Six Thoughts on Recent Oracle UNIX/Linux Release Enhancements

While Oracle has been responsible for bringing many revolutionary features to the enterprise RDBMS market throughout its 38+ year history, recent releases have left me scratching my head in wonder.

As a UNIX/AIX Sysadmin as well as an Oracle DBA, I thought I’d share six of my thoughts and experiences with you in hopes of creating a dialog in the context of Oracle Running in UNIX and Linux environments. I encourage the readers of this blog to brainstorm with me on these Oracle changes to see if we can make the best use of them in the future.

1. Oracle Automatic Storage Manager
One of the most interesting changes in Oracle 11gR2 is how Oracle now distributes their ASM feature. ASM stands for Automatic Storage Manager. ASM is an LVM, Logical Volume Manager, for the Oracle database. This feature was first introduced in Oracle version 10g.

Initially you could create and run an ASM instance out of the same Oracle home as your RDBMS. Starting in 11gR2 you now have to, at a minimum, install the Grid Infrastructure software standalone option to use ASM even with a non-RAC standalone database installation. This means that if you wish to use ASM, (RAC or no RAC), you must obtain and install the GI software as well.This also means that you will need more space on your database server for at least two Oracle homes. You will need one home for the GI software and another Oracle home for your RDBMS software. You will also need to patch two Oracle homes on database servers using ASM.

Lastly this means that installation and configuration time of a new database server will be increased due to this extra Oracle home. Keep in mind that Oracle seems to be all in with the ASM infrastructure. I would not be surprised if at some point in the future Oracle deprecated the ability to create database files outside of ASM. Please note, that last part is just speculation on my part.

2. Oracle Restart Feature Deprecated
Starting in Oracle database 12c the Oracle restart feature has been deprecated. The term deprecated in the context of Oracle features means that Oracle has identified that feature or component as being replaced in the near future. The product or feature is still supported but it is in danger of not being supported in future releases.

Oracle restart is installed with the GI standalone home. Oracle restart provides you with an Oracle cluster ware interface for restarting ASM and RDBMS instances as well as other components such as listeners, etc. automatically on database server reboot. This feature also monitors these components and restarts these components automatically upon failure, even kill -9 in the UNIX, Linux environments.This feature has been deprecated; however Oracle has offered no replacement.

This feature was more flexible and more advanced than the traditional init scripts in the UNIX and Linux worlds but involved you installing an additional Oracle home to use it, much like the ASM feature. For now we will just have to wait and see why Oracle has deprecated this and if they will offer a replacement anytime soon.

3. DBCA – Database Configuration Assistant on UNIX and Linux Systems
Starting in Oracle database 12c, Oracle has given their DBCA, Database Configuration Assistant, a cosmetic makeover. But why do we need to continue to set annoying X11 configurations on Linux and UNIX systems to install their software?A lot of Oracle products, more specifically their database, run on UNIX and Linux systems. On the Windows platform this is not an issue but this has been a pain point in the UNIX and Linux world for many decades now. While those of us working in UNIX and Linux have made do, another main stream alternative would be nice.

DBCA splash screen prior to 12c:oracle1
DBCA splash screen after 12c:oracle2

4. Needlessly Granular Authentication Roles
Starting in Oracle database 11g R2 and 12c, authentication roles were added. These roles were SYSASM in 11g R2, and SYSDG, SYSBACKUP and SYSKM in 12c. The SYSASM role allows you to tie a database server user authority to manage ASM to a group. The same for SYSDG for DataGuard management and SYSBACKUP for RMAN management.

What perplexes me: Why this segregation? I’ve not seen may Oracle shops where the segregation of responsibilities has been this granular. Mostly I’ve seen one operating system user on the database server typically named “oracle” and one operating system user group typically named “dba.” The database server authentication configuration in regards to a DBA is typically a DBA connecting to a database server with their own OS user id and then they would sudo or su to the oracle user and manage the ASM instance and DBMS instances all as that user.

I applaud Oracle’s continued attempts to push people to be more secure, but Oracle runs mainly on open systems, i.e. non-mainframe, so segregation of duties on a UNIX or Windows server to that granular level is very rare.

5. Oracle Database Control Web Interface
Starting in Oracle database 12c, Oracle has abandoned their Oracle database control web interface. This was first introduced in Oracle 10g.

The database control interface was a web interface which allowed DBAs to manage a database instance running on one database server. The web interface ran local on the database server which it managed. It was the counterpart to the enterprise wide central product: Oracle Grid Control.

Grid Control and database control were very similar. You could do a lot to a database with Grid Control. The only difference was you could only do it to the one local database with Oracle database control. In 12c, Oracle renamed the enterprise wide central product Oracle Grid Control to Oracle Cloud Control, to keep up with the latest market trends.They also changed the standalone interface – Database Control.

They did not add to it or give it a cosmetic face lift. They actually removed a lot of features and made it less useful. They also renamed it to Database Express. I am really confused why this was done. Perhaps it was done to push people more towards the centralized Oracle Cloud Control product to make people realize that they will have to manage multiple Oracle products at some point in the future.

6. Deprecation of the Streams Feature
Starting in Oracle database 12c, the Streams feature has been deprecated. Streams is a replication feature used for duplication of environments and for disaster recovery. This feature has been deprecated in favor of Golden Gate.

Golden Gate is Oracle’s new replication feature. Oracle obtained the Golden Gate software via their 2009 acquisition of the company Golden Gate. I have taken a cursory look at Golden Gate and I can see its promise. It is heterogeneous and offers a lot of nice features and capabilities that Streams did not offer.

However, instead of running in the database via PL/SQL packages like Streams, it’s a separate client application making a connection to the Oracle server, most likely OCI. This creates yet another Oracle Client (we already have IRMAN, Impdp, Expdp, Sqlplus, etc). As I said previously, I like Golden Gate a lot but I also see the value in Streams. As it stands today Streams is officially deprecated but I’m sure it will stick around for a while but I have to wonder if making yet another Client was a smart direction to take.

After reading this you may think that I was just ranting or bashing Oracle’s newest changes, but that’s not exactly true. I was simply bringing up some points and educating at the same time. I encourage the readers of this blog entry to brainstorm and see if they can come up with any reasons why Oracle made these changes. In doing so perhaps you can make the best use of them.

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