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Oracle Real Application Clusters Configuration and Internals

Mike Ault & Madhu Tumma
ISBN 0-9727513-0-0 
Publication Date - June 2003
Retail Price $59.95
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Sample Text:

OracleRAC now supports both the cluster file systems and the raw devices to store the shared data.

Raw Partitions

A raw device, also known as a raw partition, is a disk partition that is not formatted. Applications issue I/O calls to transfer data directly from buffers in the user virtual address space to disk. There is no operating system buffering (e.g., page cache), nor is write-order locking imposed. The I/O transfers are conducted through the character-special device driver. As such, I/O transfers generally must adhere to strict requirements imposed by the device driver such as alignment and I/O size and file offsets.

Raw partitions have several advantages:

  • They are not subject to any operating system locking.

  • The operating system buffer or cache is bypassed, giving performance gains and reduced memory consumption.

  • Multiple systems can be easily shared. 

  • The application or database system has full control to manipulate the internals of access.

  • Historically, the support for asynchronous I/O on Unix systems was generally limited to raw partitions.

The creation and usage of raw partitions should be carefully planned, even if the creation and administration of the raw volumes is relatively simple with the use of the logical volume manager.

There are many administrative inconveniences and drawbacks such as:

  • The unit of allocation to the database is the entire raw partition. We cannot use a raw partition for multiple tablespaces. A raw partition is not the same as a file system where we can create many files.

  • Administrators have to create them with specific sizes. When the databases grow in size, raw partitions cannot be extended. We need to add extra partitions to support the growing tablespace. Sometimes we may have limitations on the total number of raw partitions we can use in the system. Furthermore, there are no database operations that can occur on an individual datafile. There is, therefore, no logical benefit from having a tablespace consist of many data files except for those tablespaces that are larger than the maximum Oracle can support in a single file.

  • We cannot use the standard file manipulation commands on the raw partitions, and therefore on the data files. We cannot use commands such as cpio or tar for backup purposes. Backup strategy will become more complicated.

  • Raw partitions cannot be used for writing the archive logs.

  • Administrators need to keep track of the raw volumes with their cryptic naming conventions. However, by using the symbolic links, we can reduce the hassles associated with names.

For example, a cryptic name like /dev/rdsk/c8t4d5s4 or a name like /dev/sd/sd001 is an administrative challenge. To alleviate this, administrators often rely on symbolic links to provide logical names that make sense. This, however, substitutes one complexity for another.

In a clustered environment like Linux clusters, it is not guaranteed that the physical devices will have the same device names on different nodes or across reboots of a single node. To solve this problem, manual intervention is needed that increases administration overhead.

Cluster File System

A cluster file system (CFS) is a file system that may be accessed (read and write) by all the members in the cluster at the same time. This implies that all the members of the cluster have the same view. Some of the popular and widely used cluster file system products for OracleRAC include: HP Tru64 CFS, Veritas CFS, IBM GPFS, Polyserve Matrix Server, and Oracle Cluster File system. The cluster file system offers:

  • Simple management.

  • The use of Oracle Managed Files with RAC.

  • A Single Oracle Software Installation.

  • Auto-extend Enabled on Oracle Data Files.

  • Uniform accessibility of Archive Logs.

  • ODM compliant File systems.

In our view, when the cluster file system is available for a given platform, we should use the CFS in preference to the raw partitions. With the availability of the ODM-compliant cluster file systems, using the CFS makes much more sense. ODM-based CFS offer similar or even better performance over raw partitions, and far superior administrative convenience. The cluster file system set of features is rapidly advancing.

We will offer a detailed explanation of the cluster file system, as well as advances in usage and functionality, in later sections of the chapter.

If you need to learn about OracleRAC, Mike Ault and Madhu Tumma's book "OracleRAC", is the only RAC book on the market.  You can order it here:


   Don Burleson



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