Database Appliance for the Masses

Sep 21, 2011 / By Gwen Shapira

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In early 2005 I worked for an SQL Server and Windows shop that wanted to transition to Linux and Oracle for the improved high availablity and scalability. We had exactly one SA who knew Linux, two SQL Server DBAs and one database developer.

The new manager of the DBA team also wanted to go for RAC.

We knew we didn’t have the necessary expertise, so after discussing with Oracle’s sales team, we decided to get a consultant to install it for us.

A week of consultant work later, countless of server re-provisions, and we still didn’t have a working RAC.
Not the consultant’s fault, but at the time Oracle’s RAC installation was both very senstivite to OS and HW configuration, and wasn’t very good at detecting problems and notifying the users. It also wasn’t easy to uninstall and re-install. Mix that with a team that has no experience with the underlying OS, and you have a guaranteed disaster.
Our SAs simply couldn’t understand and implement the installation requirements, and the DBA team couldn’t communicate this to them very well.

Fast forward six years:

I’m an experienced Oracle DBA, I have lots of Linux experience and scores of RAC installations under my belt. I also work for one of the best and more experienced RAC teams in the world.
So when a customer asked how long it will take to install 2-node RAC, we answered “2 hours”.

It took over 30 hours.

We are experienced, but we had no root access and we had significant problems communicating the requirements to the customer’s SAs and getting them to follow them exactly. Once again, many subtle network and OS issues are not easy to troubleshoot and get right. It doesn’t matter where you point the finger, fact is that RAC can be awesome, but you really need the right team of DBAs and SAs working together to get it right.

Which is why I’m very excited about Oracle’s latest announcement: The Database Appliance. Basically RAC in a box. No need to talk to the SAs after they plug it in the datacenter. I wish they had this 5 years ago!

Now, I’ve had a chance to check its configuration, and not everything there is configured the way I would. I’m pretty sure that I could get better performance out of this box by tuning memory a bit differently and using SSDs differently. But all those improvements depend on the specific requirements of the applications we’ll run on the box.

And thats just the point – if you want to get started with RAC, you can start using this box right away, without 30 hours of consulting. There is no need to get into complex OS and DB configurations if you don’t need it yet. Of course, if you need extra performance kick, you will still want to hire experts and custom-tune your system.

Pretty attractive addition to Oracle’s hardware line.

Personal request though: Don’t call this Exadata! It doesn’t have storage cells, hybrid columnar compression, smart scans and Exadatab flash cache. Its RAC-in-a-box, which is totally awesome for its own thing. If you have large datawarehouse workload (AKA big-data), you still want Exadata for the smart software.

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