, on somebody else's, or on the internet

Well, I did help with beekeeping a number of times, but that is not why I chose the word swarm.  I agree with Larry's view that we could have used other words like net, grid, cluster or cloud. Even the word swarm could be used, although it implies self-repairing, management, and intelligence.  I would argue that this is the direction we are heading.  But let me start with the basic properties people associate with clouds:
  • Utility pricing: pay as you go, per usage vs. per user or per cpu
  • Self service provisioning: easy and fast to get a resource
  • Self-preservation of resources:  the resource platform will worry about the little stuff like failover, system administration
Private clouds run on your own hardware, and public clouds run on someone else's hardware. 

Today's clouds are missing a lot of the "magic" features that one could dream up, but cloud infrastructure providers are starting to work on those.  My favorite missing feature:  integration automation and intelligence.  What good is a quickly-provisioned app if it is not integrated into the right identity management, business intelligence, workflow, or portal system? 

So even short of the future features, private or public clouds provide effective provisioning and resource-management platforms.

Q. What Virtualization Platform should I choose for E-Business Suite?

A. Funny you should ask: Oracle VM.

Oracle VM has been fully certified with EBS for 2 years. It's got a couple of things going for it: it is free, it is certified and optimized for Oracle products, and Oracle supports it. Here's the latest list of certified EBS releases and platforms:
  • Linux x86 32-bit
    • EBS 11.5.10 CU2 with 11i.ATG_PF.H.RUP5 (Patch 5473858) or later
    • EBS 12.0.2 (RUP2) or later (including 12.1)
  • Linux 64-bit - OEL 4 and RHEL 4 on x86-64
    • EBS 12.0.3 or later (including 12.1)
  • Linux 64-bit - OEL 5 and RHEL 5 on x86-64
    • EBS 12.0.4 or later (including 12.1)
  • Windows Server 2003 (32-bit) with PV driver v1.0.8 or higher
    • EBS 12.0.4 or later (including 12.1)
Listening to the Session

If you registered for OpenWorld, here's a link to the OpenWorld On Demand page where you can download the presentation or listen to the live recording of this session.

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Sunday Dec 20, 2009

Using Oracle VM with Oracle E-Business Suite Virtualization Kit

[Editor: This the second of a five-part series from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group, on virtualization and cloud topics]

As I've mentioned in the first article of this series, I do want to delve more deeply into topics from my OOW'09 E-Business Suite Virtualization Update presentation. Before I do that, I wanted to spend some time on our latest EBS 12.1.1 Oracle VM (OVM) Templates.

Rolling Your Own Apps Templates using Oracle VM

In addition to using our templates, customers might want to build their own templates. As most of you know, virtualization platforms like Oracle VM are just that -- platforms. They do not help you with anything inside the template, or if they do, it is a starting point template with OS e.g. OVM templates for Oracle Enterprise Linux, or a process/tool to create that OS starting point (JEOS = Just Enough Operating System, pronounce "juice").
Architecture diagram showing Oracle VM Manager + Oracle VM servers + server pool + storage devices
In any case, you proceed with your bare bones template to start a virtual machine (VM), mount your disk, install your E-Business Suite, and save your VM template. The end result is an image of machine with a set host name, IP,  E-Business Suite instance. As long as it is self-contained, i.e. both your database and middle tiers are installed and you have no external integration, you are OK, right?  It's not quite that simple, I'm afraid.

Multiple VMs May Have Naming and IP Collisions

If you want to bring up a number of these VMs from the same template, they will all think they are host x with IP y and EBS instance z. That might cause some problems with your network, or at least for the browser which needs to figure out how to connect to the right one of these instances...

If you want to do external integrations, e.g. break apart your EBS VM's into a database VM and middle tier VM, or add an external identity management system, portal, business intelligence, or whatever you fancy, well that is doable the first time for the first VM. For the next VM of that template, it might appear like that integration is already done. Hmmm....

When I brought down the first VM, did I want to keep it and its integrations around, or not?  Is my middle tier X supposed to work only with one database VM Y or some another database VM?

Initializing New Virtual Machines Upon First Startup

As you can see, virtualization platforms only provided the magic to create more "virtual" machines from one template. But you still need more magic: for starters, you want the to tell the VM its name and IP to initialize it when it boots from a template for the first time.  Luckily for both of us, the Oracle VM/Linux team supplies scripts for this magic.  Now, you realize that you really don't care about virtual machines, but virtual E-Business Suite instances. You need more magic to get the E-Business Suite instance to initialize on first boot.

We have created this magic (OK, it's just a couple of scripts), for our E-Business Suite templates, and are eager to share it with you via our E-Business Suite Virtualization Kit. The Virtualization Kit consists of documentation and scripts that help automate the desired behavior of OVM templates with E-Business Suite:
The Knowledge Document will give you a cookbook approach to building your own E-Business Suite template, and the patch delivers the magic sauce, I mean scripts.

Your Feedback is Welcome

We're extremely interested in hearing about your use cases and your experiences with our new E-Business Suite Virtualization Kit.  Tell us what you think via our new OVM Templates discussion forum.

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Friday Dec 11, 2009

E-Business Suite 12.1.1 Templates for Oracle VM Now Available

[Editor: This the the first of a five-part series from Ivo Dujmovic, an architect in our Applications Technology Integration group, on virtualization and cloud topics]

As you may have noticed, we have not yet done the recap of my OOW'09 E-Business Suite Virtualization Update presentation. The reason was twofold: we wanted to create a blog mini-series, for which this is the first article, and we wanted to publish that after we finished some development work. So without any further ado...

