Can you boost your Oracle database performance on HP-UX for free?

Database performance, as is true with all performance related matters, has to do with resources.

This story specifically focuses on a real life experience with Oracle database performance on HP Unix running on Intel integrity CPU’s like these:

CPUinfo

The issue with installation is the hyper-threading aka. the use of the logical processors.
When the server is booted and is running, you can do basic performance review with a default tool like top.

lcpu_attr=0

In this exact case the server is running fine and there is no need to investigate further. But, in cases where there were performance issues, it would be a good idea to be aware of the numbering of the CPU’s in this overview (0, 2). This numbering suggests there would also be a ’1′ and, where there would be a ’1′ there would probably also be a ’2′…

Yes there is and it is called ‘lcpu_attr’. A HP Unix kernel parameter which is, to my taste, a bit odd, not well known or well documented…

lcpu_attr (Tunable Kernel Parameter)

When turned on, lcpu_attr activates the logical CPU’s immediately. When you run top again, this is what it’ll look like (immediately)

lcpu_attr=1

Okay! Great… but… there are some catches.
This parameter lcpu_attr is a dynamically tunable kernel parameter but… it’ll crash your databases. So you will need a minimum of planned downtime for this action.

Also, you can set hyper-threading on in the EFI boot-loader.
But then you should be aware of this!

In the end, in this real-life story, we helped the situation advance by just doing:

1. stopping Oracle database(s)
2. kctune lcpu_attr=1
3. starting Oracle databas(s)

All in all, it could be not difficult to boost your Oracle database performance on HP-UX for free!

Thanks to my good friend Gerard van der Kooij for finding the final link!

Okay, and now my database server crashed…

RTO/RPO, who has ever heard of that! That was Star Wars, right?
Storing data and never having to go without or losing any… Yes, that’s more like it.

Server Crashed

Okay, and these two have everything to do with each other!

Talking about these two fancy IT abbreviations I have raised many eyebrows and aided securing businesses!

What is it:
RTO: Recovery Time Objective, or rather, how long should it take before your database is up-and-running again!
RPO: Recovery Point Objective. How much data can you stand to lose?

It is customary to put real amounts of time for these both parameters. This is one of these true points where IT ‘meets’ business, one of those do or die SLA parameters.
How long before you can start working again after something has gone somewhat horribly wrong? Dependent on the business (and for sake of argument), you will get something like; “Oh well, if we are back in business in say an hour, I guess we’ll be fine.” Okay, so we have RTO = 1hr.
And, how much data can you afford to lose? “Losing data, what do you mean?” Well, let’s say you have been on the phone and in the field harvesting order data and putting this in the database… how much of this information can be reproduced when your environment fails? We’ll go with two scenario’s. We will presume “Oh no, NOTHING!” and “Hmmm, well, 10 minutes, if needs be!”, making respectively RPO = 0min. and RPO=10min.

  • RTO = 1 hour
  • RPO = 0 minutes or 10 minutes.

Let us investigate what this means, assuming we have a functional backup running every night and that our drama happens at 15:45 on a working day.

What do we have when we do nothing?
After establishing we have a system crash at hands we need to start working immediately to rebuild something, but do we have something to build upon?
Do we have hardware? And does it somewhat meet specs? Can we run our OS (version) on it? Do we have OS media to install with? Do we have Oracle media to install with? Can we get network, and so on…
And if we have this do we have enough expertise to get it installed?
Well, I guess it’s clear… We need to invest big-time! Few hours getting all the facts straight and getting hardware, a few hours to install and configure the OS, a few more for Oracle, getting it to resemble the former production environment and then restoring the backup!
RTO = starting at 8 hours.
Looking at our RPO? Well, okay, that’s easy! We backup at midnight (0:00) and we crash at 15:45. So we will have lost 15 hours and 3 quarters.
RPO = 15:45 hours.
Acceptable? No, not really!

It’s clear we have to do something.
The first step is to reduce RTO, we need to be able to continue work faster.
We can do this by making sure we have a second server standing by in a different location. Have it installed, have it configured and ready to jump into action. You could call this a Standby Server.
But even now there is no guarantee we make our target since restoring a backup and getting the database up and running could still easily take over 1 hour, when dealing with red-tape and decision levels. To hit the home run we need to add one more feature, we need to have not only a Standby Server, we also need to have a Standby Database. A database that can be “opened” or “activated” in mere minutes.

  • Are you running Enterprise Edition Database then you can use Oracle Data Guard, included in your database license.
  • Are you running Standard Edition Database then you can get the Smart Alternative from Dbvisit.

With Standby Database in place:
RTO = 5 minutes!!

