Home > Business Critical Applications, VMware > 10 Reasons to Migrate Oracle Databases from Traditional Unix to Linux on vSphere

10 Reasons to Migrate Oracle Databases from Traditional Unix to Linux on vSphere

This article provides an overview of what I believe are 10 good reasons why you should seriously consider migrating Oracle Databases off traditional Unix platforms to VMware vSphere based on my experience managing, designing and implementing such projects.

Here is my top 10 list. I’d be interested to get your feedback and thoughts on what other reasons are your key drivers for considering a migration to Linux on vSphere.

  1. Make more efficient use of existing Oracle licenses while still providing required SLA’s. The enterprise class features of vSphere such as Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), VMware HA, resource pools, CPU and Memory reservations, Storage IO Control, and Network IO Control make it possible to get the most efficient resource usage and therefore license usage without sacrificing SLA’s for critical systems. Reduce risks of noisy neighbor and denial of service conditions without the need for hard partitioning. Simple resource isolation between VM’s with reduced management overheads. Efficiency gains will likely result in substantial maintenance or license cost savings. A good reference is the Forrester report Total Economic Impact of Virtualizing Oracle on vSphere.
  2. Enterprise Support, VMware and Oracle fully support virtualized Oracle Databases, even Oracle RAC (Since Nov 2010 on vSphere 4.x and only version and above) on vSphere provided it is implemented on a supported operating system. For Oracle’s VMware support statement Refer to document ID #249212.1, available on MyOracleSupport.com. Under the VMware Extended Support Policy for Oracle Databases VMware Technical Support will take total ownership of any Oracle Database problems reported to them, well as providing access to a team of Oracle DBA resources, and working with Oracle support until resolution.
  3. Hardware independence and much simpler more auditable and consistent DR. Because a virtual machine is encapsulated in a small number of files it is runnable on any hardware platform that vSphere is supported on. With Site Recovery Manager the recovery process in a DR event can be simplified and orchestrated in a consistent run book that removes human error, allows for non-disruptive testing of DR procedures and provides an audit report that can be used for DR compliance reporting. No need to have identical or the same amount of hardware at the product and DR sites.
  4. Avoid planned downtime and allow Non-disruptive hardware maintenance. VMware vMotion and DRS allow for VM’s to be automatically evacuated from hosts that need to undergo maintenance (using Maintenance Mode) without any disruption or loss of service. vSphere 5 allows the fastest evacuation and live migrations from hosts by using multiple NIC’s (up to 4 x 10G or 16 x 1G) and up to 8 concurrent migration operations.
  5. Simplify server refresh cycles and provide Non-disruptive performance scalability. Again using VMware vMotion and DRS you can add new faster hosts to a new or existing cluster of hosts and non-disruptively migrate the VM’s in order to take advantage of the improved performance immediately. Old servers can be quickly and easily evacuated using Maintenance Mode and then replaced after all the VM’s are moved to the new servers. Use hot add to add CPU’s, Memory, NIC’s and Disks to a live running VM without disruption to take advantage of more hardware resources in the newer hosts.
  6. Better than native OS on physical High Availability, even for Oracle RAC. VMware HA protects individual VM’s from hardware failure and automatically restarts them on a surviving host within the VMware Cluster. Traditionally if a RAC node failed it would require the hardware to be replaced before coming back into service. With VMware HA the RAC Node is automatically restarted on a surviving VMware Host and the services (and protection level) continues much faster while the failed server is repaired. No longer need to provision N+1 nodes in an individual RAC Cluster. VMware HA VM Monitoring with App HA can automatically restart application services within a VM if a failure is detected at a app service or process level.
  7. Rapid provisioning. A new database server or RAC node can be provisioned from a template in minutes, and entire RAC cluster can be built from templates in less than 2 hours. The provisioning of new servers from template can be automated to include the installation and configuration of the database software and automated addition of nodes to RAC cluster.
  8. Reduced database and application maintenance headaches. Can run multiple OS instances and multiple RAC Clusters on the same group of hosts without significant additional management overheads. This may allow dedicated DB’s for some applications reducing the effort and complexity of database maintenance planning and approval processes during required DB and app maintenance and upgrades. Development and test systems can be much more representative of production at a much lower cost and this can greatly improve the reliability and reduce the cost development and testing, including database and application maintenance.
  9. Enhanced Performance, Operations Management and Application Insight with reduced troubleshooting time. Customers I have worked with have experienced up to 5x or more improvement in performance post migration in a properly designed and implemented vSphere environment compared to their traditional Unix platforms as measured by DB transaction latency and infrastructure metric data. VMware vCenter, vCenter Operations Manager and VMware Application Performance Management Suite provide detailed availability monitoring, capacity planning, early event warning, and in depth performance monitoring and analysis (down to DB and App transaction by transaction). VMware vCenter and vCenter Operations provide the detailed performance, event, availability statistics and capacity planning. VMware AppInsight and vFabric Hyperic (part of the Application Performance Management Suite) provide the in depth application analytics down to transaction by transaction details. AppInsight can be used as part of the tool-set to baseline the performance of the existing physical database server environment from and end user and DB transaction performance perspective that can then be directly compared to the virtualized system during initial performance testing and post migration.
  10. Robust enterprise class security, compliance auditing and reporting. vSphere 4.x and 5.0 has achieved EAL4+ Common Criteria certification. In addition to the base platform being highly secure the vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) has a small attack surface and reduced patching requirements. vCenter Configuration Manager provides automated security hardening and security baseline comparison for the vSphere Infrastructure, and virtual machine Guest OS in addition to configuration and change reporting, and security and change compliance auditing and reporting. The vShield suite offers additional level of protection with embedded hypervisor based traffic inspection (vShield App), perimeter protection (vShield Edge). vShield App  protects against unauthorized traffic flows even between VM’s on the same subnet and VLAN. vShield Edge can provide perimeter protection including  Firewalling, NAT, and DHCP services to physical and virtual systems in addition to Cross Site IPSEC VPN termination.

