Oracle Cloud : First Impressions

 

cloudFollowers of the blog will know I’ve been waiting to get access to the Oracle Cloud for a while. Well, I’ve finally got access to a bit of it. Specifically, the “Oracle Database Cloud Service” (DBaaS) part. :)

The Schema Service has been around for a few years and I had already tried that out, but IMHO it’s not really part of Oracle Cloud proper*, so I was reserving my judgement until I got the real stuff. :)

I’ve written a couple of articles already. Just basic stuff to document setting stuff up and connecting etc.

So here are some first impressions…

Oracle Cloud : Look and Feel

Overall the cloud offering looks clean and modern. Tastes vary of course, but I like the look of it.

The navigation is a bit inconsistent between the different cloud services. It feels like the console for each section (Compute, Java, DBaaS etc.) has been written by a different team, each doing what they think works, rather than working to a single design standard. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • In the “Oracle Database Cloud Service” section there is a “Consoles” button on the top-right of the screen that triggers a popup menu allowing you to switch to the Dashboard, Java Cloud and Compute Cloud console. In the “Oracle Compute Cloud” section, the “Consoles” button is not present. Instead there is a hamburger on the top-left of the screen that causes a navigation panel to slide out on the left of the screen, pushing the rest of the page contents to the right. On the top-level services page, the same hamburger produces a popup menu, kind-of like the “Consoles” button, but with the colouring of the navigation panel. I don’t find any method better or worse than the others. It would just be nice if they picked one and stuck with it, otherwise you are looking round the screen trying to decide how to make your next move. :)
  • Some consoles use tabs. Some use navigation tiles. Some use both.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard to navigate. It’s just inconsistent, which kind-of ruins the overall effect. If they can bring it all into line I think it will be really cool.

I think Oracle Cloud looks neater than Amazon Web Services, but the navigation is not as consistent as AWS or Azure. Having used AWS, Azure and Oracle Cloud, I feel Azure has the neatest and most consistent interface. Like I said before, tastes vary. :)

Probably my biggest issue with the Oracle Cloud interface is the speed, or lack of. It’s really slow and unresponsive at times. On a few occasions I thought it had died, then after about 30 seconds the screen just popped back into life. Some of the actions give no feedback until they are complete, so you don’t know if you’ve pressed the button or not.

Oracle Cloud : Ease of Use

I found DBaaS pretty simple to use. I’ve already spent some time using AWS and Azure, so there is probably some carry-over there. I pretty much completed my first pass through creation, connections and patching before I even considered looking for documentation. :)

The documentation is OK, but contains very few screen shots, which leads me to believe the look and feel is all in a state of flux.

I think the general Oracle Compute Cloud Service network/firewall setup is really quite clear, but you can’t edit existing rules. Once a rule is created you can only enable, disable or delete it. I found myself having to delete and create rules a number of times when it felt more obvious to let me edit an existing rule. I’ll mention a DBaaS issue related to this later.

DBaaS Specifically

Just some general observations about the DBaaS offering.

