Friday mumblings: VanOUG, 11gR2, and EBS

At the first meeting of the newly-reconstituted Vancouver Oracle Users Group this past week, we were treated to three great presentations by Caleb Small and Dan Morgan. They've made the content of their presentations available on the VanOUG web site (these links go to PDFs, if that sort of thing bugs you, consider yourself warned):

I'm not going to go into a full recap of the presentations, but they were all full of really cool information. This post is an attempt to collect some of my mental notes, mostly cast in the context of one of my favorite topics, Oracle Applications.

11gR2 HA Best Practices

Caleb's presentation was very thorough and well-constructed. Dan gave him grief for boring the audience, but I think there was just so much new content to absorb that people were too busy processing to ask many questions on the fly. ;) Here are some one-liners from my notebook (anything that looks like an opinion is my commentary/interpretation, not Caleb's):

  • Lots more "moving parts" in 11gR2 Grid Infrastructure, clear "separation of duties" across three privileged OS accounts.
  • Service startup order is a little different now
  • Cluster status utilities show a lot more information, but need to learn to not rely upon crsstat as much
  • Proper networking configuration of 11gR2 GI not for the faint of heart. ;-)
  • Increased memory requirements will make this tougher to virtualize; I'm going to need a bigger laptop.
  • ACFS looks interesting; I wonder if it will be a valid option for an (shared application tier filesystem) for Oracle Applications. (Turns out the answer is "not currently planned," based on this exchange I had w/ Steven Chan on his blog later in the week).

11g New Features

There's a lot of really neat stuff going on in this presentation. I'd like to call out small nugget that, while far from the most important, is still pretty interesting on the surface: "deferred segment creation." When a table is created, no extents are actually allocated until rows are inserted. Seems like an odd feature, but one touted benefit is for large ERP systems like SAP and Oracle Applications, where lots of tables are created that may never be used, depending on what products are implemented. Those thousands of initial extents can certainly add up to real storage, and a more cluttered data dictionary. I can't speak to SAP implementations, but I don't see it as a huge win for EBS customers, given that:

  1. This feature is available only when tables are created, which means the benefit will only really be available when Oracle starts shipping Oracle Applications install media with an 11gR2 database. Anyone upgrading to the 11gR2 database will still be stuck with those empty extents.
  2. Given the overall footprint of an EBS database, the storage savings isn't such a big deal. For example, here's the potential savings from eliminating "empty" tables from an R12 Vision database:
      SYSTEM@R12VIS(>select sum(bytes)/1024/1024 potential_savings
    2  from dba_segments s
    3  where exists (select table_name
    4                  from dba_tables
    5                 where num_rows = 0
    6                   and table_name = s.segment_name
    7               )
    8  /

    3.5(ish) GB out of 200GB is okay, I guess, but not a huge deal for a system that's only going to keep growing. FWIW, I'm going to wave my hands and pretend that the fact that a Vision database has way more populated tables than a "fresh-install" EBS database is balanced by the fact that my quick query doesn't account for the possibility that table stats are stale and some of those tables are actually populated. ;-)

Of course, it's possible that I'm missing the point. It wouldn't be the first time! Maybe it really comes down more to a less-cluttered data dictionary. I mean, it can't be about tablespace fragmentation, since we're not supposed to care about that anymore, right?

Edition Based Redefinition (EBR)

This seemed like an interesting feature when I first heard about it last autumn, but I'll confess that I didn't quite comprehend the power of EBR until seeing Dan's demo (parts 1, 2, and 3 are on his Morgan's Library site, with part 4 still in the works). Setting aside the obvious benefits for home-grown applications, the potential benefits in an Oracle Applications environment are huge. Consider:

  1. There's already an option to create a staged Applications System to shorten patch downtime windows, allowing administrators to run the "copy" and "generate" portions of large EBS patches prior to applying the patch to production. With EBR, it could be possible to stage the "database" portion of a patch as well, and switch to a new default edition at patch time. You'd probably still want to do the database staging at a quiet time in the database, of course, but daring souls could accomplish "almost-no-downtime" patching if EBR were worked into the Oracle Applications patching framework. Wicked.
  2. EBR might even make it possible to truly have EBS patches that could be rolled back. The current patching process already backs up files that are replaced. Thoughtful application of cross-edition triggers might make it possible to revert to a previous edition without loss of data if a patch needs to be backed out. Granted, the process would have to be demonstrated to be pretty bullet-proof before I'd try it in production, but it could save restoring test and dev systems from backup in the event that a patch doesn't work out as expected.

Just as I might be missing the point about deferred segment creation's advantages in EBS, I might be guilty of over-extended enthusiasm with respect to edition based redefinition. Or maybe I've decided to turn this into a science fiction blog. ;-) It's sure to be far more complicated to implement EBR in an Oracle Applications context than I'm implying above, and this is only speculation on my part, not anything that's actually promised by Oracle. Still, a nerd can dream...

Thanks again to Caleb and Dan for the great presentations, and for your continued support in getting the user group launched!


  1. Posted 12 March 2010 at 17:12 | Permalink

    Hi, John,

    We're pretty excited about EBR, too. There's a project underway in EBS Development right now where we're looking at using EBR to reduce patching downtimes. As usual, I can't provide specific dates, but this project is moving along nicely. I hope that I'll have more concrete details to share soon. Everyone is invited to monitor my blog for updates, of course:


  2. Posted 12 March 2010 at 17:21 | Permalink

    Hi Steven,

    I can't wait to hear about the results of those tests. I suspect that "reduced EBS patch times" could be a big driver for 11gR2 database tier upgrades. :-)

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