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UKOUG 2008 was a blast

It flew by so fast I didn't feel like wasting my time blogging about it last week. I don't know how the other guys do it, but I had too much fun with other things.

I could give you a detailed description of all the sessions I followed but that would be rather dull Wink

In my opinion there were a couple trends emerging:

1.       The rise of Oracle VM

I think this will be one of the biggest things in the near future. It’s a no brainer. Companies are already in love with VMWare – however, anyone who has half a brain will never run an Oracle production database on it, as the combo is simply not certified. In fact, according to metalink note 249212.1, Oracle has not certified any of its products on a VMWare virtualized environment. Oracle support will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not be as a result of running on VMWare.

This is where Oracle VM comes in. Oracle VM is basically Xen … however, it seems Oracle tweaked it a bit. I was talking to one of the guys from CERN and they have intensely tested Oracle VM and their benchmark had shown that Oracle VM is up to 20% faster than Xen running Oracle RDBMS. And Xen was already faster than VMWare as VMWare uses a propriety hypervisor and Xen’s hypervisor is based around the linux kernel so to speak.

Now what we’re seeing is that Intel (and also AMD) is coming out with specialized chipsets that enables Xen (or Oracle VM) to make use of hardware assisted virtualization (as opposed to paravirtualisation).  Intel with its intel VT-x & AMD with its AMD V-series chipsetsThis allows for pagetable mappings being done in hardware as well as direct access to io devices by dma and interrupt remapping assisted by the hardware. I don’t want to throw some numbers around here, but word on the street is that the difference of running the rdbms in OracleVM or native is as low as 5% …. Which is really, really good I think.

 Hmmm … they’re not at par with IBM’s LPAR technology yet, but sure enough… this gives us serious opportunities for using virtualization on commodity hardware. Especially because ‘some’ Oracle products are already certified on OracleVM. There’s even a certified combo of RAC-OracleVM (ok – it’s only a 32bit on OEL5.1 in paravirtualized mode with limitations… but it’s certified! See ML 464754.1) – and that will never ever happen with VMWare !

With quad core intel processors becoming the norm on the market, you could do things like :

-          Two 2way quad core intel boxes (8cores)

-          4 cores (oh – OracleVM supports hardpartitioning … which is license friendly !) for running an Oracle RDBMS VM

-          1 core for an Oracle IAS Infractructur VM

-          2 VM’s with 2 cores each for IAS midtiers

-          2 VM’s with 1 core each for linux based load balancer using LVIPS/hartbeat/Ldirector

-          Use the ability to migrate a VM for HA !

-          And still have room left to scale vertically ...

-          And the ability to migrate easily to new hardware when the old one is decommissioned

Oh – when I was talking to one of the CERN guys, he told me they had tested the live migration of a VM running a single instance database and it did actually work … with an interruption of 3seconds. Very cool and exciting stuff.

Anyway … we’ll be decommissioning some hardware next year and we’ll probably be migrating some Oracle IAS midtiers away from IBM LPARs to OracleVM’s on intel.

Be sure to have a look at Julian Dyke's paper on OracleVM.


2.       The merge of IAS10g & BEA application server into 11g

Another thing you couldn’t get around was BEA’s technology and how Oracle would all merge it in IAS 11g…. or what would be dropped. Some things will come from IAS10g, some technologies will come from BEA. The J2EE server will be Weblogic’s – which is pretty much a no-brainer…

This has some consequences tho … one of them is, opmn and dcm will disappear (as well performance monitoring tools like for example dmstool). Opmn will be replaced by the node manager. However – if you’re using Forms 11g (or discoverer or reports … anyway … the old stuff everybody is using ;-) ) … IAS11g still comes with opmn just for that !

What’s more – and this is hilarious (well – it would be if we didn’t have so much invested in it) – if you are using Forms or Portal in combination with Oracle SSO, you will need an IAS10g infrastructure as well as the complete IAS11g stack. Hmmm …  so far for seamless integration. I don’t know what the deal is about SSO … as far as I can see it’s just a J2EE application that needs access to an LDAP directory (like OID). So I reckon you should be able to deploy it in WLS ? Maybe I’m missing something here… well OK … you need Apache1.3 and mod_osso too … but that’s  available on IAS11g…

Oh – the good news is that IAS11gR1 will come with all the wizards and migrate assistants necessary to migrate your good ol’ IAS10g to 11gR1. (you’ll need to be on Forms 10.1.2.x to migrate to 11gR1).

Anyway – throughout all the noise I noted down we’ll be using IAS10g for a long time to come … and I’ll be looking forward to 11gR2.

