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Don Burleson Blog 







Oracle RAC on a Linux PC tips

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonDecember 29, 2015

For complete details in installing RAC in a personal computer, see the book Personal Oracle RAC Clusters.  You can buy it directly from Rampant for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of RAC PC scripts.

by Donald Burleson

Some time ago I decided I was going to build myself a Linux Oracle cluster. I did some research on the internet, and discovered a couple of articles about building my own Oracle Cluster. One was by John Smiley, another was by Jeffrey Hunter. Both articles used Linux and ISCSI. Jeffrey Hunter also had a similar article using firewire in place of ISCSI.

My objectives were as follows:

1. Learn about using Linux operating system.
2. Learn more about Oracle RAC setup.
3. Learn more about open source software in general.
4. Learn about ISCSI storage.
5. Minimize costs while doing (1) through (4) (keep it under $1000).

Fortunately, being a semi-competent computer hobbyist, I had a lot of hardware lying around the house, including monitors, hard drives, routers, switches, and 10/100 network cards. The only hardware I had to buy were two new motherboards, memory for same, cases w/power supplies, and gigabit network cards. I eventually bought some additional hard drives, but I could have made do without them. My total cost for the project was about $1200 (I failed objective 5).

Challenge number one was setting up an ISCSI storage server. Some research on the internet discovered an OS called Openfiler, which is open source software (,a single use operating system for sharing storage using multiple protocols, including ISCSI, as well as SAMBA and NFS. This is the software recommended in the Hunter article using ISCSI. I took an old motherboard I had, and installed a 10g HDD to hold the software, then attached an external Firewire drive and a second internal IDE drive. From reading the Openfiler documentation, it had appeared that Openfiler would not share the OS drive (drive 0), and I quickly determined that this was an accurate determination. However, I had no problems at all getting Openfiler to recognize the second internal drive or the external drive. I was also able to partition them as described in the Hunter and Smiley articles without difficulty.

The only problem I had with Openfiler was that the particular version I used set itself up by default to download and install updates from the internet. The first time it did this, it broke its own installation and I had to reinstall it. I turned automatic updates off the second time.

The Configuration for the Openfiler service is as follows (I had purchased this from Tigerdirect a year before because it was on sale, and only cost $99 w/ all the rebates):

Amd Duron Motherboard
2.6 Ghz Celeron CPU
512M RAM
Liteon DVD Reader
10G Hdd (Drive 0, OS)
80G HDD (Drive 1 on second IDE channel)
250G Maxtor Firewire Drive

The next step was to set up the Linux servers. I had found two AMD 64 motherboards with fan and CPU for less than $100 each from Tigerdirect, so I did not consider it blowing my budget to go with 64 bit motherboards. The price for the case with power supply was $29 each from Tigerdirect. I also invested in a KVM switch, $30 on Ebay. I also had to purchase memory, since Oracle will not install in less than 1G of RAM. This was my single largest investment, I bought 1.5G RAM for each server, that came to $300 total from Tigerdirect. I had a 60G and an 80G HDD lying around the house that I used for the internal drives on the two servers, so there was no additional cost for storage. The motherboards also had built in Graphics and sound, so no additional money had to be spent there. The initial hardware configuration for each server was as follows:

Liteon DVD Reader
AMD 64 bit motherboard, w/ factory graphics and sound
Realtek 10/100 wired Network card (on Motherboard).
DLink DWL-G530 wired Gigabit Network Card
1.5G RAM

Liteon DVD Reader
AMD 64 bit motherboard, w/ factory graphics and sound
Realtek 10/100 wired Network card (on Motherboard).
DLink DWL-G530 wired Gigabit Network Card
1.5G RAM

The Realtek NIC's were wired to a 10/100 HUB, that was further bridged to a wireless router using a Dlink DWL-521 access point. The wireless router connects to the Internet via a cable modem. The Gigabit cards were wired to a Gigabit switch along with the Openfiler Server.

So, with the server hardware set up, it was time to move to software. I am a DBA who came up on the Database side instead of the OS Admin side, so I knew that the Linux work would be the most challenging. I had read through the Hunter and Smiley articles, and everything looked to be pretty straight forward. I was wrong about that.

I started with 64 Bit Fedora Core 6 (FC6-64). It installed smoothly. However, I quickly discovered that it did not have drivers for the Dlink gigabit cards. After much research on the internet, I figured out how to link the NIC driver modules into the Kernel. The full documentation for doing this was not in any single place, and even those sites that thought they had the full instructions were missing some key steps (placing files in appropriate locations, for example). So, after about a month of working on this in my spare time, I was finally able to get the new Kernel compiled and linked with the Dlink gigabit network modules. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to link the drivers in, I had lost track of all the steps I took to get the software working, so reproducing them here would be almost impossible. I then proceeded to the next step.

There were two possibilities about the next step, I could either install Oracle, or set up the ISCSI shares. I decide to go with the ISCSI setup since that appeared to be the more difficult issue. I discovered that there is an ISCSI driver supplied with FC-6-64. I activated this, set for discovery, and eventually managed to get the drives mapped. I had to log into the drives using my rc.local file because I could never get the auto login to work when ISCSI was started. Rc.local is a file executed on boot up after the network is started on Fedora Linux releases (similar to Windows autoexec.bat)..

The next step was to set up the clustered file system. I was able to start OCFS2Console, it came with FC6. I was also able to mount the drives using the default options, and propagate the cluster configuration. At that point, I thought I was ready to install Oracle clusterware. I was still missing a crucial step here, but I did not realize it.

