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Oracle gives away updated Ops Center control freak

Solaris 11 under its thumb

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Software giant and now engineered systems player Oracle bought Sun for its Java and Solaris software, but in taking on hardware it also needed a management tools. Thus Ops Center is one of the more important bits of code for the company and Oracle has announced new enhancements to it on Wednesday.

With the launch of Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Center 12c , the company is doing a number of different things technically as well as something new for Oracle, which is giving the tool away. The "c" in the product name is short for cloud, just like the "g" in prior Oracle software versions was short for grid.

Steve Wilson, who used to be virtualization product manager at Sun Microsystems before Oracle ate it in January 2010 and who is now vice president of systems management at Oracle, tells El Reg that starting with the Ops Center 12c, the company is initiating an "Ops Center everywhere" program to use this system management and automation tool for free.

If you have a contract for support for an Oracle server or operating, then you can use Ops Center 12c for free. The base functionality and infrastructure management features of Oracle Enterprise Manager, the higher-level management framework that Ops Center snaps into, were already similarly free, so now Oracle is being perfectly consistent and also giving customers some goodies while it continues to charge relatively high licensing and maintenance fees on its database, middleware, and application software.

Technically, the new Ops Center 12c can be used to provision, patch, monitor, and manage any x86 server running Oracle's Solaris 10 or 11 operating systems or its Enterprise Linux 5 or 6 clone of the commercial Linux from rival Red Hat. But Wilson warns that some of the features in Ops Center 12c are specific to Oracle's own hardware.

With the 12c release, Oracle is putting the Ops Center yoke on Solaris 11, delivered last November for both Sparc and x86 systems, for the first time, and it has been tweaked to take advantage of the new features in Solaris 11. "We didn't simply port the monitoring agent from 10 to 11 and say we are supporting 11," says Wilson.

So, for instance, with the new IPS packaging system and ZFS as the default file system, Oracle is no longer doing patches on live Solaris 11 machines, but rather taking snapshots, patching them, and then rolling them out live after they have been demonstrated to work properly.

On Linux-based machines, Ops Center 12c can hook into the Ksplice hot patching that Oracle acquired last July and wove into its Enterprise Linux distro. When and if ZFS is ever ported to Linux, which is somewhat problematic given that Linux uses the GPL license and ZFS uses the much less restrictive CDDL license developed by Sun, Ops Center could do the two-step patching instead of Ksplice hot patching.

Similarly, the network stack inside of Solaris 11 has been completely gutted and has features that allow for network bandwidth to be carved up within and across network interface cards dynamically. Ops Center can also reach into servers to allocate and reallocate network bandwidth on the fly as applications higher up in the stack ask Enterprise Manager to do when they start choking on their own bits.

The Ops Center 12c release also adds support for the Sparc T4 SuperCluster that came out last September and the Exalytics in-memory database appliance that debuted a week later and that started shipping last month.

Ops Center 12c is integrated with the My Oracle Support back-end tech support systems, but unlike Microsoft and its Windows Update, it cannot be set up to automatically grab patches and push them onto machines. System administrators can have Oracle proactively push patches out to Ops Center based on the gear and software they have, but people are absolutely kept in the loop when it comes to doing the patching.

"No one is coming into the office to see a message that Oracle has rebooted their cloud," says Wilson with a laugh.

The self-service cloud portal inside of Ops Center, which allows for the construction of infrastructure clouds, now includes Sparc iron as well as x86 systems. Ops Center takes raw iron as well as instances of logical domains or Solaris containers running on Sparc gear or Solaris container or Oracle VM guests running on x86 systems and aggregates them as a pool of shared computer, storage, and networking resources. Before the 12c release, only x86 systems could be turned into an infrastructure cloud. ®

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