Oracle DBAs Rejoice! Automating Oracle Copies for Non-Production Environments

Administrators of the mighty enterprise application and database known as Oracle… this blog post is for you! It’s refreshing to be able to talk to an audience that is tasked with managing the lifeblood of your company. But did you know that there are tools besides Oracle native tools like DataGuard that can help you streamline workflows to make your job easier and save you time? This is precisely what I want to discuss with you today.

A Tale of Two Databases
In my role at EMC, I get to meet and work with many customers who have large scale deployments of Oracle. They tell me that one of the tedious aspects of the job is the need to keep production running without interruption, while also maintaining a non-production environment for testing and development. The fact of the matter is that DBAs are Oracle experts, but not experts on creating copies on the SAN. Often times in large companies, the Oracle DBA has to submit requests in queue to receive copies of a particular database. This “queue” is often managed by the Storage Administrator. This is an inefficient workflow for a number of reasons including:

  • The Oracle DBA has to wait to receive the copy. The longer the wait, the more outdated the non-production environment becomes.
  • The Storage Administrator frequently has higher priority work than creating copies for the DBA.
  • Using native tools, automating the copy job can create inflexibility. Even if the Storage Administrator automates the Oracle copy job, the DBA will need them to intervene to make changes when additional DB’s or other changes are made.

Cloning Oracle for Testing and Development
For those new to copy technology, let’s quickly discuss how creating clones of the product environment are commonly used to refresh non-production environments. We call this practice, “Re-purposing”. To create copies for repurposing you will need to create a re-startable image of your Oracle database. A clone is different from a snap in that a clone is a complete copy of the database. Creating a clone of Oracle for a test environment can take a long time based on the size and architecture of the database. The cloning process can also be disruptive to production if not executed properly. Some customers have told me that they allow a window of time for cloning when production is not at peak because of the degradation in performance that can occur. So you can clearly see that a Storage Administrator is faced with a process that can be inefficient and that must be completed on a regular basis.

A Better way for DBA’s and Storage Administrators
In order to streamline the Oracle “re-purposing process” we have two roles with different requirements. In searching for a tool that will satisfy the requirements, let’s take a quick look at those roles and needs:

Table-Oracle-DBA

To meet the needs of both roles, EMC offers a product by the name of Replication Manager aka, RM. Replication Manager started out as a highly flexible application which allowed you to automate the creation of snaps and clones on EMC arrays. In its extremely evolved state it has become an indispensable tool that both Oracle DBAs and Storage Administrators use in addition to Oracle DataGuard and Automated Storage Management (ASM) to simplify the creation of array based copies. Replication Manager has a number of benefits which make it an ideal tool for making copies easily and non-disruptively to the production database.
Benefits Include:

  • Oracle specific replication options:Integration with the Oracle hot backup API enabling “application consistent” copies to be created without disrupting production
    • Consistent Split online replicas using hot backup mode
    • Non-consistent split online replicas using hot-backup mode
    • Consistent split replicas using offline backup mode
    • Non-consistent split replicas using offline backup mode
  • The ability to mount the Oracle copy to another host
  • Integration with Oracle ASM Disk Groups and Oracle RAC support
  • Quickly create and apply snaps to immediately refresh non-production environments
  • Self-Service user roles for the DBA and Storage/SAN Administrator

For the DBA, Replication Manager uses a “wizard driven” GUI interface that allows the DBA to create Oracle copy jobs and set up automation and scheduling, all without becoming a scripting or storage expert. For the Storage administrator, you can confidently delegate the process by assigning one of the five user roles (see below) to the DBA safely and securely.
Oracle-DBA-4

Streamlining Oracle Copy Workflow

To streamline the Oracle copy workflow, Replication Manager offers benefits including:

  • Running scheduled or on demand Oracle copy jobs
  • Full automated discovery Oracle databases and tablespaces
  • Quiescing the Oracle database using Oracle APIs
  • Mounting and re-naming copies
  • Restoring copies back to Oracle production
  • Running optional scripts to further customize the workflow
Oracle-DBA-1With Replication Manager, the DBA is empowered to create his or her own copy jobs where you can specify which Oracle database component you want to replicate as shown here in, “Replica Properties”. In addition, DBAs can create schedules for creating copies. This is particularly useful when using RM to create clones or snaps on a regular basis to keep non-production environments in synch. This tool gives the DBA power and control over the copy process enabling them to run on-demand copies, or scheduled copies. RM even allows the DBA to easily link and synchronize multiple copy jobs to provide time saving benefits especially in complex, federated Oracle environments.

In order to produce a tool which would benefit both array administrators and DBAs, RM gives you the flexibility to customize each Oracle Copy job as seen here in, “Advanced Replication Settings”. As RM has been deeply integrated with Oracle and its processes, the DBA has the ability to set consistency methods and options like copying the Oracle FRA (Flash Recovery Area) and archive logs. Oracle’s hot backup mode can be employed or turned off based on the type of copy you want to create. The nice thing is that once your Oracle Copy Job is created, you can make changes to its attributes and schedule at will without involving the Storage Administrator.

Oracle-DBA-3
Power to the DBA!

In summary, Oracle DBAs and Storage Administrators now have a tool for managing Oracle copies that they can agree on which gives them the ability to simplify the workflow of creating Oracle copies to keep non-production environments current.

But Wait.. There’s More!
I’ve only scratched the surface as to how RM helps DBAs save time and empower themselves. Visit the RM Community where you can find excellent resources to learn about Oracle replication, SAP, and EMC products and solutions.

About the Author: Neil Salamack

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