When I went to install Oracle cluster, I quickly determined that it would not install on FC6, and I while I felt I could spoof Oracle using the instructions I found for FC5, I decided to switch to Fedora Core 5, 64 bit (FC5-64), because there is much more documentation on Oracle and FC5.

So, I installed FC5-64. Installing core 5 went smoothly, and this time instead of once again struggling with installing the DLink Gigabit cards, I went ahead and bought the Intel EtherPro cards, and replaced the Dlink cards. The Intel cards were on sale at Tigerdirect for about $20 each. FC5-64 installed smoothly, and quickly recognized the Intel Gigabit cards. I once again struggled with the ISCSI setup, but this time I the autologon worked, and I was ready to go to work with OCFS2. However, I had read a bit further by this point and determined that each data drive, as well as the voting and ocrdisks would need to be mounted with the datavolume option to enable o-direct on the drives. O-direct was supposed to have replaced raw devices in Fedora 4. In Fedora 5 and after, Raw devices are unavailable. Guess what. OCFS2 did not recognize the datavolume option, and when I tried to switch to Raw devices, they were unavailable in FC5. Perhaps someone more experience in Linux might have been able to find the appropriate software to enable Raw in FC5, and proceed from that point. Or even modify OCFS2 to enable o-direct. However, this was a roadblock I could not bypass. My Linux knowledge was just plain insufficient to resolve this issue. So, I did what any good Geek would do. I decided to try something else.

Enter SUSE 9. SUSE 9 was a good choice because there was a complete set of instructions on that software version, as well as a large installed base. SUSE 9 installed smoothly, and ISCSI set up easilty. However, there was a major insurmountable problem. The keyboard driver in SUSE 9 would not work correctly through the KVM Switch, and I didn't have room at my desk for multiple keyboards. The keyboard would work OK initially, but when I opened a terminal window in the user interface, the repeat was way too quick. I would barely tap a key, and 6 copies of the letter would show up. Once again, someone who knows the software better may have been able to fix this problem, however for me, this made the software almost impossible to use. So, on to Open SUSE 10.2.

Open SUSE 10.2 was probably the simplest to install. It recognized all my hardware. It ran smoothly, it had Raw device support. The only installation problem Open SUSE had was in my network card set up. For some reason, it wasn't designed to expect multiple NIC;s on different networks. It kept on trying to use the gateway on my internet subnet on my private network. It automatically carried over gateway and nameserver settings to the private net, and if I removed them it removed them from the public network settings also. Eventually, I managed to just live with it by copying any files I needed from the internet from my dual-NIC windows XP computer. I also managed to get ISCSI working, though I had to go back to manual log ins in the after.local file, because the default local boot file runs before Runlevel 5 on SUSE. Once again OCFS2 did not support the datavolume option, but I was prepared for that. Open Suse 10.2 fully supports RAW. The Raw devices appeared to set up properly but for some reason, Oracle Universal Installer did not recognize them as shared between both Rac systems, even though they had the same name and owner on both. I never did resolve this problem, nor could anyone on any of the Linux Internet support Forums help. It may well have been something simple, but for me it was an insurmountable obstacle which forced me to break down and switch to RHEL-4 Unbreakable Linux.

Ok, I am forced to admit that Unbreakable is a nice product. It installed smoothly. All my hardware was recognized. Its easy to use, and the desktop is clean. It recognized both network cards immediately. The first issue I had was that the default installation did not install Libaio. Libaio is the library for asynchronous i/o Considering that clustered Oracle requires this, and Unbreakable Linux is an Oracle product, I cannot figure out why it wasn't installed by default. In addition, on my first installation attempt, on one Rac machine it installed the smp kernel, and on the other Rac machine it did not. I never figured out why it did that either, since I chose the same options on each. I got around these problems by doing a full installation (install everything) on each machine. This installed the same kernel and all the necessary libraries on each box. I turned on the ISCSI initiator(ISCSI-sfnet), ran OCFS2Console, and it recognized the datavolume option. From there, it was just a matter of setting up fstab to mount the volumes correctly (they had been partitioned in earlier OS versions), installing the clusterware, and installing Oracle. And voila, a personal Oracle RAC. I also bought one year of internet only support for Unbreakable Linux, this cost me another $99.

So, after this 8 month long voyage of discovery, I can say that I achieved all of my goals except for the final one, keep the budget under 1000. Of course, what really killed the budget was when I determined that I needed to upgrade my personal machine to the fastest 64 bit AMD motherboard available, as well as putting 4G of RAM on it, and 128M video card. All of this was necessary to properly manage the two inexpensive Rac servers from my personal computer.

FYI, This was my final network setup:

Private IP:, Name: rac1-priv
Public IP:, Name: rac1
Virtual IP:, Name: rac1-vip

Private IP:, Name: rac2-priv
Public IP:, Name: rac2
Virtual IP:, Name: rac2-vip

Private IP:, Name: openfiler-priv
Public IP:, Name: openfiler
(no virtual ip)

After I successfully installed on Redhat, I went back to Opensuse 10.2 and managed to get everything to work with RAW, though I did have to create a post boot script with some built in delays to mount the iscsi volumes and start Oracle CRS.

Additional Note:

I have since done a similar install of Oracle 11g on Windows 2003 server. I will be writing that one up soon.

If you like Oracle tuning, you might enjoy my book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

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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