Now we need to tackle RPO!
Or… do we still?
RPO = 10 minutes, actually is tackled by the Standby Database implementation.
Because of the characteristics of Standby Database, we do not only have an RTO of mere minutes, we also have an RPO of a configurable duration.
Data is transferred to the Standby Database environment by means of archived Redo Log files and this mechanism is influenced by manual switching of log files and if you do this with small enough intervals (less than our target of 10 minutes) we make sure that age of the data in the Standby Database meets the target “Recovery Point Objective”!
RPO = 0 minutes
Well, okay, this is something else. And if we think about this a little, it’s something completely different!
Recovery Point Objective, the amount of data we can stand to lose, is 0 (nothing!). Actually meaning we have to create a Standby database setup which is kept up to date with the primary environment. This kind of Standby Database environment allows you to switch to this second environment within seconds and continue your business operation without delay!

And, with your Active-Active Standby Database solutions in place:
RPO = 0 minutes!

So, now you know about RTO/RPO to secure your data and know this guy is something else.

r2-d2

Increasing the reach of your SE database license

Imagine the following situation…

Since a few years your business has been investing in centralizing valuable business information. After some research in the market you have found the Oracle database to be the best fit for your requirements.
Using the free Oracle Application Express (APEX) framework, helping you to rapidly develop the web-applications needed to support both internal and external users, was a premium. Making this installation available based on the Oracle Standard Edition One database, you have created this solution against the lowest possible investment!

As many great projects go, the use and the number of APEX applications is growing. With the addition of ready to use applications to inspire you, many cool plug-ins to ever increase the usability and integration possibilities you get caught up in the data growth dogma!
With an ever increasing user population and expansion of data-reporting for ever faster business reporting your initial system is starting to fail, showing ever more frequent performance lags or system unavailability. These problems form a risk for your business, a risk you need to eliminate as soon as possible!
The standard advise here would be to upgrade your environment, the standard advise here would be to upgrade to a bigger machine and to an Enterprise Edition database. This is what your investment would be then…

  • Medium Oracle Sun Server X2-4 with 4 x 10 core CPU’s at € 42,500
  • (40 cores x 0,5 core-factor **) 20 Oracle Database Enterprise Edition licenses               at € 914,800

Without rendering your application infrastructure worthless by the required investment, a more reasonable step would be to migrate to Oracle Database Standard Edition.

  • Medium Oracle Sun Server X2-4 with 4 x 10 core CPU’s at € 42,500
  • 4 Oracle Database Standard Edition licenses at € 67,400

Still requiring a total investment of more than a hundred thousand Euro and leaving you with the old server and licenses to be decommissioned.

In many implementations, not data entry but data-mining or information aggregation are the costly processes. So probably this will be true in this situation too. With a little investigation it is possible to separate a number of functions that will only query data and not necessarily modify data. Especially in this situation you can also increase your application performance by moving these specific processes to a new environment.

But… how…

The information in the new environment needs to be real-time consistent with the “production” or primary environment. Here we introduce a real-time data replication solution like Dbvisit Replicate which will create just this real-time consistent query environment for you! This makes for the following investment:

  • Medium Oracle Sun Server X4-2 with 2 x 8 core CPU’s at € 19,500
  • 2 Oracle Database Standard Edition One licenses at € 11,200
  • 4 Dbvisit Replicate XTD at € 16,180

With this installation you add another € 50 k. of licensing in stead of € 100 k. with the Standard Edition migration. With this choice, you separate your time-critical data-entry process from the query environment, making sure a mis-fired query will not influence the availability of your data-entry process environment, which is a cool extra advantage!

* All prices are based on list-prices, excluding VAT and including 1 year of support.
** Based on the Oracle Processor Core Factor Table.

UKOUG technology conference 2013

Air-born again, December first 2013. Heading to Manchester for the UK Oracle User Group technical highlight of the year, or for short: #UKOUG_Tech13 as the twitter handle sounds.

This time it will be a little different since I have been granted a speaker slot. A great honor and also a great responsibility since there will be a number of people offering their precious time to spend in my session and all that in a VERY EARLY time slot.
But first, find my way to the Manchester Convention Center, my hotel and the sessions I plan to attend this afternoon. Through Twitter there have already been several contacts made with friends inbound to Manchester or those who are already there. These will again be a few full, fun and exciting days spend in the companionship of what will call “The Pragma’s!”:
Joel Goodman, Iloon Wolff, Philippe Fierens and myself.

It turned out to be a great conference! Manchester proved to be a fine venue with a lot of possibilities and compact enough to have everything close-by, where even OTWUK13 (Oak Table World 2013) found its venue close by!
Although I planned to visit many more sessions, there is where I ended up:

  • How to Avoid to Struggle with the APEX Listener by Iloon Wolff
  • Next Generation GoldenGate vs. Streams for Physics Data by Zbigniew Baranowski
  • PL/SQL Enhancements Brought by Oracle Database 12c by Bryn Llewellyn
  • Installing Oracle Database on LDOMS by Pragma Philippe Fierens
  • Goodbye KVM… Hello KVM by Martin Nash
  • Beginners’ Guide to Cost Based Optimization by Jonathan Lewis
  • Roundtable Development Tools, chaired by Andrew Clarke

racattack-51Then, on Wednesday it was time for my own talk. This was my premiere talk on an international stage and I guess it went quite well and It was good to see a few famous Oracle people amongst the audience! In a 45 minute session I discussed a project where we replaced an Oracle Forms application front-end by an APEX implementation on Oracle Standard Edition. This implementation is currently running production with Dutch Healthcare providers.
Thank you, my good friends for your support!