  • The “Oracle Database Cloud Service” DBaaS offering looks OK , but I noticed they don’t have multiplexed redo logs. I never run without multiplexed redo logs, regardless of the redundancy on the storage layer. Even if they were all shoved in the same directory, it would still be better than running without multiplexed files. This is a bit of mandatory configuration the user is left to do after the fact.
  • The DBaaS virtual machine has Glassfish and ORDS installed on it, which is necessary because of the way they have organised the administration of the service, but it’s not something I would normally recommend. Databases and App Servers never go on the same box. Like I said, I understand why, but I don’t like it.
  • The management of the DBaaS offering feels fragmented. For some administration tasks you use the main cloud interface. For others you jump across to the DBaaS Monitor, which has a completely different look and feel. For others you to jump across to [DBConsole – 11g | DB Express -12c]. For a DBaaS offering, I think this is a mistake. It should all be incorporated into the central console and feel seamless. I understand that may be a pain and repetition of existing functionality, but it feels wrong without it.
  • I found the network/firewall setup done by the DBaaS service to be quite irritating. It creates a bunch of rules for each DBaaS service, which are all disabled by default (a good thing), but all the rules are “public”, which you would be pretty crazy to enable. Because you can’t edit them, they end up being pretty much useless. It really is one of those, “Do it properly or don’t bother!”, issues to me. If the DBaaS setup screens asked you to define a Security IP List, or pick an existing one, and decide which services you wanted to make available, it could build all these predefined rules properly in the first place. Alternatively, provide a DBaaS network setup wizard or just don’t bother. It feels so half-baked. :(
  • Dealing with the last two points collectively, the fragmentation of the management interface means some of the management functionality (DBaaS Monitor and [DBConsole – 11g | DB Express -12c]) is not available until you open the firewall for it. This kind-of highlights my point about the fragmentation. I’m logged into the DBaaS console where I can create and delete the whole service, but I can’t use some of the management features. It just feels wrong to me. It is totally down to the implementation choices. I would not have chosen this path.
  • Unlike the AWS RDS for Oracle, you get complete access to the OS and database. You even get sudo access to run root commands. At first I thought this was going to be a good thing and a nice differentiator compared to RDS, but having used the service I’m starting to think it is a bad move. The whole point of a DBaaS offering is it hides some of the nuts and bolts from you. I should not be worrying about the OS. I should not be worrying about the basic Oracle setup. Giving this level of access raises more questions/problems than it solves. I feel I should either do everything myself, or pick a DBaaS offering, accept the restrictions of it, and have it all done for me. The current offering feels like it has not decided what it wants to be yet.
  • When I patched the database through the service admin console it worked fine, but it took a “really” long time! I waited quite a while, went out to the gym and it was still going when I came back. Eventually I started an SSH session to try and find out what was happening. It turns out it took over 2 hours to “download” the PSU to the VM. Once the download was complete, the application of the patch was done quickly. Interesting.
  • The “Oracle Database Cloud Service – Virtual Image” option seems pretty pointless to me. On the website and console it says there is a software installation present, but this is not the case. Instead, there is a tarball containing the software (/scratch/db12102_bits.tar.gz). It also doesn’t come with the storage to do the actual installation on, or to hold the datafiles. To do the installation, you would need to “Up Scale” the service to add the storage, then do the installation manually. This process is actually more complicated than provisioning a compute node and doing everything yourself. I think Oracle need to ditch this option and just stick with DBaaS or Compute, like Amazon have done (RDS or EC2).

Conclusion

I like the Oracle Cloud more than I thought I would. I think it looks quite nice and if someone told me I had to use it as a general Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) portal I would be fine with that.

I like the DBaaS offering less than I hoped I would. I feel quite bad about saying it, but it feels like a work in progress and not something I would want use at this point. If it were my decision, I would be pushing the DBaaS offering more in the direction of AWS RDS for Oracle. As I said before, the current DBaaS offering feels like it has not decided what it wants to be yet. It needs to be much more hands-off, with a more consistent, centralized interface.

I don’t have full access to the straight Compute Cloud yet, so I can’t try provisioning a VM and doing everything myself. If I get access I will try it, but I would expect it to be the same as what I’ve done for EC2 and Azure. A VM is a VM… :)

When I read this back it sounds kind-of negative, but I think all the things I’ve mentioned could be “fixed” relatively quickly. Also, this is only one person’s opinion on one specific service. The haters need to try this for themselves before they hate. :)

Cheers

Tim…

* Just to clarify, I am not saying the Schema Service isn’t “Cloud” and I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I’m just saying I don’t see this as part of Oracle’s grand cloud database vision. It always seemed like a cynical push to market to allow them to say, “we have a cloud DB”. If it had been branded “APEX Service” I might have a different opinion. It is after all a paid for version of apex.oracle.com. This is a very different proposition to promoting it as a “Cloud Database”.

Adaptive Query Optimization in Oracle 12c : Ongoing Updates

 

I’ve said a number of times, the process of writing articles is part of an ongoing learning experience for me. A few days ago my personal tech editor (Jonathan Lewis) asked about a statement I made in the SQL Plan Directive article. On further investigation it turned out the sentence was a complete work of fiction on my part, based on my misunderstanding of something I read in the manual, as well as the assumption that everything that happens must be as a result of a new feature. :)

Anyway, the offending statement has been altered, but the conversation this generated resulted in new article about Automatic Column Group Detection.