3.       ASM

Quite a lot of talk about Automatic Storage Manager or ASM. CERN is storing 550Tb on it … it’s the de facto choice for running RAC. And a lot of the talks were about ASM internals, performance and rebalancing. One I didn’t want to miss for sure was Julian Dyke’s presentation on ASM internals. I’m a big fan of Julian’s presentations as they are very visual. They have a lot of animations in it and if you’ve ever made extensive use of PowerPoint’s custom animations, you might have some idea of how much time he invests in creating his slides… I’m thinking in ‘weeks’ here!

One interesting fact you will learn from watching his animations is the amount of IO that is involved in rebalancing disks when a disk is added. I believe this was also mentioned in the CERN presentation. Just look at Julian’s work and it will become clear…

One of the sessions gave us an overview of ASM and ZFS. I don’t really see all that many benefits running an Oracle RDBMS on ZFS because (a) it doesn’t support direct IO, (b) it doesn’t support async io and (c) because ASM is more widespread and on more diverse platforms it will shed all possible bugs more quickly. There were other issues too, which were pointed out by Harald Van Breederode regarding extending datafiles on zfs in combination with instance crashes at which case you would end with corruption and at that point Oracle will happily refer you to the ZFS team to fix it. Good luck with that Wink


I almost forgot to mention that I did a presentation myself. Adventures using advanced queueing in our retailing solution… this was based on a presentation I did in Brussels earlier this year. And originally it was a more business oriented presentation. I was quite surprised it got selected for the UKOUG – so I altered it to be more technical and more case oriented. It starts out high level by setting the scene of the retailing business. Then, it goes deeper in the architecture of a case, and finally comes to some of the problems we’ve encountered. I think I should have focused more on the problems and less on the business side. I also should have left ‘retail’ out of the title Wink

Anyway – the people who did show up, asked some good questions. One question was like ‘do your queue’s ever  stop queueing’ – and my immediate response was ‘no – to my own surprise – we never have that problem although in the Oracle  8.x days we had it a lot’ … afterwards I realized that this was not entirely true as we did have some queueing ‘stops’, if you wish, early on when there was a network failure to one of the remote queue’s … and we do have the occasional orphaned spinning job queue process that we have to kill. But since we’re on release this baby spins like a kitten.

Apart from all the technical content, UKOUG is a good place to meet old and new friends. So I met up with Doug Burns, Daniel Fink, Marco Gralike … oh and I’ve finally met Paul Vallee, who’s one of the coolest dude’s out there. Dan gave me his presentation ‘Never a dul moment’ which he did for RMOUG last month which looked really good. This year there also was an Oaktable setup – however, I only stumbled on it by accident when I was looking for a place to sit down to finish my lunch. I only knew it was the Oaktable as Mogens Norgaard was stuck to it  

I also made some new friends on Birmingham’s Christmas market – kids with hoodies high on drugs. (I reckon they were around 18y of age... or at least old enough to drink!). At one point we went to the market at around 7PM and when we crossed some kids, one of them hit me in the face for no reason. I still had my hands in my pockets so I couldn’t react, and thus his fist came on hard. I guess he was bored or he probably had one pill too many. He also made the mistake that he hit me as I’m 210lbs and I don’t believe in turning the other cheek. And I was bored too – so I immediately ran after him and knocked him down, jumped on him, strategically placing one knee in his ribs and one in his neck. I was almost starting to have fun until 2 of his buddies jumped on me from behind. So my posse and his posse came to a clash and it ended when police in civilian came between us, at which point the ‘other team’ ran away.  Some people were gathering around us now – it almost seemed like some elderly people were glad some these kids got disciplined in their own way. The police asked me if we wanted to press charges – which we didn’t because nothing was broken, nor was anything stolen… I did have a swollen eye and I was bleeding a bit, both nothing serious. I reckon that I did more damage to that other guy then he did me, which made me even more certain not to press charges as police might even arrest me ;-) And these kids nowadays – they laugh the police in the face – they do something stupid, get arrested, but as they are minor, they get off with a warning or whatever and are back on the street an hour later … what’s the point of that ? At least now they got what they deserved and I didn’t have to fill in loads of papers. I wasn’t sure I would mention this in the blog as it might reflect badly on the UKOUG, but it might as well happened in any other city in the world. Ironically, Thomas Presslie warned us just an hour before – watch out for kids with hoodies… I should have listened more carefully ;-)

Anyway – It made for a good introduction for my presentation as I had to somehow explain the black eye Cool

UKOUG 2008 was another great event. Sometimes people asked me - which one is better UKOUG or OOW. And I always answer - UKOUG by far.

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