Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) becomes the technology of choice for highly available and highly scalable deployment of enterprise Oracle database environment. With its innovative technology it comes with no surprise its complexity. The complexity is not only with the underlying database technology itself, but also how well you design and implement it to work with other components including operating system, storage subsystem, etc. In order to setup and maintain a successful RAC environment, it not only requires technical knowledge of database administrator (DBA), but also well collaboration and extended planning between all IT and business partners.
Few years back, there has been a movement of DBA 2.0 which says that, in addition to database knowledge, an extended understanding of operating system, storage and/or networking is encouraged due to more tightly integrated of Oracle database technologies such as Clusterware, RAC, ASM with the underlying subsystems. I agree with this notion but not to the extent that DBAs should perform all works in those areas. (Yes, I’m aware that some DBAs do it all.) However, I think at least they should have enough understandings of all-related technologies to collaborate with those who are responsible for in order to achieve the desired setup. In many cases especially in the large companies where traditional organization division of the job description of administrators is clear cut and no overlapping, being well-rounded with all-related technologies will allow DBA to better discuss the requirements and designs and even assist with the implementation details.
Most Oracle RAC books in the market today tend to focus only on the detailed technical aspects of this database technology. This mainly is good for those Oracle professionals who at least have worked with RAC before. Few books really provide a good foundation for those who are new to this technology. One of those few which I’ve just read recently is Oracle 11g R1/R2 Real Application Clusters Essentials authored by Ben Prusinski and Syed Jaffer Hussain published by Packt Publishing.
What I really like about this book is the fact that it does not jump into the nuts and bolts of this Oracle technology right away but instead it is trying to build up good foundation starting from concept (especially high availability), architecture (of all components not just of database), design, implementation and then even some of the real-world samples. This stepping-stone approach helps readers to understand what is involved and how they should deploy this technology for the high available database.
In the chapter 1, the emphasis of the high availability concept is crucial. The authors precisely points out that high availability should be looked from users’ perspective. Many DBAs or system administrators especially novice ones have a tendency to focus solely on their respective areas. The provided sample of the availability percentage in the “high availability interpretations” section is a good reminder for a need to have an end-to-end high availability design to avoid a single point of failure (SPOF). The chapter goes on to give the definitions of many acronyms (BIA, BCP, DRP, etc.) commonly-used during the planning phase. It is quite useful to be aware of them especially when discussing with business end-users. The chapter ends with providing a whole picture of the high availability solutions (RAC, Data Guard, Streams, Application Server Clustering) from Oracle as a part of the Maximum Availability Architecture (MAA). It is worth to point out that RAC is just one (not the only) of key components for a complete high availability solution.
Chapter 2 looks into the hardware components of Oracle RAC architecture including network, storage, etc. Again, I think the authors reinforce a need to understand all these underlying technologies (at least at high level) even though DBAs might not involve in the actual implementation. But it is crucial to have this knowledge under their belts in order to have the productive discussions of the requirements and design with system administrators.
Chapter 3 goes into the clusterware installation of 11g R1/R2. Even though readers may to be able to find similar information on many web sites and blogs, this book has some extra information which makes an attempt to explain what each action does, for example, what happen when the orainstRoot.sh and root.sh run?
Chapter 4 dedicates to the Automatic Storage Management (ASM) which becomes the only clear choice for storage management in the 11g deployment. The chapter covers all aspects of ASM in both R1 and R2 including new features, configurations, management, etc.
Chapter 5 covers Clusterware management and (some) troubleshooting samples. Instead of showing all possible troubleshooting scenarios (which is impossible to include everything in a chapter or even in a book), the authors did an excellent job of giving an overview of all necessary Clusterware utilities in order to troubleshoot the issues.
Chapter 6 turns our attention to RAC database administration. The structure is similar to that of Clusterware in the chapter 3. The latter part of the chapter also covers the automatic workload management including the topic of the service which is highly recommended to utilize it (not using the default database service.)
Chapter 7 covers all aspects of backup and recovery of Oracle database including the best practices. In addition, new features of RMAN in Oracle 11g R1 and 11g R2 along with OCR and voting disk backup and recovery are discussed.
Chapter 8 tries to give an overview of performance tuning. The intention here seems to just give an overview of the concept and methods of performance tuning as well as new 11g performance features, for example, Real Application Testing (RAT) which has the Database Replay and SQL Performance Analyzer (SPA). This high-level overview focus is understandable because the scope of performance tuning is generally vast. Some of tuning metrics especially relate to the wait events are explained here.
Chapter 9 focuses on the upgrade scenarios. As we all know it is impossible to cover all possible scenarios. But the authors gives sufficient information about overall upgrade processes from 10g R2 to 11g R1 and then to 11g R2 in this chapter. Definitely consulting with Oracle support for more details on individual upgrade case is still highly recommended.
Chapter 10 is very informative on the node addition and removal. The chapter steam-lines the steps pretty well (comparing to the official Oracle document which is very confusing at the first read with the flow of information). (We just went through adding two nodes into the existing two nodes of Oracle 11g R1 two months ago. That’s why I can say that.)
Chapter 11 shows the readers the importance of the end-to-end high availability implementation. The high availability should not stop at the Oracle RAC database, but it must extend to application layer on top of it. In addition to an overview of Oracle EBS (E-Business Suite), this chapter shows the readers how to take full advantage of high availability and performance features in Oracle RAC database.
The last chapter wraps up nicely with information about other tools in the MAA tool suite namely Streams and Data Guard. It covers all various topics of thes tools including concepts, new features, best practices, and overview configuration.
The last section of this book on the additional resources and tools is a nice read and very informative. It is just like a nice dessert at the end of a good meal.
In conclusion, if you’re new to Oracle RAC technology, this is THE book for you. It should give the readers enough understanding to jump on Oracle RAC bandwagon. Advanced DBAs may find that most of the contents in the book are too familiar, but they might be attracted to the new features, comparisons between R1 and R1 as well as some of real-world samples mentioned in this book. Overall I appreciate a very well effort of Ben ad Syed for one of the most complete informative books on Oracle RAC in the market today. Well-deserved kudos to them.
Thanks to Packt Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.