The process also highlighted how difficult, at least for me, it is to know what is going on in the optimizer now. It wasn’t always straight forward before, but now with the assorted new optimizations, some beating others to the punch, it is even more difficult. There are a number of timing issues involved also. If a statement runs twice in quick succession, you might get a different sequence of events compared to having a longer gap between the first and second run of the statement. It’s maddening at times. I’m hoping Jonathan will put pen to paper about this, because I think he will do a better job of explaining the issues around the inter-dependencies better than I can.

Anyway, I will be doing another pass through this stuff over the coming days/weeks/months/years to make sure it is consistent with “my current understanding”. :)

Fun, fun, fun…

Cheers

Tim…

Fedora 22/23 and Oracle 11gR2/12cR1

 

linux-tuxAs always, installations of Oracle server products on Fedora are not a great idea, as explained here.

I was reading some stuff about the Fedora 23 Alpha and realised Fedora 22 had passed me by. Not sure how I missed that. :)

Anyway, I did a run through of the usual play stuff.

While I was at it, I thought I would get the heads-up on Fedora 23 Alpha.

The F23 stuff will have to be revised once the final version is out, but I’m less likely to forget now. :)

I guess the only change in F22 upward that really affects me is the deprecation of YUM in F22 in favour of the DNF fork. For the most part, you just switch the command.

#This:
yum install my-package -y
yum groupinstall my-package-group -y
yum update -y

#Becomes:
dnf install my-package -y
dnf groupinstall  my-package-group -y
dnf group install  my-package-group -y
dnf update -y

This did cause one really annoying problem in F23 though. The “MATE Desktop” had a single documentation package that was causing a problem. Usually I would use the following.

yum groupinstall "MATE Desktop" -y --skip-broken

Unfortunately, DNF doesn’t support “–skip-broken”, so I was left to either manually install the pieces, or give up. I chose the latter and use LXDE instead. :) F23 is an Alpha, so you expect issues, but DNF has been in since F22 and still no “–skip-broken”, which I find myself using a lot. Pity.

Cheers

Tim…

Windows 10 Again

 

DiagnosticsI wrote a few months ago about having a play with Windows 10 (here).

I’m visiting family today, catching up on all the Windows desktop (and mobile phone) support that I missed while I was away.

I purposely postponed the Windows 10 update on the desktops before I went away, but now I’m back I did the first of them.

The update itself was fine, but it did take a long time. Nothing really to write home about.

I’ve installed the latest version of Classic Shell on the machine, so the experience is similar to what they had before, Windows 8.1 and Classic Shell, which felt like Windows 7. :)

I’ve also switched out their shortcuts from Edge (Spartan) to Internet Explorer 11. They already use a combination of IE, Firefox and Chrome, so I didn’t want to add another thing into the mix. Also, the nephews use the Java plugin for some web-based games, so it is easier to leave them with IE for the time being. Maybe I will introduce Edge later…

So all in all, the user experience is pretty much unchanged compared to what they had before. I guess I will see how many calls Captain Support gets over the coming weeks! :)

Cheers

Tim…

WordPress 4.3 “Billie”

 

WordPress 4.3 “Billie” has arrived.

I was on my blog admin pages doing something else and I noticed the update was available before the auto-updater kicked in and updated the site automatically, so I gave it a nudge and now I’m upgraded.

Like most of the recent WordPress updates, there is little new that interests me, but it’s always a good idea to be up to date, so whatever… :)

Cheers

Tim…

My Glamorous Life : Just so you don’t misunderstand…

 

If you’ve subscribed to my YouTube channel, you will have noticed me posting some videos with the title “My Glamorous Life : …“.

I had several distinct plans for this trip:

  • Do the OTN tour itself. That is of course the real reason we are doing this!
  • Collect some video footage of the conferences so I could produce little montage for each, just to help me remember it. I’ll do that when I get home and can sift through the footage to see if any is usable. Fingers crossed.
  • Film Machu Picchu. I kind-of failed there because I got I’ll, but I do have this little montage of the journey.
  • Document how boring, tedious and stressful the logistics of doing these tours really is.

I started on that last task with the footage of Charles de Gaule airport and Buenos Aires airport, which I think pretty much summed up how dull travelling is. Its not a criticism of the airports themselves. Just that most of your time on these tours is spent sitting in airports, planes, taxies and sleeping in hotels. There is very little time actually in each country.

