Archive for the 'Oracle ASM' Category

Databases are the Contents of Storage. Future Oracle DBAs Can Administer More. Why Would They Want To?

I’ve taken the following quote from this Oracle whitepaper about low cost storage:

A Database Storage Grid does not depend on flawless execution from its component storage arrays. Instead, it is designed to tolerate the failure of individual storage arrays.

In spite of the fact that the Resilient Low-Cost Storage Initiative program was decommissioned along with the Oracle Storage Compatability Program, the concepts discussed in that paper should be treated as a barometer of the future of storage for Oracle databases-with two exceptions: 1) Fibre Channel is not the future and 2) there’s more to “the database” than just the database. What do I mean by point 2? Well, with features like SecureFiles, we aren’t just talking rows and columns any more and I doubt (but I don’t know) that SecureFiles is the end of that trend.

Future Oracle DBAs
Oracle DBAs of the future become even more critical to the enterprise since the current “stove-pipe” style IT organization will invariably change. In today’s IT shop, the application team talks to the DBA team who talks to the Sys Admin team who tlks to the Storage Admin team. All this to get an application to store data on disk through a Oracle database. I think that will be the model that remains for lightly-featured products like MySQL and SQL Server, but Oracle aims for more. Yes, I’m only whetting your appetite but I will flesh out this topic over time. Here’s food for thought: Oracle DBAs should stop thinking their role in the model stops at the contents of the storage.

So while Chen Shapira may be worried that DBAs will get obviated, I’d predict instead that Oracle technology will become more full-featured at the storage level. Unlike the stock market where past performance is no indicator of future performance, Oracle has consistently brought to market features that were once considered too “low-level” to be in the domain of a Database vendor.

The IT industry is going through consolidation. I think we’ll see Enterprise-level IT roles go through some consolidation over time as well. DBAs who can wear more than “one hat” will be more valuable to the enterprise. Instead of thinking about “encroachment” from the low-end database products, think about your increased value proposition with Oracle features that enable this consolidation of IT roles-that is, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Believe me, my positions on Fibre Channel have prompted some fairly vile emails in my inbox-especially the posts in my Manly Man SAN series. Folks, I don’t “have it out”, as they say, for the role of Storage Administrators. I just believe that the Oracle DBAs of today are on the cusp of being in control of more of the stack. Like I said, it seems today’s DBA responsibilities stop at the contents of the storage-a role that fits the Fibre Channel paradigm quite well, but a role that makes little sense to me. I think Oracle DBAs are capable of more and will have more success when they have more control. Having said that, I encourage any of you DBAs who would love to be in more control of the storage to look at my my post about the recent SAN-free Oracle Data Warehouse. Read that post and give considerable thought to the model it discusses. And give even more consideration to the cost savings it yields.

The Voices in My Head
Now my alter ego (who is a DBA, whereas I’m not) is asking, “Why would I want more control at the storage level?” I’ll try to answer him in blog posts, but perhaps some of you DBAs can share experiences where performance or availability problems were further exacerbated by finger pointing between you and the Storage Administration group.

Note to Storage Administrators
Please, please, do not fill my email box with vitriolic messages about the harmony today’s typical stove-pipe IT organization creates. I’m not here to start battles.

Let me share a thought that might help this whole thread make more sense. Let’s recall the days when an Oracle DBA and a System Administrator together (yet alone) were able to provide Oracle Database connectivity and processing for thousands of users without ever talking to a “Storage Group.” Do you folks remember when that was? I do. It was the days of Direct Attach Storage (DAS). The problem with that model was that it only took until about the late 1990s to run out of connectivity-enter the Fibre Channel SAN. And since SANs are spokes attached to hubs of storage systems (SAN arrays), we wound up with a level of indirection between the Oracle server and its blocks on disk. Perhaps there are still some power DBAs that remember how life was with large numbers of DAS drives (hundreds). Perhaps they’ll recall the level of control they had back then. On the other hand, perhaps I’m going insane, but riddle me this (and feel free to quote me elsewhere):

Why is it that the industry needed SANs to get more than a few hundred disks attached to a high-end Oracle system in the late 1990s and yet today’s Oracle databases often reside on LUNs comprised of a handful of drives in a SAN?

The very thought of that twist of fate makes me feel like a fish flopping around on a hot sidewalk. Do you remember my post about capacity versus spindles? Oh, right, SAN cache makes that all better. Uh huh.