But, first and foremost, UKOUG_tech13 turned out to be the event to meet all my friends and heroes again… (in no particular order :-) and without the hope not to forget anyone)

Tim Hall, Simon Haslam, Ronald Luttikhuizen, Osama Mustafa, Peter Raganitsch, Heli Helskyaho, Frits Hoogland, Uwe Hesse, Lonneke Dikmans, Björn Rost, John Scott, Patrick Barell, Alex Nuijten, Alex Gorbatchev, Mogens Nørgaard, Øyvind Isene, Bryn Llewellyn, Kuassi Mesah, Martin Nash, Alex Zaballa, Martin Widlake, Brendan Tierney and even a few more.

And so, Manchester, we say goodbye. Until we meet again!

Cloud Database Offers On-premise Advantages

These are times when there are technologies abundantly available to help you make the very best of the data you gather from your business processes.

Increasing numbers of businesses choose the option to host their production database environment in one of the many cloud forms that are available these days. This example of a smart alternative discusses an additional service you could implement or request when you are dealing with cloud based databases.

In many organizations there is a BI-team responsible for the development of company specific KPIs or compose competitively strategic information based on the information that is gathered during day-to-day business. There often are key management positions that have a need for ad hoc queries to live data. In recent years the grave importance of this intelligence has been recognized as being of the greatest importance for decision support, and giving your organization the biggest competitive advantage possible.

Developing or even running these activities on live data gives the sharpest edge. Doing this on a production environment, nevertheless, is out of the question. Uninterrupted availability and maximum responsiveness for regular activities of these databases are unquestionably important. How can you combine these factors with the proposition of running your database in the cloud while staying smart?

The smart alternatives of Dbvisit enable you to do just this! By leveraging Dbvisit Replicate in a hosted environment you can create one or many local copies of live production data with specific local database settings to do precisely what you need, be it running or developing heavy BI queries or having departmental management looking at or analyzing data as it is recorded. Having (a subset of) the live data uni-directionally delivered from the cloud to your local (desktop) database creates a safe environment to analyze and enable knowledge workers to do the their job without any holds barred!

Retail Innovation with Dbvisit Replicate

In these current times it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world like it has never been. We are fighting over every bit of margin and trying to create value without increasing cost. The following example from a retail background shows an innovative way you could accomplish this, leveraging the #1 database at the lowest thinkable investment combined with the smart alternative from the makers of Dbvisit Software.

In this example we are following a supermarket in their quest to “do business a little different” and they are thinking of combining ‘shopping audience attitude’ in an interactive way with a time specific advertisement technique.
The idea is to look at what people are checking out at the cash register and combining this, in real-time, with both amounts of items in stock and possible specific business rules applicable to any discounts to be given.

By gathering information at the counters, information about what kind of groceries people are actually buying at that specific moment, you get an insight in the natural fluctuation of buyers behavior during the day. With this information you can do stuff, like figure out how much of what articles you need in stock or direct resupplies in the store during the day, getting the maximum revenue out of the employees responsible for making sure everything is plentyfull ready for the taking.
But why not take this one step further they thought. If we can combine this cash-register information with some kind of continuously changing system of discounting, we can create an element of interactivity. By looking at what articles are sold, combining this with remaining stock and using the fact if there already is some regular discount on specific articles, you can make a system where, for instance every 15 minutes, there is another specific item on ‘super special sale’. Delivering this “buy now” message to the actual customer can be done in several ways, either by loading this information in self-checkout bar-code scanners or for instance by label printers offering the specific discount label to be scanned at the checkout counter. After a ‘super special sale’ moment elapses, everything changes and a new article is the hot deal of the moment.

Where in a normal setting the POS entries are fed into the regular business database to be processed in a batch-like fashions you would have no chance of getting this information recycled. This backbone infrastructure cannot be used for the very data intensive activities we would need for our initiative to take shape. Having delays here would inevitably mean delays and errors at the checkout counters with queues and unsatisfied customers as the least of your concerns.

Regular data replication solutions would render any business case useless before somebody even had the heart to dream up such an idea. Today, by leveraging the Oracle database Standard Edition or even Standard Edition One, you have an environment which is capable of handling such information loads. Combine this hyper cost effective installation with a Smart Alternative like Dbvisit Replicate, replicating data away from you core POS infrastructure, delivering this data at a special database for this initiative. Here it is combined with stock information, also delivered by Dbvisit Replicate, to create a system that is real-time, robust and a system that doesn’t interfere with regular business. Moreover it creates a system which does support the business case by requesting up to 80% less investment.
This example shows that many of the smart ideas which were created by the business have stranded in an impossible business case. Today, the Smart Alternatives of Dbvisit create the opportunity for you to rethink these ideas and really start realizing them.

Just because it’s possible now!