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Doing more for less with your Oracle database

Some suggestions for tightening up both your data and funds

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Workshop Database services are constantly increasing in demand, but while demand might be expanding, budgets in general aren't. The Independent Oracle User Group's 2013 Database Manageability survey showed that data volumes - along with the business demand for database services to manage them - grew by more than 20 per cent on average throughout the year. And yet most organisations reported budgets that were flat, or in decline.

As a database administrator, you are likely facing the challenge of doing more with less in terms of your database and its operations. But you do have options in terms of shaving costs here and there to improve your database function on an even tighter budget. Here are several ways that you can do more with less.

Standardise your database hardware

It’s a common problem for database managers: Over the years, as hardware and software evolves, different pieces are added to the database infrastructure to suit various business needs, usually by different managers, leaving you with a mishmash of parts forming your data centre ecosystem.

While each addition or removal may have seemed like a sound idea at the time, no one may have realized the overall inefficiencies that they introduced into the system. In fact, according to Oracle, you could be spending as much as 30 per cent of your IT budget simply on getting the different components to interact correctly with each other.

Consolidate

Don’t just manage individual systems, which are often over-provisioned with spare processing and storage capacity and thus both inefficient and costly, Instead, you can standardize the platform used for all business applications with a consolidated data processing and storage infrastructure, which can now exist in shared environments.

According to Oracle, its software enables significant commoditization of consolidated environments, greatly reducing the cost of hardware, often by a factor of 4x to 6x. It's no surprise that around 40 per cent of organisations in that IOUG survey are considering moving to private cloud infrastructures to squeeze more performance out of their systems for less money, or already have.

By using Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC), for example, you can integrate low-cost commodity servers in a single shared database grid or private cloud to enable consolidation, faster performance, higher availability and scalability on demand. Correcting such inefficiencies with this improved architecture can save you a noticeable amount on your annual budget.

Toad for Oracle, one of the most popular third party administration tools for Oracle, has an edition specifically for the RAC environment. In the Oracle parameters window, for example, you can see an additional instance column showing you that you're connected to a RAC connection, as opposed to an instance connection. It is also RAC-aware in the way that it collects information, showing information from the GV$ view, for example, which monitors information across all instances in a RAC configuration.

Toad also handles the management of virtualised systems pretty well. For example, its health check screen includes a whole section of tests purely focused on virtualised systems.

Automate your storage

As your information load inevitably increases, storage can become more complicated and force up costs dramatically, unless you follow certain strategies.

One way to do this is by improving storage automation. Oracle Automatic Storage Management, for example, significantly improves performance by automating the striping and mirroring of your database without the need for third-party volume management software, even as more disks are added. The system employs intelligent data placement, which moves infrequently used data to the inner rings of physical disks and frequently used data to the outer rings—all in the name of performance optimization.

Partition tables effectively

Partitioning is another way to improve database performance. With Oracle Partitioning, very large tables and their associated indexes are divided into smaller and more manageable units. In a lookup, the optimizer will then only employ the relevant partitions of a table or index, which improves the overall performance of the database despite its large amounts of data. Partitioning allows the storage of both current and historical data to be kept in one organised, multi-tiered storage solution, which can also help to reduce costs.

Reduce storage costs with advanced data compression techniques. In addition to automating and partitioning data and indexes, you can also cut costs by compressing data to reduce the amount of storage used in the first place. Sometimes your database can become too large or complicated for its own good, creating redundancies and inefficiencies that could be avoided if your data was more compact and organized.

The Oracle Advanced Compression feature can compress data by a ratio of two to four times. It does this using a continuous table compression capability that replaces duplicate values in a table with a single value, and continues to adapt as data changes over time.

Data compression, whether for current or archived information, can significantly reduce database costs by enabling you to get more bang for your storage buck and keeping you from having to constantly upgrade and add on storage capabilities to be able to handle your large data quota.

Review your licensing

When you're trying to save money, one definite place to look is licensing. Wikibon, an online community of technology professionals, has said that 82 per cent of all Oracle database costs stem from licensing. Any cuts that can be made to costs in this area could have a significant effect on your bottom line.

First of all, are you sure you need that Oracle Enterprise Edition powerhouse you're paying for? Standard Edition or SE1 might fit your needs and save you license fees when compared to the more powerful EE. SE and EE licenses are also calculated differently when you follow a processor licensing regime, with SE licenses calculated on a per-socket basis, and EE licenses calculated on a per-core basis.

It is also worth checking your licensing strategy to see whether a processor or per-named user licensing agreement would be more cost-effective. Sometimes, a licensing audit can save you significant amounts on your database budget, enabling you to do more with the same funding.

Increase operational efficiency with a robust management solution. Oracle databases can be difficult to administer, with many routine tasks creating a draw on administrators' time. Using a GUI-based management system Such as Dell's Toad to gain instant visibility across various aspects of the database can dramatically reduce the time taken to navigate the daily administrative burden.

Offload CPU tasks

Your CPU doesn't need to do everything. Focusing purely on transaction processing with the server can help to improve performance and drive down licensing costs. Offload key CPU-intensive tasks such as encryption processing to a dedicated hardware adaptor designed for that purpose. Encryption hardware is readily available, and can use dedicated processors specifically designed for this computational challenge.

Reducing your budget while optimizing your database is likely your top priority at the office. Use these suggestions for tightening up both your data and funds to run your database environment more efficiently and cost-effectively. ®

The Register is running a series of Oracle DBA workshop articles in association with Dell Software.