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Understanding Oracle Grid and Clustering

Oracle RAC Cluster Tips by Burleson Consulting

This is an excerpt from the bestselling book Oracle Grid & Real Application Clusters.  To get immediate access to the code depot of working RAC scripts, buy it directly from the publisher and save more than 30%.

There is always a lingering doubt in everyone?s mind as to what Grid is exactly and how it differs from other well known architectures such as Cluster and P2P architectures. In this chapter, the true nature of Grid and Clustering architectures will be highlighted.

There is a somewhat hazy notion and understanding of Grid and the types of Grids among many IT technologists. Sometimes they do not find a clear demarcation between grids and other related technologies like clusters. Those differences between the Clusters and Grid will be examined.

Another thing that often needs explanation is the concept of On-Demand and Utility Computing Model, which is often termed as Grid Computing. The on-demand and utility computing buzzwords will be explored as well.

The Clustering of Servers has been around for about two decades and it is one of the most widely understood, being deployed in scientific, research and commercial worlds. DBAs are well versed with the concept of aggregating the servers, and view them as the single system image (SSI). Now, with the gradual adoption of grid technologies, one often wonders if grid works with clusters or if it replaces the clustering. How does grid change the whole perspective of the sharing of the servers?

The Nature of Grid

Grid Computing is an emerging infrastructure that aims at providing a mechanism for sharing and coordinating the use of diverse computing resources. The word Grid is often used as an analogy with the electric power grid, which provides access to electricity.

As Grid Computing makes long strides and impacts many organizations in the IT world with its utility-like access to computational resources, a question remains in everyone?s mind if Grid Computing can become similar to the Electric Power Grid of the 20th century. While the state of Grid Computing is still in its infancy, there are definite signs of similarities according to Rajkumar Buyya and Madhu Chetty, the researchers from University of Melbourne, Australia.

As seen in Table 2.1, there are many apparent similarities in the electric power grid infrastructure and computational grid structure. However, the computational grid is more varied and more complex than an electric grid. The existence of hardware components and user specific software components and applications make all the difference. Nevertheless, the comparison is worth noting.





Heterogeneous: thermal, hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, others

PCs, workstations, clusters, and others; driven by different operating and management systems


Transmission lines, underground cables. Various sophisticated schemes for line protection.

Internet is the carrier for connecting distributed resources, load, and so on.

Analogous quantities

Bus Energy transmission Voltage

Node Computational transmission  Bandwidth

Power source

Power station (turbo generators, hydro generators), windmill

Grid resource (computers, data sources, Web services, databases)

Load type

Heterogeneous application devices: for example, mechanical energy for fans electricity for TVs, heat for irons

Heterogeneous applications: for example, graphics for multimedia applications, problem solving for scientific or engineering applications

Security / safety

Fuses, circuit breakers, and so on

Firewalls, public-key infrastructure, and PKI-based grid security


Only storage for low-power DC using batteries.

No storage of computational power is possible.

Automated accounting

Advanced metering and accounting mechanisms are in place

Local resource management systems support accounting. Resource brokers can meter resource consumption

Standards body

Many standardization bodies exist for various components, devices, system operation, and so on. (For example, the IEEE publishes standards on transformers, harmonics, and so on.)

Forums such as Global Grid Forum and the P2P Working Group promote community practices. The IETF and W3C handle Internet and Web standardization issues.

Source: Rajkumar Buyya and Madhu Chetty

Table 2.1 Electrical and computational Power grids: A comparison.

With sudden interest in the grid and grid-related technology, many IT vendors and analysts are creating their own vision, definition, and solutions in the grid space. Grids have moved from the obscurely academic to the highly popular. We read about Compute Grids, Data Grids, Science Grids, Access Grids, Knowledge Grids, Bio Grids, Sensor Grids, Cluster Grids, Campus Grids, Tera Grids, and Commodity Grids as proposed by various IT companies and researchers. There are so many flavors and variations, based on the functionality and sometimes based on the understanding. Many IT vendors freely term their solutions as Grid technologies and try to fit them into some category.

The following is a quote from Ian Foster:

?Ultimately the Grid must be evaluated in terms of the applications, business value, and scientific results that it delivers, not its architecture. Nevertheless, the questions above must be answered if Grid computing is to obtain the credibility and focus that it needs to grow and prosper.?

Here is Ian Foster?s 3-point checklist for a grid computer:

Coordination of Distributed Resources - Grid controls and integrates different resources and users within different control domains ? for example desktops versus large computers, different units of the same enterprise, and different enterprises. It also addresses the issues of security, policy, membership, and payment. 

Using Standard Pen, General Purpose Protocols, and Interfaces - Grid Computing is based on various protocols and interfaces. These protocols and interfaces control the authentication, resource discovery, and resource access.

Quality of Service - Grid aims at delivering at non-trivial quality services in terms of response time, throughput, availability and security. This is the motivation for the community to move towards the grid-computing era and meet the ever-increasing user core application demands. Grid computing becomes more of a utility from the user?s perspective.

Ian Foster?s 3-point checklist provides a broad guideline. With these definitions in mind, many IT vendors are coming up with varied Grid Architecture solutions. At the same time, some vendors are pitching their cluster solutions. This happens because the clustering or sharing servers concept and clustering solutions loosely fit into the broader sense of grid architecture.


This is an excerpt from the bestselling book Oracle Grid & Real Application Clusters, Rampant TechPress, by Mike Ault and Madhu Tumma.

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.


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