Tales from the past – Disaster Recovery testing

A long time ago in a datacenter far, far away….

Turmoil has engulfed the IT landscape. Within the newly formed digital universe,
corporate empires are becoming more and more
dependent on their digital data and computer systems.
To avoid downtime when getting hit by an evil strike, the corporations are
starting to build disaster recovery capabilities in their operational architectures.

While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates whether
the high cost of decent recovery methods is justified,
the Supreme CIO Chancellor has secretly dispatched a Jedi Apprentice,
one of the guardians of reliability and availability,
to validate existing recovery plans…

Another story from my days as UNIX engineer in the late nineties. I obfuscated all company or people names to protect their reputation or disclose sensitive information, but former colleagues might recognize parts of the stories or maybe everything. Also, some of it is a long time ago and I cannot be sure all I say is factually correct. The human memory is notoriously unreliable.

oobsignIn those days, our company was still relying on tape backup as the only Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. The main datacenter had a bunch of large tape silos, where, on a daily basis, trays of tapes were unloaded, packed and labeled in a small but strong suitcase, and sent to an off-site location (Pickup Truck Access Method) so the invaluable data could be salvaged in case our entire datacenter would go up in flames.

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Introducing Outrun for Oracle

Overview

outrun-logo-transparentIf you want to get your hands dirty with Oracle database, the first thing you have to do is build a system that actually runs Oracle database. Unless you have done that several times before, chances are that this will take considerable time spent on trial-and-error, several reinstalls, fixing install problems and dependencies and so on. The time it takes for someone who is reasonably experienced on Linux, but has no prior Oracle knowledge, would probably range from a full working day (8 hours, best case) to many days. I also have witnessed people actually giving up.

Even for experienced users, doing the whole process manually over and over again is very time consuming, and deploying five or more systems by hand is a guarantee that each one of them is slightly different – and thus a candidate for subtle problems that happen on one but not the others. Virtualization and consolidation is all about consistency and making many components as if they were only one.

There are literally dozens of web pages (such as blog posts) that contain detailed instructions on how to set up Oracle on a certain platform. Some examples:

The Gruff DBA – Oracle 12cR1 12.1.0.1 2-node RAC on CentOS 6.4 on VMware Workstation 9 – Introduction
Pythian – How to Install Oracle 12c RAC: A Step-by-Step Guide
Martin Bach – Installing Oracle 12.1.0.2 RAC on Oracle Linux 7-part 1

Even if you follow the guidelines in such articles, you are likely to run into problems due to running a different OS, different Oracle version, network problems, and so on. Not to mention that in many cases the “best practices” provided by various vendors are often not honoured because they tend to be overlooked due to information overload…

Some people have hinted to use automated deployment tools such as Ansible (i.e. Frits Hoogland – Using Ansible for executing Oracle DBA tasks) but there are (as far as I know) no complete out-of-the-box solutions.

EMC has published several white papers and reference architectures with instructions on how to set up Oracle to run best on EMC. Still, some of the papers are not a step-by-step manual so you have to extract configuration details manually from various (sometimes conflicting) sources and convert them in configuration file entries, commands, etc.

So I decided a while ago to go for a different approach, and build a virtual appliance that does all of these things for you while still offering (limited) flexibility in different platform and versions, and preferences for configuration.

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Tales from the past – Overheated Datacenter

A long time ago in a datacenter far, far away….

It is a period of digital revolution.

Rebel Dot Com companies, striking from hidden basements and secret lofts,
have won their first fights against long-standing evil corporate empires.

During the battles, rebel geeks have managed to invent secret technology to
replace corporations old ultimate weapons,
such as snail mail and public telephone networks currently powering the entire planet.

Contracted by the Empire’s sinister CIOs, the UNIX Engineer and author of this blog
races against the clock across the UNIX root directories,
to prepare new IT infrastructure for the upcoming battle –
while at the same time, trying to keep the old weapons of mass applications available and running
as best as he can to safeguard the customers freedom in the digital galaxy.

In the late nineties, before I switched to the light side of the Force and joined EMC, I was UNIX engineer and working as a contractor for financial institutions. This is a first in a number of stories from that period and later. I obfuscated all company or people names to protect their reputation or disclose sensitive information, but former colleagues might recognize parts of the stories or maybe everything. Also, some of it is a long time ago and I cannot be sure all I say is factually correct. The human memory is notoriously unreliable.

heatwave
It was a friday late afternoon.

Everyone in my department already left for the weekend, but I was working on critical infrastructure project that was on a tight deadline, otherwise I guess I would have left already, too.

At some point I needed to re-install a UNIX server, which in those days was done by physically booting them from an install CD – so I needed to go to the datacenter room and get physical console access to get that going. I walked to the datacenter floor, which hosted several large UNIX systems, a mainframe, a number of EMC Symmetrix storage systems, network gear, lots of Intel servers mostly running Windows NT and maybe a few Novell.

There were large tape libraries for backup, lots of server racks, fire extinguishers and whatever you typically find in a large datacenter floor like that. I used my keycard to open the door to the datacenter and stepped in… The first thing I thought was, wow, it’s warm in here…

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Comparing database replication features

It’s still a hot topic in my customer conversations: Should we use Oracle Data Guard or something else for providing disaster recovery?
I’ve written an explanation a while ago. Recently I also created a powerpoint slide comparing various features – in an attempt to be as unbiased as possible (I think I partly succeeded 😉

I’ve put the comparison in a static page on my blog and will update it any time I get new insights or think I can improve it otherwise.

View the comparison here: Comparing DR features

This post first appeared on Dirty Cache by Bart Sjerps. Copyright © 2011 – 2015. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.

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