Trying Oracle on Linux in the Enterprise
My company runs its Oracle databases on HPUX11i and Hewlett Packard hardware. Oracle and HP are certified for use with Linux, so I wanted to see how the performance of some of our databases would compare if moved to Linux. My ideal goal was for Linux to do everything HPUX does, interconnecting with our existing infrastructure seamlessly. I wondered whether we'd lose any flexibility in administration.
For my first proper dive into the world of Linux, I chose Intel processors, thereby sticking to the philosophy of not changing too many components at one time. I was curious about how new 32-bit processors would compare to our "old" 64-bit UNIX ones. I'd read that the faster processors would more than make up for being only 32-bit, especially for our environment where most of our databases aren't too large and don't really get hammered that much. Our storage area network (SAN) is integral to our systems, so I really wanted to push to get all the features of our SAN disks from HPUX working on Linux as well. Finally, there's much talk about cost savings with Linux, and I wanted to add my two cents to the wide-ranging differences people find in total cost of ownership (TCO).
I've worked on a number of different *nixes, and learning Linux really was no different. As I find when going to a new UNIX hardware platform, the changes get bigger as you get closer to the hardware layer. Formatting disk partitions and kernel modifications, for instance, reminded me of old SunOS days. These tasks went fine on Linux, but the tasks aren't automated or as easy as Solaris or HPUX. Most of my kernel changes were dynamic, and although making them isn't idiot-proof, they didn't require a recompile/reboot--unlike the equivalent HPUX kernel changes. Because Linux is open, GUI tools are available to make these tasks easier. I like Webmin especially. Also, Red Hat's Disk Druid is a great tool for partitioning disks within the installation program--I don't know why RH doesn't make it available outside installation. While taking a Red Hat course, I asked a Red Hat employee this question. His only reply was something like, "A lot of people ask for that, I don't know why it's not available". Is anyone at Red Hat listening?
Having spent recent years solely with HPUX, I was glad to find lshw. It's a bit like ioscan, which provides an easy way to see all of your hardware at a glance. In Linux, all of the information is already there, but you need to look through various files in /proc to see them.
I had goofed around with Oracle on Linux on a laptop that I nabbed from our HelpDesk. But before I could trust Linux for our live database, I needed a real server in our computer room. This would mean getting authorization to buy two small servers. My evangelism method was to show that by spending less than £10K once, we would be able to save up to 15K, per HPUX server, repeating year in and year out.
Maybe the math was compelling, or perhaps it was the fact that our IT Director already was a Linux fan, but I was allowed to buy two HP-DL360 G4 (3.4GHz) 1U servers, which we refer to as pizza boxes. This model was the latest incarnation of the same boxes our Windows guys buy, so we already had some experience and confidence in the hardware, as well ass a predefined support channel. We choose Emulex LP9000 fibre cards, as they are our standard and are recommended by our SAN software manufacturers. I also bought a few licenses for HP Instant Lights Out (ILO) software, so I could compare fully that console solution to the Guardian Service Processor on our HPUX servers.
We bought Red Hat Enterprise Server 3.0, which installed fine, but the DL360 server has a SmartArray 6i hardware array for managing the two internal disks. Red Hat didn't have drivers in the 3.0 installation CDs, but it didn't take a RH representative long to point me to the download area on the RH Web site. There I found Update 4 of RH ES 3.0 ISO images. After some downloading and a few ISO burning sessions, this RH media had the needed cciss drivers and therefore recognized the internal disks. I have no complaints with Red Hat's Anaconda installation; it looks good and works fine.
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