After those first two videos, I went a bit off the plan and started to film the hotel rooms, which are actually rather glamorous really, at least to me anyway. Added to that, we were rushing around airports so much I kept forgetting to film them. So this series that was meant to convince you how bad travelling can be, now looks more like two weeks in the life of a budget Kim Kardashian.

That makes me a little nervous, as I don’t want people to get the wrong message about what we are doing here. Just to clear things up, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We use Oracle approved hotels, typically with an Oracle discount, unless we can get it cheaper than the corporate rate. In most cases, this discount makes them a similar price to staying in a Travelodge in London. So despite how cool some of these places look, they are really rather cheap. If you booked them yourself they are crazily expensive, but with the corporate discount, they are a bargain.
  • Several people on the tour travel for work and have airline and hotel status, allowing them to sign mere mortals like me into executive lounges to get freebies, like breakfast and evening meals, which means I’m not having to pay for them myself. Without this, the tour would be even more expensive as we can’t claim those expenses back.
  • All sightseeing discussed is naturally at our own expense. We (Debra really) arranged flight times to maximise the time we spent in cities, so we could fit in the odd tour, but if we had gone for midday flights we would have seen pretty much nothing of any of the cities, as it was conference-fly-conference-fly pretty much all the way through.
  • Since this tour finished in Peru, Debra and I decided to tag on an extra couple of days to go and see Machu Picchu. All flights, transport, hotels etc. during this time came out of our own pockets.
  • During my trip home from Peru I spent the day in a hotel because of a long layover (14 hours) and upgraded my flight home to business class. These costs came out of my own pocket. They are not paid for by the ACE Program.

I guess I’m getting a bit paranoid now, but it does make me nervous to think I might be giving people the wrong impression about these tours. They are bloody hard work. Anything else you can fit in around them is a bonus, but certainly not the main focus.

Anyway, enough of my paranoid wittering. I’m off to eat more food in an airport executive lounge, which I paid for myself. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Lima to Amsterdam

 

I left the hotel a little late, but the airport was literally across the road, so it was no big deal. Having a business class ticket meant I checked in immediately (+1) and even had time to hit the lounge (+2). High class swanky time, and without needing to be signed in for once. :)

Boarding the flight was pretty straight forward. Once again, the business class ticket gives priority boarding (+3), without me having to tag along with Debra.

The KLM flight from Lima, Peru to Amsterdam, Netherlands was about 12 hours and 30 minutes, but it was a great flight. Upgrading to business class was a great move. I find it really hard to sleep in an upright position, so being able to lie flat is awesome (+4). I was in a seat with nobody either side of me, so I felt really isolated, which made sleeping even easier. These long flights are so much better if you can get some sleep!

Aside from sleeping, I watched:

  • Wild Card : Not too bad. I like quite a few of the films Jason Statham has been in. Even the bad ones. :)
  • Seventh Son : Typically fantasy stuff. Witches, dragons and slayers etc. Quite good, but Jeff Bridges voice annoyed me.
  • The Big Lebowski : Seeing Jeff Bridges in the previous film made me want to re-watch this film, where his voice does not annoy me. :)
  • The Amityville Horror : Slept through a lot of it. I’ve seen it before. It’s an OK remake I guess.
  • The Green Lantern : OK. I know it is a pretty poor film, but I just scanned through to find clips that looked cool. :)

The staff were really pleasant and helpful. All in all a very good experience and well worth the money in my opinion.

On arriving in Amsterdam, I headed over to the lounge to see if I could get in. I’m not sure how other lounges work, but KLM allow you in on arrival as well as departure (+5), which is awesome, because I’m stuck here for about 6 hours in total. If I had spent 14 hours in Lima airport and 12.5 hours in economy, I would be feeling totally psycho by now. As it is, I’m feeling pretty good. Hopefully, by the time I get home I will be tired enough to sleep and I can wake up and go to work as normal tomorrow…

So for me, that was +5 for the flight upgrade. Thanks KLM! I could get addicted to this, and very poor. :)

I’ll write a wrap-up post when I get home… :)

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’ve also got some quick montage videos of the conferences to edit when I get home, provided the footage I’ve got works OK…