Although not in the top 10 list something worth considering is that you are entitled to use an unlimited number of virtualzed Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 11 SP1 instances and receive patches as part of your vSphere licenses as part of an OEM agreement that VMware has with Novell. There is a fee per physical ESXi host if you wish to add phone support. See the VMware Suse Linux Enterprise Server for VMware site for details.

For additional information on virtualizing Oracle visit my Oracle Page.

This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com, by Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.

  1. June 20, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Even faster when virtualised on Fusion-io. Fusion-io is great for consolidation and speed. We ran Oracle that was on 2 racks natively on 2 x 1 RU servers and it was 6x faster.

  2. June 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Hey Michael, another nice post and good timing for me 🙂 In your experience of moving Oracle off UNIX onto Linux, what Linux are customers choosing? You mention Suse (nice, didn’t know about entitled use) but are people using this over say RHEL or Oracle Linux?

    • June 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Richard, most people don’t know about the SLES entitlement. The most popular destination OS by far is RHEL.

    • August 1, 2012 at 5:33 am

      Hello Richard,
      Since July 10th, I recently benefited from discussions with Oracle experts in professional services organizations for (possibly) unbiased view of what Linux to deploy.

      First a Summary of Choices:
      (1) Redhat RHEL 6 – has paravirtualization, same kernel as Oracle Linux 6, no ASMLib. But RAC and ASM are supported by Oracle on RHEL 6.
      (2) Oracle Linux 6 – stripped RHEL kernel (no PV drivers) supposedly to benefit Oracle VM benchmarks over virtualization competitors to Oracle, but I haven’t seen any follow-up / results to back that up. Obviously, ASMlib is part of UEK 6 with Oracle Linux 6
      (3) Hybrid: Pay for both Oracle Linux support and Red Hat Linux support and you can combine a Oracle UEK6 kernel with ASMLib with your RHEL 6 environment
      (4) RHEL 5.4 with ASMlib — up to recently – deployments of Oracle appeared to be split between RHEL 5.4 and 5.6.
      (5) RHEL 5.6 with ASMlib – see above comment on choice (4)
      (6) RHEL 5.7 with ASMlib – latest RHEL with “no problems with ASMlib”
      (7) RHEL 5.8 with ASMlib — however — some reports of “ASM issues”

      Decisions, decisions:
      From multiple Oracle consulting sources, many large enterprise accounts are not moving to Oracle Linux 6 or RHEL 6 just yet. I actually received feedback that Oracle’s marketing choice may backfire against a migration of Oracel ASM accounts to Oracle.

