Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My (Almost Solid) Collaborate 09 Schedule

With less than a week before Collaborate 09 in Orlando, I have been working on the schedule of sessions that I don't want to miss and trying to fit in as many as I can around meetings. Every year, I have the same issue. Do I attend sessions for things I'm working on now to see if I can better my current processes, or do I look for new features and future products? This is actually a good problem to have and is an indication of the level of content that will be available.

Meetings for Special Interest Groups and now the IOUG Board of Directors take about half of my time, but that leaves plenty of time for some great session content. I will be dipping into some of Quest' International's content this year also since I am back to supporting the PeopleSoft world. Besides PeopleSoft I am trying to balance my time between new topics and improvements to current projects I am working on.

I'm especially looking forward to the Darwin Awards for IT Security and New and Improved Features in 11g RMAN. There should be several things in both of these that I can use right away back at the office. Backup scripts without restore scripts??? Who would do that? I guess that will be one session I will have to check out and make sure my restore scripts are up to snuff. Of course, my own session, which happens to be the last technical session on Thursday will be of interest to anyone that supports PeopleSoft. We are implementing the PeopleSoft Management Pack for Grid Control and my presentation covers some of our headaches and successes.

Collaborate wouldn't be complete without catching up with all the people I have become friends with in the past and making some new ones. Talk about value for the money. My contacts from past conferences have saved me a ton of time and my company some cash in the process. If you think you might be missing out because you won't be in Orlando next week... you're right! You still have two days to get $200 off the on-site registration rate and discounted hotel rates. Make sure you don't find yourself stuck in a situation that you could have learned about by attending Collaborate 09!

And when Collaborate is over.... I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!

I plan on Tweeting from the conference and will hopefully find some time to write blog entry or two. I hope you follow along! Find me on Twitter... toddsheetz.

"Virtual" Test

Budgets, budgets, budgets. We all have to deal with budgets. Making sure we can pay the mortgage, make the car payment, and feed the family fit into the home budget. For anyone that is a member of an organization, such as IOUG, we may want to start a really cool project, but being a volunteer organization, the budget will not support it this year. Even sending my daughters to school has become interesting as the private school system that they attend has run into budgetary issues. Most everyone in the technology field, definitely has run into budget constraints at work. In my case, the most recent budget "issue" has been creating a test system for our latest project.

A project was started to consolidate some remote MS Access databases into a centralized Oracle database. This is a vendor application and either installation method is supported. As the application becomes more mission critical, however, the decision was made (and the correct one, in my opinion) to consolidate to our Network Operations Center. The issue that came up though was dollars. When the original budget was written for the project, dollars for a test system were forgotten. The production system was budgeted as a two-node cluster to support two different application databases. This was fine and should support what we want to accomplish, but test was completely overlooked.

So, how do you create a test cluster to support a production implementation when dollars are limited? In our case, the decision was made to purchase one physical server and user Oracle VM to create a test cluster. Not exactly the same as production, but at least we will have somewhere to test out operating system, database, clusterware, and ASM upgrades and patches before going directly into production.

Of course, we have had issues. There is a larger VM learning curve than we expected especially as it relates to storage. We are also feeling our way through resource allocation. Originally we underallocated CPU resources and couldn't install anything. The virtual guest machine showed that the CPU was pegged, but the physical host showed no activity. Allocating an extra virtual CPU took care of that issue, but we still had issues installing and configuring ASM. The normal installation of 11g and configuration of ASM was hanging and showing full CPU utilization, although it was creating the instances. My coworker has spent a couple days with Oracle support trying to figure things out and finally ended up creating everything manually instead. Just one instance of how virtualized environments are not quite as seamless as the are touted to be.

In any event, we have the viritual servers up and running. So now we need to create the databases and away we go! That is just one example of how, if necessary, budgets can be saved. Of course, we haven't proven that we can support any kind of test load on this architecture, but we should at least be able to see if the applications still function after an upgrade or patch.

One final plug, by the way, for the IOUG Forum at Collaborate 09. If you are looking for more ways to save budget dollars, there are lots of tips and tricks you can learn from your peers. I'm hoping to learn more about virtualization and how we can better tune our test system. Since budgets are tight everywhere, make sure you register online before April 30 to save $200. Also, the conference hotel rates have been discounted. There is not better bargain for training than learning from people that have actually used the technology...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Collaborate 09 - Early Bird Registration and Special Offer

Okay, so I know I already posted today, but I don't think I put enough information about Early Bird Registration for Collaborate 09. You only have one more day to save $400 and get some extra stuff by using one of the special registration codes.

Register for the IOUG Forum by this Thursday, April 2 at using promotional code AD01 (choose this code during the demographic section – step 4 – of the registration process). You will receive a free Oracle Technology Best Practices Booklet and have your name entered into a raffle for an Apple iPod Touch. Of course, you also get access to the entire conference – more than 1,600 sessions! Oracle database, RAC, PeopleSoft, eBusiness Suite, Grid Control, and much more all in one place. All this training for one low price will save your company money by not having you go to multiple classes and you will be able to put the lessons learned into practice as soon as you get back to the office - and don't forget the networking.

Okay, enough marketing! I only blog about this because it is very important to me and I have benefitted from it for many years. I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Hope to see you in Orlando and make sure you get that registration in by tomorrow!

April Fools Thoughts...

I am in a RAC Workshop at the Oracle office in Milwaukee today. We are still in the set up phase so I have a few minutes. This should be either a good follow-up to our recent Clusterware install, or a rude awakening that we need to start over! Let's hope for the former.

Yesterday and today we were in the process of installing a kernel upgrade to our cluster nodes. I have used Clusterware and OCFS on Linux in the past, but never with ASM. The trick was figuring out the order between installing the kernel upgrade and the ASM and OCFS drivers to match the kernel. To add to the trouble the QLogic driver needed to be reinstalled. Lots of learning experiences! The pleasant surprise to me was that once we got everything upgraded on the first node all the pieces, including Clusterware, started normally, even though node two was not yet upgraded. This is a nice upgrade from my last experiences with all this when we had to take node two down before OCFS and Clusterware would start on the upgraded node. Nice to know that future upgrades should allow for much shorter downtime during the failover.

A reminder that early-bird registration for Collaborate 09 closes tomorrow. Hopefully everyone can make it down to Orlando in May. As a member of the Conference Committee, we are hard at work reviewing papers and presentations. The technical content should be excellent as usual. I have been reviewing papers for the Achitecture track and have read some great papers. Since I finally finished my own, I have more time to read others. Now I just need to complete my presentation... details, details.

IOUG members are reminded that the Board of Directors elections are open until Saturday. This is a bit of a selfish plug since I am running for the Board. Most importantly, make sure you vote. A vote for me is very appreciated! Next year's Board promises to be a very good group of people and will continue move IOUG forward.

The workshop is starting... better go pay attention!