Simon Haslam's Oracle Fusion Middleware blog

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Java Cloud Service - initial impressions for WebLogic architects and administrators

There's no doubt that "the cloud" is coming, even in the relatively conservative world of mission-critical Oracle platforms.

At the end of 2012 I took a trial of what was then "Java (or WebLogic) as a Service" (now known as "SaaS Extension"). Back then I wasn't hugely impressed - yes, I could deploy a simple web app, but the WebLogic environment was very heavily constrained and almost entirely hidden from the administrator - no WebLogic console, no WLST, minimal logs. As a result as soon as I tried to deploy something non-trivial, in this case Apache Roller (the software running this blog), I ran into all sorts of class white-list issues and with little debug information so I quickly gave up in despair!

Anyway here we are, over 2 years later, and Oracle's latest "Java Cloud Service" (JCS) is looking far more promising, so here are my initial impressions of what I've seen and read. First things first: JCS comes in 3 variants:

  • Java Cloud Service - SaaS Extension: essentially this is product I tried previously which is now targetted at extending Oracle's SaaS applications (including cloud-based Oracle Fusion Applications), presumably with relatively simple ADF apps.
  • Java Cloud Service - Virtual Image: this is a single instance WebLogic VM intended for development use and simple testing.
  • Java Cloud Service: the "full" version (Oracle doesn't seem to have a distinct name to differentiate it) which can be clustered and is designed for production workloads.

For this article I'm only going to focus on the last of these options, i.e. fully clustered WebLogic with root level access to the VMs but automated provisioning and management provided by Oracle! 

Pricing

Before we get into too much technical detail, let's get an idea of pricing for a single, production-grade environment.

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Should I use Oracle RAC for High Availability?

Almost all of my work involves high availability at one or more tiers, so options for Oracle Database resilience comes up regularly. Therefore I thought it would be worth writing down some of the considerations. 

Let's rewind for a moment: Real Application Clusters (RAC) was introduced in Oracle 9i to allow you to build powerful clustered database systems from of commodity hardware (typically x86 Linux servers running one or two dual core processors). RAC databases were designed to compete with the large single-instance databases running on SMP Unix servers made by IBM, HP and Sun - essentially shift spending from hardware to Oracle software (this was a long time before Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems). In other words, RAC was primarily designed for scalability; high availability was a side effect.

Options & Prices

If you are looking at high availability options to protect Oracle databases here are your choices: 

  • Real Application Clusters (RAC) is the most sophisticated version of the Oracle Database and allows multiple instances to run concurrently on the same data on different nodes.
  • RAC One Node (RON) is a variant of RAC - the RAC cluster is still provisioned but a database is only allowed to be running one instance at any given time (except during switch-over during maintenance periods).
  • Enterprise Edition is the traditional single-instance Oracle Database which may or may not (typically not) be run on ASM.
Read more for whether you should use RAC or not to support your availability needs.[Read More]

OPSS Keystore Service - centralised key management

This is a topic I've been meaning to write about for a while: FMW Infrastructure 12.1.2 introduced a rather nice OPSS Keystore Service (KSS) which is now used by default in SOA Suite 12.1.3 (and other 12c products soon no doubt).

As most readers will know WebLogic, and therefore the layered products that sit on top of it like SOA or WebCenter, uses Java Keystore files (.jks) to store server identity certificates and trust certificates/key-chains (before JKS people used flat files).

If you're building clusters you want to centralise configuration where possible to keep things simple - that's why it's nice to put things like the server memory parameters in the domain configuration. Unfortunately you still had to distribute (and later update) JKS files to each host... until KSS arrived.

What the Keystore Service does is to provide keystores to WebLogic server instances - at run-time from from a central place (the OPSS schema in the Fusion Middleware infrastructure repository).

Managing the Keystores 

You can manually manage the keystores using EM Fusion Middleware Control, via the Security menu on the domain. By default you will have demo trust and demo identity keystores, for example created by the Configuration Wizard, but you can create your own and delete the demo ones. See the documentation at: https://docs.oracle.com/middleware/1213/idm/app-security/kssadm.htm.

Keystore management screen in EM FMWC

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What you need to know about the new ODA X5-2

Today, as part of the "Next Generation of Oracle Engineered Systems" webcast,  Larry Ellison launched the new X5 systems. This bullishly-titled post attempts to summarise what's new specifically with the ODA X5-2, and what's most important, especially for those using ODA Virtualized Platform (ODA VP) to build entire Oracle infrastructures as an appliance.

We've known since last September when Intel released the Haswell-EP processors (the E5-2600 v3 models) that there would likely be refreshes to many of Oracle's engineered systems. However for this year's ODA refresh there have been far more changes than the previous one (which was just the processor update and fibre option). 