We are pleased to announce that Oracle VM templates for Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 are now available for download from Oracle E-Delivery.  Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions are available.  This virtual deployment package delivers a "quick start" for E-Business Suite 12.1.1 on Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.3.

Oracle VM template for Oracle E-business Suite 12.1.1 (64-bit and 32-bit) consists of two separate virtual machines:
    • Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 Vision Demo Database Tier
    • Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 Application Tier
The database tier virtual machine includes:
    • Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.3
    • Oracle Database
    • E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 Vision demo database with data
The applications tier virtual machine includes:
    • Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.3
    • Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.1 applications node
Not for Production Environments

These templates are designed for demonstration environments and other non-production purposes; they are not intended to be used for production environments.

E-Business Suite Resources
General Oracle VM Resources
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Tuesday Aug 04, 2009

Is It Safe to Use SANs for EBS R12 Instance Tops?

Our documentation about sharing filesystems between multiple Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 application servers recommends that you install the Instance Top (INST_TOP) on a local filesystem. This has prompted an interesting discussion about whether this is really mandatory, or whether it's technically feasible to put the Instance Top on, say, a dedicated fibre-attached SAN. 

Release 12 shared filesystem:

Our guidance on the INST_TOP being installed on a local file system is based on three major considerations:

  1. Separation of duties and security implications
  2. Impact of SAN performance on Apache
  3. Additional troubleshooting complexity

1. Separation of Duties & Security Implications

Our recommended configuration allows for different file system privileges and ownership between the Instance Top (INST_TOP) and the Code Top (ORACLE_HOMEs & APPL_TOP). This allows for the segregation of duties between administrators for the respective servers. Patching can be done on the Code Top by central system administrators who own the central shared portion of the file system. Instance Tops can be owned by instance sysadmins, who usually already own the CPU box with local storage.

Some instance-specific, run-time-generated files (e.g. reports, temp files) can include unencrypted data. Contrast those with database files (DBFs), which can be self-encrypted or contain encrypted data. Even with encrypted file system solution in place, there is less depth in defenses around some of the INST_TOP files.

2. Impact of SAN Performance on Apache

Apache performance is highly sensitive to mutex file access latency, and at higher loads is also sensitive to I/Os per second.  We tried using a central SAN for INST_TOPs in our internal EBS development environments but found the performance to be unacceptable.  However, not all SANs are created equal, and depending on the SAN, it might be good for even production use.

A very good article on this point is available from the SQLTeam web site:

3. Additional Troubleshooting Complexity

A network storage access problem can have a spectrum of symptoms, including performance slow downs and even as intermittent end-user session failures. Some of the affected code paths were made more resilient over the years, but we still prefer to err on the side of prudence and not potentially cause these (hard to diagnose) problems.

Your Mileage May Vary

All that said, you might decide that your testing of SAN performance demonstrates that its latency and I/O transaction throughput are good enough for your requirements. 

Our Support and Development teams will attempt to reproduce any reported issues in a multinode environment where the INST_TOPs are stored on a local filesystem.  If the issues are isolated to the external placement of the Instance Tops, our recommendations would be to either revert back to local storage, or to work with your SAN vendor to optimize the SAN's performance.


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Monday May 05, 2008

New Apps 11i AutoConfig + Templates Rollup Patch S Now Available

[June 18, 2008 Update: Mentioned the Oracle Diagnostics regression fix]

[May 6, 2008 Update: Clarified that Developer 6i patchset 18 was recommended in Jan2007 CPU]

[Editor's Note:  Ivo Dujmovic leads the hard-working Applications Technology Integration development team responsible for the E-Business Suite's technology stack and configuration management tools, including AutoConfig and its associated templates.  He's been providing deep technical guidance for this blog from the wings since its inception, so we're very lucky to have his direct contributions for this particular announcement.  I'm skipping the customary introductory article for him in the interest of getting this article published quickly, but we'll get a proper public welcome out for him soon.]

The latest TXK Rollup Patch S (Patch 6372396) is now released and is generally available for download from Oracle Metalink. The official name for this patch is:

TXK Rollup S: Screenshot of Metalink download page for TXK AutoConfig and Templates Rollup Patch S (APRIL/MAY 2008, Patch 6372396)

What's Included

This Rollup patch is cumulative:  it includes all E-Business Suite technology stack configuration fixes that we've previously released either individually or in patch sets such as  TXK Autoconfig Rollup Patch R (October/November 2007) and TXK AutoConfig Rollup Patch Q (Jul/Aug 2007).

But that's not all!  For completeness we have also added TXK Advanced Utilities Rollup Patch C (APRIL 2006) and other subsequent fixes in this area.

For more details about this patch's contents, see the README.  In the near future, we will also publish a couple of separate blog articles on the new features we are introducing.

Additional New Prerequisites

In addition to previous Oracle Home technology stack prerequisites (identified at patch-time via txkprepatchcheck utility), we have picked up a new ORACLE_HOME dependency on:

In the APPL_TOP, we picked up dependencies on fairly old and well-adopted rollups:

We know that part of the reason why our TXK RUPs enjoy such high adoption rates (thousands of downloads per quarter) is that they are self-contained. At this point in time, we have decided that taking up a wider set of well-adopted dependencies is a minimal price to pay for providing customers with all the latest technology configuration management functionality.

Please tell us if you find these additional requirements burdensome!

News:  TXK RUP S conflicts with Oracle
Diagnostics, introducing bug:


If you use Oracle Diagnostics, please apply the patch for bug 7126196.


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