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Don Burleson Blog 







VMware: Performance Comparisons

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting


What do politicians, statisticians, pollsters, benchmarks (even industry standard database benchmarks) and the cartoon above all have in common? Namely, that they can be easily manipulated to tell you what you want to hear. That does not mean that they do not have value. Nor does it mean we should skip or totally ignore them. It just means that we need to weigh each within their appropriate context and with some level of overall skepticism as to general applicability. The same is equally true of this chapters material.

I am not going to present facts and figures to convince anyone to follow any particular course of action or setup configuration. I am merely going to present enough material so that readers can see and deduce that virtualization alternatives are both reasonable and manageable. Yes, all the benchmarks within this chapter could have run faster without the additional overhead virtualization necessarily introduces. But then you would not realize all the other many benefits that have been examined thus far, especially not the increased flexibility, which often is enough justification by itself for many people given todays cheap yet powerful hardware. So the goal here is to convince you that virtualization is a viable alternative for your database infrastructure possibilities. Then it is up to you to verify whether it actually is a good fit or not for your particular project needs.

The Benchmarking Process

The science of benchmarking is sometimes better practiced as an art. What I mean is that simply and/or blindly running industry standard benchmarks like the TPC-C, which mimics OLTP (online transaction processing) workloads, might be reasonably expected to yield conclusive results. But there are so many variable factors in the hardware and software configurations that people often obtain unexpected, non-repeatable or just plain wrong results. That has, in turn, led to much skepticism regarding the science.

When doing database benchmarks on simple non-RAC and non-virtualized databases, I tell people to allocate double the time they think it will take to run the benchmark in order to properly configure and tune all the components that contribute to the overall performance result. So if they think it will take a week to run the tests, allocate three weeks to complete the entire project. That usually loses most peoples attention or buy in which is too bad, because most failed benchmarking projects are simply due to improper planning for time.

The second greatest contributor to significant benchmarking problems is confining ones scope of the project to just the database. Contrary to some DBAs who subscribe to the Galilean logic that the world revolves around their Oracle databases, that is not the way to successfully benchmark. If people doing benchmarking do not fully understand and optimize every contributing portion of the entire technology stack, then the results are relatively worthless. I have seen far too many benchmarking projects deemed a failure where the team had no idea how their disk LUNs were allocated, what stripe depth and width they were using, how many physical spindles their database had access to, and many other key critical success factors. Yet they fully expected to arrive at meaningful results.

Virtualization by its very nature adds another level of abstraction, and therefore, more moving parts. Complete and intimate knowledge of the entire technology stack is even more of a must in this complex scenario. So the next two sections are going to address some benchmarking quick bites, best practices, and recommendations. For a more thorough review of benchmarking, I recommend the following book: Database Benchmarking: Practical methods for Oracle & SQL Server [ISBN  0-9776715-3-4].

This is an excerpt from
Oracle on VMWare: Expert tips for database virtualization by Rampant TechPress.


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