      Many shops remain on RHEL 5.x and have chosen to move to a recommendation of RedHat 5.7 with ASMlib for new deployments.


      In the VMware space, if relevant to your shop, the recommendation is overwhelmingly to move to latest vSphere 5.0-Update1 or later to gain inherient hypervisor performance although those that stayed with VMware vSphere ESXi vSphere 4.1 Update 2 / latest patch have no complaints.

      Another issue that plagued me was whether to even consider using RDM (raw device mapping) or VMFS. With physical servers, the decision was easy – map your SAN LUN to a physical machine running a native OS and its dedicated. With VMware, you can have multiple VMDKs on a single LUN. That gets more complicated for Oracle storage layouts. The trick is to know where sequential I/O will occur and then dedicated a single VMDK for Oracle to a single LUN. That gives your the traditional benefits of RDM (other than ease of converting VM to a physical host) and you overwhelmingly benefit from Storage vMotion, etc which I consider more important.

      The reason I bring that up is because the same kernel that Redhat and Oracle Linux use no longer supports /dev/raw anything and you either play with “udev” etc to have your drives mounted , etc.

      I think the combination of proper storage planning for Oracle VMs; separation of Redo logs, Ora data, Flash recovery area, and even Temp space; and
      using a dedicated LUN where sequential I/O is a performance requirement will give you the most that Linux, your server, storage network and SAN can deliver.

      More than Linux question
      I recently found this blogger last week and there is exceptional information here on a lot of the blogs that confirmed or gave examples to help my decision making for our Oracle environment decisions — Oracle is the last non virtual environment in our shop.

      Not sure about tiered storage pools yet, but we’re going to start with testing enhancing native array cache with SSD (200GB to 400GB) since most of our data warehouse I/O operations are below 128KB and should fit the extended cache. That will allow our many small I/O operations from OLTP to fit into the native array cache (64GB or less) and we should see top performance on our Oracle on a Linux VM servers.

      All the best,
      Larry T.

      • August 1, 2012 at 7:42 am

        Hi Larry,

        Thanks for the great comment. There is some really useful info there. One thing you should seriously consider is adding FusionIO and IOTurbine into the mix. It’ll depend on the version of hypervisor you’re running which version of IOTurbine etc you need. I’m currently testing Beta that works with Linux and vSphere 5. I will be posting a separate article about this. On a pure IO side using the FisionIO card as a datastore I was able to get over 100K 8KB IO’s at 2ms latency 100% random either read or write. So that’s not bad especially when comparing the price of even the 1.2TB IODrive2 card I’ve got vs a SAN upgrade. Using IOTurbine the VM’s can still be vMotioned, it just offloads read IO caching from the SAN / OS to the FusionIO card, writes are passed through to storage to ensure data integrity, but still retained in cache. It might not be for you, but it’s worth a look and checking it out at least.

        On the sequential vs random IO front and whether or not to use a single datastore for a single VMDK, it’ll come down to how best your storage handles the IO. Many storage arrays are optimized for random IO and not sequential. So depending on your storage it might pay to have multiple VMDK’s on the same datastore in that case. You can also get better IO and storage utilization by grouping low IO consumers with higher IO consumers (OS VMDK with Redo VMDK like I did in an example). You also need to watch the queue depths and how much each device can handle. If you’ve set your queue depth to 64 and you’ve only got a single VMDK on a datastore then it’s not going to use the full queue depth that is available. But a lot of care is needed as you don’t want to overload your storage processor queues. The database is an extension of storage so an in depth understanding of your storage environment is required in order to get the best possible performance and assure SLA’s are met.

        I haven’t yet posted anything on ASM, but I hope to at some stage. I do have some slides on it at my VMworld 2012 presentation Virtualizing Oracle: An Architectural and Performance Deep Dive – APP-BCA1624.

  3. Timbo
    June 21, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Hey Mike. Regarding your first point. Here is a good Forrester paper on the Total Economic Impact of virtualizing Oracle on vSphere. http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/solutions/total-economic-impact-of-vmware-vsphere-oracle-database.pdf

  4. June 27, 2012 at 1:16 am

    I would say “For Those About to RAC We Salute You” 😀
    Nice post.

  1. July 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm
  2. July 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm
  3. September 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm

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