Trying Oracle on Linux in the Enterprise

How does Linux compare on a large scale to a well-proven commercial UNIX product?

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).

A UNIX Guy's View of Linux

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.

Just Do It

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.

Installing Red Hat ES

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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Server cloning software

linuxles's picture

I have been using Mondo Rescue successfully for years to do live
cloning and backups of Linux Filesystems running on various types
of x86 based hardware (from homebuilt workstations to IBM Netfinity
and Dell PowerEdge Servers)...


Mondo Rescue for Dell Poweredge 2850

koschi's picture

hi linuxles,

we have a debian 3.1 linux running on a dell poweredge 2850 with a hp ultrium 448 tape drive. we are thinking of using mondo rescue for disaster recovery. do you have any experience with that?


Oracle on Linux

Max Leon's picture

We have been using oracle on linux for 4 years now, we develop gaming software and the volume that the system needs to handle during peak hours is hardly belivable.

When we decided to migrate from the commercial platform to linux as the host OS we experienced no less than 40% extra performance.

I have to say that fact that we handle almost 8000 bps of data transmition on the DB with a 32bit platform is quite amazing.

Oracle on Linux

Dan Gillgren's picture

I recently undertook a similar project, and I am amused by the similarity of my approach to yours.

We migrated from an oracle 8.1.5 on Sun Sparc Hardware (Solaris 2.6), through to 10g ( on a pair of HP DL380's (primary and standby config) running RH4AS.

The DL380 gave us the power of dual Intel Xeon processors. I also migrated the data to our SAN (IPStor) during this process, and run iSCSI between the oracle server and the SAN. The physical storage on the san is an array of 10k RPM SATA disks.

We ran in to a number of issues along the way, mainly to do with the lack of support RH3 has for the latest HP servers. So the call was made to go to RH4, even though it had just been released.

The end result for us has been fantastic. The users have noticed significant improvements in the response of applications and reporting. The age of the SUN boxes was making them a real liability, and I am glad to see the end of them.

My advice is to take professional advice before making a leap in to the linux platform for critical services. Other people have done it... I have done it... and I am damn happy with the end result.

Same comparison. Opposite conclusion.

Nordine's picture

We also compared HP-UX to Linux for our database-server.
Instead of comparing PA-RISC-processors with Intel Xeon-processor, we chose the Itanium2 64-bit processor. This processor can be used with HP-UX and Linux.
With the same level of support (3 years, 24/7), HP-UX was slightly cheaper (total cost for 3 years was about 15K EUR).
Because of other advantages (internal HP-UX knowhow, superb online cloning with Ignite-UX, reuse of earlier software investments like MirrorUX and Glance), we have decided to use HP-UX for our database-server.

Moving all business from HP-UX to Linux

Mimmus's picture

my company is a leader in providing Italian business information to the business world.
In latest two years, we are moving ALL business from HP-UX to Linux (Red Hat). Until now, only advantages....

Comparison does not adjust

Lgoulart's picture

Try compare SuSE SLES 9 with HPUX. Red Hat do not have maturity on system administration tools. SuSE is inpired on HPUX.

Re: Comparison does not adjust

linuxles's picture

I have to disagree with your comment. I personally do not find
SuSE's GUI tools to be more mature than RedHat's...

If you make any configuration changes with SuSE outside of Yast,
you can bet they won't be there after a reboot! Yast relies on a
database to store all of your changes, and as such you are forced
to make all of your changes through Yast. Comparatively with RedHat
I can make any and all changes via the GUI or CLI interchangeably.

Also note that opensource tools are typically distro agnostic and
usually don't rely on any one specific distro to work properly. If
you are more comfortable working with the GUI, then that's fine.
I prefer to have a choice...

i disagree

Anonymous's picture

we are using Suse e9 x86-64 for the oracle database that runs our relatively large public website (~6-8mi page views a day) and we also use if for our application servers and webservers. i make all my changes on the CLI and have never once used YAST (except maybe during the install).

when comparing Suse to RedHat (even though I'm not a big Novell fan...) Suse wins on cost and performance as well (for our apps anyways). plus they are quicker to the market with support for new hardware -- like x86-64.

just my $.02

Question about HPUX win #5

Anonymous's picture

Easy ... remote console access

What exactly does this mean? Are you referring to BIOS access?

re: Easy remote access

KevinC's picture

modern HPUX servers have GSP (Guardian Service Provider) which gives a ethernet connection to the harware at console level. Hardware errors, firmware, the lot. I've not found anything that's easier or better--in my opinion

HP Intel server there are lan

Anonymous's picture

HP Intel server there are lan console too ... with ssh and web interface

Serial Console?

RichardC's picture

Sounds like a hardware feature, though Linux does have serial console support which is an option. I think some BIOSes (on a particular older machine I had anyway) may have an option to output to the serial port too.

Oracle on Linux on zSeries

Chris Little's picture

We moved our child welfare Oracle database backend from HPUX 11i to Linux on the mainframe over a year ago. This is an absolutely mission critical database to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and supports over 600 concurrent users. Reliability has been unparalled for the hardware, operating system, and database. We are currently experiencing better uptime in our Linux environment than the HPUX boxes we still have in house. Our DBA's are just as happy (as happy as DBA's can be) as ever.

Linux & Oracle on small hardware

José Maria Oliveira Simões's picture

I'm a Linux advocate since I had an opportunity to put my hands on a machine with an operating system that could do multitasking. At that time I only could use MS-DOS and the XENIX 286 wasn’t an option (the price tag was too high). Because of the Microsoft, the hardware was required to be upgraded (more RAM, more Disk, more processor speed) due to the kernel “growing