Oracle Database Appliance X5-2 

Summary of Changes 

Here are the most significant changes in the ODA X5-2, as compared to the previous X4-2 generation, biased towards my perspective of running Fusion Middleware products, and associated databases, on ODA VP for O-box:

  • Extra SSD on shared storage ("ODA Flash Accelerator") to hold some database data ("ODA Flash Cache") and ACFS metadata ("ODA Flash Files")
  • 40Gb/s InfiniBand for interconnect between server nodes
  • DDR4 memory with the option to upgrade to 768GB per node, so 1.5TB total
  • SAS3, which runs at 12 Gb/s - I assume/hope this is for connections to server disks, internally within the array(s) and between the arrays and servers
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2013: the Year O-box was Born!

2013 has been one of those "flat out" years for me. This has been due to a few factors: a SOA EDG project that spanned much of the year, a couple of systems going live in the summer, a few shorter engagements for architectural designs/reviews, the usual Oracle conferences and last, but certainly not least, forming a new software company called "O-box".

 2013
Firstly let's rewind...[Read More]

WebLogic 12.1.2 - an Important New Release for Middleware Admins

TomorrowToday Oracle is running a launch event for their new version of WebLogic 12c - 12.1.2 - plus some other products in the CAF (Cloud Application Foundation) family.

There was considerable hoopla around the time of the UKOUG 2011 conference for the initial WebLogic 12c release (12.1.1), mainly because WebLogic had (finally) been certified with Java EE 6 and it was such as a feature-rich release ("over 200 new features" if I remember rightly). In practice Oracle back-ported several of the non-Java EE changes (GridLink enhancements, JTS stored in the database, etc) to 11g(10.3.6) which was nice but meant that 12.1.1 wasn't hugely interesting for those responsible for production middleware infrastructures and outside of development.

Twenty months later this new WebLogic 12.1.2 release has a lot more to interest to the administrator though (plus more besides) and that is what this post will focus on.


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Admin Server Separation - Pros and Cons

The majority of my Fusion Middleware work is focussed around designing application infrastructure providing appropriate levels of performance, resilience, flexibility and cost; one topic that comes up a lot is how to deal with WebLogic admin servers.

Personally I feel quite strongly that, for all but the simplest installations (or those where you have a tight installation package, such as Forms or EM 12c), the admin server should be run on a separate host (typically a virtual machine) from the managed servers. Curiously, this was one of the first conversations I had with Jacco Landlust maybe 4 or 5 year ago, and it turned out he had, independently, come to the same conclusion... maybe this was a good omen for our various colaborations since! Between us we have built perhaps a dozen Fusion Middleware infrastructures using this approach and my opinion hasn't changed.

So, let me outline the considerations for separation (though this also strays into the debate over admin server high availability - HA - which deserves a post of its own)...
Jacco Landlust & Simon Haslam co-presenting at UKOUG 2012
Jacco Landlust & Simon Haslam co-presenting at UKOUG 2012

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Virtualisation arrives for Exalogic 2 - Details from Launch Event

Yesterday, via a global webcast, Oracle launched "Exalogic 2.0" or, more precisely, "Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud Software 2.0" (EECS), i.e. the Exalogic X2-2 hardware is the same but the software that runs on it has been updated. This post considers some of the technical aspects of the launch (if you're interested in the marketing stuff try the Exalogic pages on oracle.com).

Hasan Rizvi highlighted the 4 key changes to EECS:

  • Virtualisation including "isolation with support of IB partitioning"
  • "Better performance"
  • "Application to Disk" management
  • Application Delivery Control
Let's pick through those one at a time, then we'll look at the Q&As... [Read More]

Most quiet launch at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 - Oracle Traffic Director

It's not like Oracle to keep quiet about something good; here's one blog summarising this week's headlines at Oracle OpenWorld 2011: The Most Exciting Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne Announcements in One Place

Now, I've no idea what (presumably cloudy) announcement will be made in Larry Ellison's keynote tomorrow, but for me I've already seen the new product of the conference: Oracle Traffic Director (OTD). This is not yet released, but watching the live demos it's certainly not vapourware either, and was described extensively at today's "High Performance Traffic Management with Oracle Fusion Middleware on Oracle Exalogic" presentation, primarily delivered by Mark Prichard and Arvind Srinivasan.

The first surprising thing was that there were only about 4 of us at the session! Why there were so few people is a total mystery to me. However, let me describe the key points of what I heard and saw.

Demo screen for Oracle Traffic Director

Oracle Traffic Director is a load balancer, local traffic manager, or application delivery controller (ADC), depending on your choice of term. It redirects incoming layer 7 (application) IP traffic to one of many clustered nodes (or origin servers), performs SSL offload, can cache or redirect content from other sources - by the sounds of it everythng you would expect from a modern ADC like BIG-IP or Cisco ACE.

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Welcome to my Fusion Middleware administration blog

Well, I've finally succumbed to starting a blog discussing the work I do with Oracle Application Server and Fusion Middleware products...[Read More]

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