This guest article is by Dr. Gary Propeck from the VMware Experts Program – Oracle Branch.
Working as a contracting instructor for Oracle University and several of their education partners in the past, gave me the opportunity to visit many facilities and observe a variety of classroom setups. In those environments, the customer environment needs to be rebuilt frequently, often each and every week. During one of those engagements, the partner administrator demonstrated a new technique involving what he called a “virtual machine (VM)” image. Many companies spent many man-hours rebuilding the environments through copying of a backup type of disk image directly onto each machine. This new software, from a company called VMware, not only eliminated that time-consuming step, but also allowed companies (after the initial setup) to use different operating systems from the same client machines, again with minimal weekly manual intervention. These systems were very stable and reliable throughout their use.
VMware has advanced significantly since those early days. The VMware vSphere suite of server virtualization products includes the vCenter management software and the ESXi hypervisor. (The hypervisor or VMM (Virtual Machine Monitor) is software that creates and runs VMs.) For those familiar with Oracle Products, vCenter is similar to Oracle Enterprise Manager creating and managing Oracle instances and databases. The VMware vSphere includes features for migration, appliance management, high availability, backup and recovery, patching, upgrading, and management.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
A few years later, working as an instructor for an SQL performance tuning organization, a similar situation was observed. Each week, for a course to be taught, laptops were shipped to each site of the course; the course was taught; the laptops shipped back; each laptop OS was rebuilt from an image; the cycle continued… So, while investigating methods to present courses online, a colleague introduced us to a new system called Amazon Web Services (AWS). Through a subscription, a computing platform could be built with an operating system of choice, and application software such as Oracle RDBMS could be installed and configured. All needed to access such systems was a browser. It not only became the option for online courses taught, but also was used in lieu of freighting laptops to individual sites. Only the required number of AWS instances need be allocated for each week, simply by requesting that number from AWS. Costs via the subscription were based on the amount of disk space and memory required. (And, yes, this was cloud computing before it was called Cloud Computing.)
VMware Cloud on AWS
Through a joint development partnership, VMware and AWS now offer VMware Cloud on AWS, a highly scalable, secure and innovative service that allows organizations to seamlessly migrate and extend their VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) environments to the AWS Cloud running on Amazon bare metal infrastructure. Many Business-Critical Application workloads including Oracle Applications and Databases that were previously difficult to deploy in the cloud no longer require significant platform modifications. The combination of these platforms allows VMware customers greater flexibility in provisioning and managing VM servers. It can be said that customers will now be “buying their public cloud from VMware”. It is however more important to highlight that the customers will then be enabling the full power of the “Hybrid Cloud” as they will be able to migrate workloads between their on-premises private cloud infrastructure and the VMware Cloud on AWS.
Cloud Computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. That definition fits exactly as described with AWS.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) provides virtual servers, called instances, for compute capacity. The EC2 service offers dozens of instance types with varying capacities and sizes, tailored to specific workload types and applications (depending on what can be afforded). AWS offers a variety of platforms for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
In addition, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), object storage, is built to store and retrieve any amount of data from anywhere, while still providing the ability to simply and securely amass, store, and analyze the data at an immense scale.
AWS CloudFormation provides a common language for you to describe and provision all the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment. CloudFormation language allows you to use a simple text file to model and provision, in an automated and secure manner, all the resources needed for your applications across all AWS regions and AWS accounts.
AWS also supports Disaster Recovery (DR) in a variety of options, including snapshots (Amazon Elastic Block Store – AWS EBS) and low-cost storage for data archiving and backup (Amazon Glacier) among the many features.
Back to the Oracle side of things. All Oracle features and capabilities are complimented by the platform features and capabilities of VMware vSphere and the SDDC. Since the VMware Cloud is an implementation of the “vCloud Foundation” image nothing related to the Oracle in the VMware cloud proposition is any different than the Oracle on vSphere proposition that has been adopted by many thousands of companies over the past decade.
The present size constraint of a VMware Cloud on AWS cluster is limited to four hosts plus a maintenance host (guaranteeing zero downtime for host and platform maintenance). This poses a challenge for smaller customers in regard to Oracle licensing, but greater flexibility in cluster sizes and cluster management will be available in the near future as features like the Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) Host-Affinity will be available soon along with small clusters sizes.
When considering the more advanced Oracle features the experienced Oracle professional will examine Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC). RAC is an RDBMS environment providing access to the database for today’s 24×7, always available data requirements. With multiple database instances on separate nodes (physical or virtual machines in most cases) accessing the database files on shared storage between the nodes This system provides for load balancing, high availability, failover as well as the standard Oracle RDBMS features. To efficiently utilize Oracle RAC there are two requirements: shared storage and a very fast network interconnect between the Oracle RAC nodes.
RAC in the Cloud
Oracle Corporation currently is very restrictive about running Oracle RAC in the Cloud, in terms of support. “The Oracle Cloud is currently the only cloud offering certified and supported to run Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) databases.” Mostly the restrictions are based on the inability of “virtualized” environments to satisfy the requirements of efficient shared storage and/or the fast interconnect.
The Union of VMware vSphere and the AWS Cloud – a platform for Oracle RAC in the Cloud
Enter VMware Cloud on AWS. The VMware Cloud gives one all VMware technologies and allows Oracle customers to use vSphere/SDDC and Oracle RDBMS together as a customer using VMware public cloud resources. Capabilities such as Cross-Cloud vMotion, although not pervasively available yet, will change the way IT works and underscores the fact that VMware is a leader in “Hybrid Cloud” (a cloud computing environment which uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with a mechanism managing between the two platforms) by giving the Oracle user the ability to seamlessly move between their public cloud and on-premises resources in a single vCenter screen.
Using the VMware multi-writer setting, disks can be shared between the Oracle RAC nodes in an Oracle RAC Cluster. Adding VMware’s network virtualization platform, NSX, into the mix, an organization can provision a software container that presents logical network components, such as routers, firewalls, switches, load balancers, VPNs, stretched clusters, and more, to connected workloads, allowing the creation of a logical fast interconnect usable by the Oracle RAC nodes for communication during Oracle RAC Cache Fusion.
When running in VMware Cloud on AWS, VMs can be provisioned, allocated, and the RAC environment established in each VM, allowing for a fully virtualized Oracle RAC system, adhering to the Oracle requirements for a RAC installation. This can be done both on-premises and in VMware Cloud on AWS and when combined a production Oracle Real Application Cluster environment running on the SDDC in a true Hybrid Cloud. Taking a step further, AWS also supports the use of both Oracle Data Guard and Oracle ASM in AWS Cloud.
Oracle on SDDC workloads running in the VMware Cloud on AWS can utilize the broad array of AWS services including AWS S3 storage. Most importantly, however, the Oracle customer who has become accustomed to the capabilities of the VMware Platform of Virtualized Hardware, known as vSphere, and the breadth of functionality innate in the Software Defined Data Center will be discover that the VMware Cloud on AWS provides that same functionality along with the rich library of AWS capabilities. Amazingly all this capability will exist within the seemingly unlimited boundaries of the Hybrid Cloud environment which is the VMware Cloud.
The Oracle Databases on VMware Best Practices Guide
Oracle on VMware Collateral – One Stop Shop
VMware Cloud on AWS
Software Defined Data Center
Using Amazon Web Services for Disaster Recovery
VMware NSX in AWS could fix hybrid cloud networking troubles
NSX on AWS
Oracle Database on the AWS Cloud: Quick Start Reference Deployment