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”.

Why do people show Azure so much love?

 

cloudThe title of this post is taken from tweet I saw a few weeks ago and it keeps coming back to haunt me, so I thought I would comment on it.

Let me start by saying I don’t have any context as to why the tweeter thought people were showing Azure so much love. From my perspective, I kind-of like Azure and I think it is what my employer will end up using, but I’m not a crazed fan-boy about it. :)

Also, I fully understand a move to the cloud is not the right thing for everyone, so this post is focused on those people who do want/need to move to the cloud. Just because it is not right for you, it doesn’t mean it’s not right for everyone. So when I’m talking about running services on the cloud, it is not a recommendation. I’m not telling you you’ve got to. I’m speaking about cloud services to try to explain why someone might say something like the title of this post. I’m hoping this paragraph will stem the hate-comments that invariably come when you mention the cloud. :)

Interface

The Azure interface it pretty neat. It’s clean and reasonably intuitive. I’m a casual user, so I can’t say how I would feel about it if I were managing hundreds or thousands of resources, but from my brief time with it, I like it.

I don’t dislike the AWS interface, but it does feel a bit more cluttered and ugly than the Azure interface. I guess that could be enough to put off some people maybe.

Services

Coming from the Oracle world, we tend to think of UNIX/Linux as being the centre of the universe, but if I think back to the companies I’ve worked for over the years, the majority of their kit has been Windows-based, with the exception of the bits I work on. :) Since most corporate desktops are still Windows-based, Outlook, Office and Active Directory tend to rule the roost. If you are thinking of moving those services on to the cloud, Azure seems the “obvious choice”. Am I saying they are the best products and Azure is the best place to run them? No. What I’m saying is it will be seen as the “obvious choice” for many people wanting to move to the cloud.

The same goes with SQL Server. I happen to like the AWS RDS for SQL Server implementation, but I’m guessing a lot of SQL Server folks will get a warmer and fuzzier feeling about running SQL Server on Azure. Lots of decisions in IT are based on gut instinct or personal bias of the buyers, not necessarily fact. I can see how someone will “feel happier” there.

Once the Oracle Cloud becomes generally available, we may see a similar issue there. People may feel happier about running Oracle products on the Oracle Cloud than on AWS or Azure. Time will tell.

What’s under the hood?

This is where cloud really turns stuff on its head. If I want to run a Linux VM, I can do that on AWS, Azure, Oracle Cloud, VMware vCloud Air etc. From my perspective, if the VM stays up and gives me the performance I paid for, do I really care about what’s under the hood? You can be snobbish about hypervisors, but do I care if Oracle are using less hardware to service the same number of VMs as Azure? No. Where infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is concerned, it is all about the price:performance ratio. As I’ve heard many times, it’s a race for the bottom.

Call me naive, but I really don’t care what is happening under the hood of a cloud service, provided I get what I pay for. I think this is an important factor in how someone like Microsoft can go from zero to hero of the cloud world. If they provide the right services at the right price, people will come.

Conclusion

Q: Why do people show Azure so much love?

A: Because it does what it is meant to do. It provides the services certain companies want at a price they are willing to pay. What’s not to love?

Q: So it’s the best cloud provider right?

A: That depends on your judging criteria. No one cloud provider is “the best”. For some people Azure will be the best option. For others it might be the worst.

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c Release 5 (12.1.0.5) – Just Born

 

em-12cOracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control 12c Release 5 (12.1.0.5) was announced a few days ago. I woke up today and checked the interwebs and it’s actually available for download.

I must admit I’m a little nervous about the upgrade. I had a few bad times with upgrades in the early days of Grid Control and Cloud Control and that has left me with a little bit of voodoo lurking in the back of my mind. The last couple of upgrades have been really easy, so I’m sure it will be fine, but that voodoo…

I’ll download it now and do a clean install. Then do a couple of practice upgrades. If all that goes well, I’ll schedule a date to sacrifice a chicken, raise a zombie from the dead to do my bidding, then do the real upgrade.

Cheers

Tim…

Update. Looking at the certification matrix, the repository is now certified on 12.1.0.2, as well as 11.2.0.4 and 11.2.0.3.

Update 2. Pete mentioned in the comments that 12.1.0.2 has been certified for the Cloud Control repository since march, with some restrictions. So it’s not new to this release. See the comments for details.

Update 3. Remember to download from edelivery.oracle.com (in a couple of days) for your production installations. Apparently there is a difference to the license agreement.

