How to Perform a Detail Exadata Health Check

Exadata is a significant investment for any customer and one should make sure to maximize investment by configuring Exadata machine as per best practices and utilize all the features of engineered systems. Oracle has provided an array of tools for Exadata machine, but we see a gap between standard Exadata configuration vs a truly optimize Exadata machine. Exachk is a great tool provided by Oracle to validate Exadata configuration and Oracle best practices, but it’s designed as a standard tool for all Exadata machines. Exachk is not specific to a particular type of workload or application and doesn’t investigate enchantment opportunities to achieve extreme performance from Exadata machine.

That is why you should perform a detail Exadata health check of your Exadata machine which goes above and beyond Exachk validation and Oracle Enterprise Manager monitoring capabilities. The goal of this health check is to maximize the Exadata investment and reduce the number of incidents which can impact the availability of critical applications. Here is list of task you should perform to perform a detail Exadata Health check

  1. Review Exachk report to evaluate Exadata configuration, MAA Best practices, and database critical issues.
  2. Review various types of Exadata logs including Exawatcher, alert, trace, CRS, ASM, listener.
  3. Review Flash cache contents, verify smart flash log feature and check write-back cache functionality.
  4. Review Exadata feature usage like HCC Compression, Smart Scan, offloading, Storage Indexes
  5. Review Maximum Availability Architecture including backup of critical configuration files
  6. Review and validate Oracle Enterprise Manager Configuration of Exadata plugin.
  7. Review resource utilization at storage & database level and provide recommendations.
  8. Review AWR reports for contention and slow running processes.
  9. Review database parameter settings as per Oracle best practices including hidden parameters.
  10. Review log retention policy to optimize storage utilization and maintain historical data for troubleshooting any future issues.

 

Benefit of Using Oracle Bare Metal Cloud

As many organizations look to the cloud as a way to improve agility and flexibility, as well as to try and cut down their infrastructure support and maintenance costs, they are introduced to new cloud terminology: “Bare Metal Cloud,” or “Dedicated Instances.”

Let’s start by describing Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services: A dedicated physical hardware/server with no other tenant residing and running workload on it. Bare Metal Cloud Services basically let you lease or rent dedicated physical hardware resource for running isolated workloads at an optimal cost. Depending on the cloud vendor, billing can be metered (hourly) or non-metered (monthly fixed cost).

When compared to the traditional public cloud, which is a Hypervisor Cloud that has many tenants per physical machine sharing hardware resources, Bare Metal Cloud Services is a dedicated physical hardware resource for isolation and performance comparable to on-premises hardware.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a key benefit of Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services. It gives you complete control over cloud resources, so you can setup and customize based on your requirements. Basically, you have direct physical access to the resources when compared to typical cloud offerings where physical resources are hidden behind the hypervisor layer.

Bare Metal Cloud Services also allows a hypervisor on top of the dedicated physical resources, giving you the best of both worlds: allowing you to control the number of virtual machines and the workload on them. It is also important to understand that Bare Metal Cloud Services flexibility comes with a price — it takes a little longer to provision cloud resources, introducing time and complexity to the provisioning process.

Given the added complexity, you might ask why you would opt for Bare Metal Cloud Services. It’s the same reason customers opt for IaaS versus PaaS / SaaS cloud models. You have more control over your environment to install and configure your applications; you start to lose that control as you climb up the cloud stack from IaaS>>>PaaS>>>SaaS models.

Bare Metal Cloud Services offers agility for fast provisioning and on-demand resources, as well as high flexibility to define your servers, network, storage and security based on your requirements. All this makes Bare Metal Cloud Services a great alternative to traditional cloud offerings.

Performance

Performance is a major concern for organizations when it comes to moving their workload to the public cloud. Migrating to a traditional cloud environment can be considered risky for some environments because going from on-premise dedicated hardware to virtualized shared-cloud resources can introduce performance issues. Also, applications that require high memory and CPU sometimes do not fit well into the traditional cloud model. Bare Metal Cloud Services can offer Memory, CPU and Storage Allocations that the traditional shared-cloud service model cannot.

Though many public cloud vendors have not published concrete performance metrics, performance degradation can often occur due to the introduction of hypervisor layer as well as the inherent performance issues from a fully shared resource. Basically, public cloud is a shared environment where multiple Virtual Machines are fighting for the same physical resources, so performance degradation is to be expected. Therefore, if performance is key to your applications, then Bare Metal Cloud Services is probably the best option to run your application in cloud.

Bare Metal Cloud Services let you run your workload on dedicated physical servers without any noisy neighbors running their workload on the same server. This also allows you to troubleshoot performance issues more easily as you are the sole owner of the physical server, and you exactly understand what other type of workload is being run by other applications.

Security & Compliance

Like performance, security is a major concern for organizations when considering moving their environments to the public cloud. Cloud security is about requirements and capabilities to provide layers of security. It does not mean that Bare Metal Cloud Services is more secure than a traditional public cloud, but since you have more control, you can install and configure additional layers of security to further improve the security.

Additionally, because Bare Metal Cloud Services is a single-tenant solution, it provides you isolation, which can be an important compliance requirement for your organization. This allows the possibility that many security-sensitive organizations can move their workload to the public cloud by being able to conform to regulatory compliance requirements.

Furthermore, there are some software vendors who do not support or accept licensing on virtualized hardware because of soft partitioning because it’s hard to determine actual number of required software licenses for any given virtualized server in cloud. In this scenario, Bare Metal Cloud Services can be considered a viable public cloud option to satisfy licensing requirements for any application or a software vendor.

Exadata Patching Rolling vs Non-Rolling

Oracle Exadata patches can be applied in rolling manner while the database remains online and available, or non-rolling manner where the databases are shutdown. The number of patches needs to be applied will be the same if you chose rolling or non-rolling patches but usually rolling patches takes longer to complete. Let me briefly describe following 2 different patches methods.

  • Rolling
  • Non-rolling

Rolling patching method don’t required application downtime. Most of the components can be patched while databases are running requiring little or no downtime compared to non-rolling patches but the overall length of time to complete the rolling patches is longer. It is best to use rolling patches if your disk groups are configured with high redundancy.

Non-rolling patching can be done with minimum time if planned properly.  Non-rolling patches are applied while the database is offline and unavailable.  This typically means that all applications serviced by Exadata Database Machine are moved to a standby system or are unavailable for the duration of the update.  Non-rolling method is typically faster than rolling method for overall maintenance time because multiple systems are updated in parallel, but there may be a longer outage to the application.

If multiple components will be updated in the same maintenance window, it is possible to use a combination of rolling and non-rolling methods to achieve the desired balance of application downtime and maintenance time. One typical combination used when an application does not handle connection disruption efficiently is to apply Exadata Storage Server patches in a rolling manner, and Grid Infrastructure and Database, and Exadata Database Server patches in a non-rolling manner.

Whatever method you choose to patch Exadata machine, make sure to follow below guidelines to minimize your risk.

  1. Create a detail patching plan
  2. Patch your non production system first
  3. Make sure to backup databases, Oracle home and configuration files
  4. Use same patching method for all