Am I saying the future is DAS? No. Can I tell you now exactly what model I’m alluding to? Not yet, but I enjoy putting out a little food for thought.

The Decommissioning of the Oracle Storage Certification Program

I’ve known about this since December 2006, but since the cat is out of the proverbial bag, I can finally blog about it.

Oracle has taken another step to break down Oracle-over-NFS adoption barriers. In the early days of Oracle supporting deployments of Oracle over NFS, the Oracle Storage Compatibility Program (OSCP) played a crucial role in ensuring a particular NAS device was suited to the needs of an Oracle database. Back then the model was immature but a lot has changed since then. In short, if you are using Oracle over NFS, storage-related failure analysis is as straight-forward as it is with a SAN. That is, it takes Oracle about the same amount of time to determine fault is in the storage—downwind of their software—with either architecture. To that end, Oracle has announced the decommissioning of the Oracle Storage Compatibility Program. The URL for the OSCP (click here , or here for a a copy of the web page in the Wayback Machine) states the following (typos preserved):

At this time Oracle believes that these three specialized storage technologies are well understood by the customers, are very mature, and the Oracle technology requirements are well know. As of January, 2007, Oracle will no longer validate these products. We thank our partners for their contributions to the OSCP.

Lack of Choice Does Not Enable Success
It will be good for Oracle shops to have even more options to choose from when selecting a NAS-provider as an Oracle over NFS platform.  I look forward to other players to emerge on the scene. This is not just Network Appliance’s party by any means. Although I don’t have first-hand experience, I’ve been told that the BlueArc Titan product is a very formidable platform for Oracle over NFS—but it should come as no surprise that I am opposed to vendor lock-in.

Oracle Over NFS—The Demise of the Fibre Channel SAN
That seems to be the conclusion people draw when Oracle over NFS comes up. That is not the case, so your massive investment in SAN infrastructure was not a poor choice. It was the best thing going at the time. If you have a formidable SAN, you would naturally use a SAN-gateway to preserve your SAN investment while reducing the direct SAN connectivity headaches. In this model deploying another commodity server is as simple as plugging in Cat 5 cabling, and mounting an exported NFS filesystem from the SAN gateway. No raw partitions to fiddle with on the commodity server, no LUNs to carve out on the SAN and most importantly, no FCP connectivity overhead. All the while, the data is stored in the SAN so your existing backup strategy applies. This model works for Linux, Solaris, HPUX, AIX.

Oracle over NFS—Who Needs It Anyway?
The commodity computing paradigm is so drastically different than the central server approach we grew to know in the 1990s. You know, one or two huge servers connected to DAS or a SAN. It is very simple to run that little orange cabling from a single cabinet to a couple of switches. These days people throw around terms like grid without ever actually drawing a storage connectivity schematic. Oracle’s concept of a grid is, of course, a huge Real Application Clusters database spread out over a large number of commodity servers. Have you ever tried to build one with a Fibre Channel SAN? I’m not talking about those cases where you meet someone at an Oracle User Group that refers to his 3 clustered Linux servers running RAC as a grid. Oh how I hate that! I’m talking about connecting, say, 50,100 or 250 servers all running Oracle—some RAC, but mostly not—to a SAN. I’m talking about commodity computing in the Enterprise—but the model I’m discussing is so compelling it should warrant consideration from even the guy with the 3-node “grid”. I’m talking, again, about Oracle over NFS—the simplest connectivity and storage provisioning model available for Oracle in the commodity computing paradigm.

Storage Connectivity and Provisioning
Providing redundant storage paths for large numbers of commodity servers with Fibre Channel is too complex and too expensive. Many IT shops are spending more than the cost of each server to provide redundant SAN storage paths since each server needs 2 Host Bus Adaptors (or a dual port HBA) and 2 ports in large Director-class switches (at approximately USD $4,000 per). These same servers are also fitted with Gigabit Ethernet. How many connectivity models do you want to deal with? Settle on NFS for Oracle and stick with bonded Gigabit Ethernet as the connectivity model—very simple! With the decommissioning of the OSCP, Oracle is making the clear statement that Oracle over NFS is no longer an edge-case deployment model. I’d recommend giving it some thought.


I work for Amazon Web Services. The opinions I share in this blog are my own. I'm *not* communicating as a spokesperson for Amazon. In other words, I work at Amazon, but this is my own opinion.

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All content is © Kevin Closson and "Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage", 2006-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Closson and Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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