Databases Running in the Cloud

 

cloudI’ve been playing around with running databases in the cloud recently. It’s quite simplistic stuff, just to get a feel for it and investigate the possibilities of using it for some projects at work. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

Overview:

Oracle:

MySQL:

SQL Server:

It’s hard to differentiate between the cloud providers if you are just using them to provide a VM and self managing a system on it. It’s just another box provider.

In contrast the DBaaS offerings are much more interesting. I really like what Amazon are doing with RDS for Oracle/MySQL/SQL Server. I think these would work very well for *our* MySQL and SQL Server installations, which tend to be quite simple. I’m not sure I can live with some of the restrictions for RDS for Oracle, but that’s probably because I’m a snobby DBA type, who thinks he knows best. :) The DBaaS for SQL Server on Azure is also really nice. You get less control than the RDS version, but maybe that’s a good thing.

You might have noticed I’ve not written much about Oracle Cloud yet. I should be getting a trial of the platform this month, so I will be able to fill in those gaps then.

Cheers

Tim…

Cloud Control : 12.1.0.7 Plugin Patch

 

I applied some of the 12.1.0.7 plugin patches to our Cloud Control installation today. We already have Cloud Control 12.1.0.4 installed, so this was just a case of updating the plugins.

Here’s a quick overview of what I did.

  • Backup up everything! Database and file system.
  • Setup > Extensibility > Self Update
  • Download the latest versions of the plugins. The minimum you can really get away with is “Oracle Database 12.1.0.7”,  “Oracle Cloud Framework 12.1.0.2” and “Oracle Fusion Middleware 12.1.0.7”. The Cloud Framework plugin is a dependency for the FWM plugin. Obviously, grab the extra plugins if you need them…
  • Setup > Extensibility > Plugins
  • Do a “Deploy On > Management Server” for the plugins you’ve downloaded. These require OMS downtime, so you will be monitoring progress using “./emctl status oms -details” from the “$OMS_HOME/bin” directory.
  • Wait until it is all running again.
  • Do a “Deploy On > Management Agent” for the DB and FMW plugins on just the cloud control server. I wanted to know it was all fine on this server before pushing out the updates to the agents on the monitored hosts.
  • Convince yourself nothing weird is happening.
  • Do a “Deploy On > Management Agent” for the DB plugin on any monitored database severs. Where possible I did Dev environments in one pass. Test environments in a second pass, then Prod environments.
  • Do a “Deploy On > Management Agent” for the FMW plugin on any monitored WebLogic severs. Once again, Dev, Test, Prod.

The plugin deploys to the OMS are a bit slow, but the deploys to the agents are pretty quick. Numbers will vary depending on your kit.

I much prefer the plugin patches to the main Cloud Control OMS and Agent patches as we (the DBAs) don’t have root or sudo access on the servers, so when we do the full-on patches we end up swamping the sysadmins with requests to run “root.sh” scripts. We don’t have to do that for the plugin patches.

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle and the cloud. A brief history…

 

This morning I read this post about Oracle Cloud from Tuula Fai.

What really annoys me about this post is I was at Oracle OpenWorld (about 3 years ago) when Larry was on stage telling us that Cloud was a meaningless fad. Fast forward to OOW 2012 and it would be easy to believe that Oracle invented the cloud, as I mentioned here. At OOW 2012 he openly stated Oracle started to write Fusion Apps for the cloud 7 years ago. Dude! That is not true. You initiated a program to rewrite Fusion Apps to be a browser-based replacement for EBS, which then happily coincided with the whole cloud thing at a later date. At least this post acknowledges that could have been an accident…

I know companies, especially Oracle, like to spin things, but it really gets on my tits when they release posts like this that basically mock all of us who were present and actually witnessed the events as they unfolded.

This is not a criticism of Oracle’s current cloud offerings. If the post had just been one discussing the current and future cloud offerings that would be fine. It’s the mocking tone, suggesting we are all idiots for believing that Oracle were never anything but at the forefront of the cloud scene. Trying to spin Larry as a godfather of the cloud with statements like, “an industry segment he helped to create and in which he’s been immersed for 14 years”, is extremely disappointing.

Of course, history is written by the winners. We all know that Apple invented the MP3 player, smartphone and tablet. Likewise, Oracle invented the cloud. Anyone who says different is a moron… :(

Cheers

Tim…