Oracle Database 11g Release 2 New Features Summary, Part 1

Synopsis.
Oracle at last released the long-awaited next version of Oracle Database 11g
Release 2 (11gR2) in September 2009. This article – the first in this series –
summarizes some of oracle 11gR2’s more intriguing new features and discusses how those
features might help enterprises to decide to upgrade their Oracle 9i, 10g, and
11gR1 database to Oracle 11g Release 2 in the immediate
future.

After
what seemed an excruciatingly long time, Oracle suddenly announced the public
release of Oracle Database 11g
Release 2 on September 1, 2009. I’ve got to admit that I was surprised
Oracle was able to keep the new features of this release under wraps for such a
long time, and I’m sure that the release was timed to build excitement and
anticipation for the attendees of Oracle OpenWorld 2009.

After
scouring the Oracle Database 11gR2
New Features documentation for several hours, experimenting with the new Oracle
Universal Installer (impressive!), and creating my first single instance RAC
database (yes, you read that correctly), I’ve summarized my first five personal
favorites from the voluminous list of new features in Oracle Database 11g Release 2. I’ll provide capsules of my
final five favorite new features in an upcoming article, and please be sure to
visit Database Journal periodically over the next several months to join me as
I explore the depths of this new release in the coming months.

#1: Everywhere
You Look, Clustering Is There

In
prior releases, Oracle Clusterware had to be installed separately into its own Oracle
Home only when constructing a Real Application Clusters database environment. That
all changes in Oracle Database 11gR2
because this release supports the installation of the Oracle Grid Infrastructure, a separate
Oracle home that incorporates the binaries for both Oracle Clusterware as well
as Oracle Automatic Storage Management
(ASM). Once the Grid Infrastructure home is installed via the upgraded Oracle Database
11gR2 Oracle Universal Installer (OUI), a whole new array of
features and services are available. I’ve listed some of the more interesting
ones here:

Single-Instance RAC (Oracle Restart).
I know, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but Oracle 11gR2 extends the capabilities of Oracle
Clusterware to provide high availability features for any single-instance
database, essentially turning that database into a single-instance RAC
database. Oracle 11gR2’s new Oracle Restart features leverage the
features of Oracle Grid Infrastructure’s High
Availability Services
(HAS) to control which Listeners, ASM
instances, and Oracle databases should be started whenever the server is
rebooted. This replaces the old DBSTART scripting DBAs have used
in past releases to make sure that the server starts the appropriate database
instances upon server startup based on the configuration retained in /etc/oratab.
Also, should a single-instance database crash or otherwise terminate unexpectedly,
Oracle Restart automatically detects the failure and will restart it just as if
it were a database instance in a Real Applications Cluster environment.

SRVCTL Upgrades. You’re
already familiar with the simplicity and power of the SRVCTL
utility to control any aspect of a Real Applications Cluster environment if you
have managed a RAC database in earlier Oracle releases. Oracle 11gR2 now expands this utility’s scope so
that it can also manage any single-instance RAC database as well as that
database environment’s listeners and ASM instances.

Cluster Time Synchronization Service.
Oracle 11gR2 now requires
time synchronization to be configured for all nodes in a RAC clustered database
environment … and for good reason. If you’ve ever experienced a node eviction
within a Real Application Cluster database’s cluster configuration, you know how
difficult it can be to tie together the train of events that caused the
eviction – especially when two servers have diverging time settings and the log
file entries’ timestamps aren’t synchronized. Prior Oracle releases have
offered the ability to synchronize all nodes to the same time using Network Time Protocol (NTP), but this is
not always an option because it requires communication outside the firewall to
a network time service like the US Naval Observatory (http://tycho.usno.navy.mil). As an
alternative to NTP, Oracle 11gR2 now
offers a new Cluster Time Synchronization Service
to insure that all nodes in a cluster maintain time synchronization.

Grid “Plug+Play.” In
prior database releases, one of the most complex parts of setting up a RAC
environment is the determination and setup of all the required IP addresses for
the public, private, and Virtual IP (VIP) node applications. To simplify RAC
installations, Oracle 11gR2 now offers
the Grid Naming Service (GNS)
that cooperates with the environment’s domain name server to handle the
assignment of IP addresses for each Grid component – an obvious advantage when
a clustered database environment spans several nodes.

Clean Deinstallation of RAC Components.
This feature is an obvious boon, especially if you’ve ever tried to remove all
traces of Real Application Clusters from multiple nodes. In Oracle 11gR2 all of the installation and
configuration assistants – especially Oracle
Universal Installer
(OUI), Database
Configuration Assistant
(DBCA), and Network
Configuration Assistant
(NETCA) – have been augmented so that RAC
components are completely removed when complete deinstallation is requested.

#2: ASM Joins
Forces With Clusterware

Oracle
Database 11gR2 imbues Automatic Storage Management (ASM) with
some intriguing new features. For starters, the ASM binaries reside within the
same Oracle home as Oracle 11gR2
Clusterware, so the recommended best practice in prior releases – installing a
redundant Oracle home to support separate patching of the ASM binaries redundant
Oracle database home – is eliminated. Also, the installation of ASM is now
managed from the new Automatic Storage
Management Configuration Assistant
(ASMCA) instead of DBCA. Here’s
my take on some of the most intriguing new ASM features:

Intelligent Data Placement.
Where ASM places data on an ASM disk determines how quickly it can be accessed,
retrieved, and updated. In earlier releases, this meant I needed to get my
storage administrator directly involved in the appropriate disk configuration
of the disk I/O subsystem. However, Oracle 11gR2
can now place ASM allocation units so that they can benefit directly from the
faster cylinders toward the outer edge of the disk platters for the files that
can most benefit from that disk architecture (i.e. data files, online redo
logs, and control files).

EM Support Workbench Extensions.
The Automatic Diagnostic Repository
(ADR) features that Oracle 11gR1 introduced
in Enterprise Manager Database Control are extended in this release to include
support for ASM diagnostics, including the ability to bundle up any diagnostic
information into incident packages for direct shipment to Oracle Technical
Support for faster resolution of ASM performance issues.

ASMCMD Enhancements.
The Automatic Storage Management
Command-Line utility
(ASMCMD) gains some significant features,
including the capability to:

  • start and stop
    an ASM instance;
  • backup, restore, and maintain the ASM instance’s server parameter file (SPFILE);
  • monitor ASM disk groups’ performance with the iostat
    directive; and
  • maintain the disk volumes, directories, and files
    store within the new ASM Clustered File
    System
    (ACFS), my next topic.

#3: ACFS: A Robust
Clustered File System

Earlier
Oracle releases offered the Oracle Cluster
File System
(OCFS) when I needed to store Oracle database files – or
indeed, any file! – as part of a
clustered file system. OCFS (and its later improved counterpart, OCFS2) was
initially offered for the Linux and Windows operating systems when a
proprietary cluster file system wasn’t available or desirable. This enabled any
Oracle RAC database’s instance to read from or write to the database’s control
files, datafiles, and online redo logs on shared storage.

OCFS
also allowed the RAC database’s Oracle
Cluster Registry
(OCR) files and its Voting Disks to be stored and maintained within a clustered
file system. In Oracle 10gR2, this
requirement was lifted and it was possible to store the OCR files and the
Voting Disks on either raw devices or raw block devices. If you’ve ever lost
all copies of these files when they’ve been stored on raw devices, you know
what a chore it is to recover from their loss. Therefore, Oracle 11gR2 no longer supports storing these files
on raw devices.

To
increase the viability of these mission-critical files, Oracle 11gR2 formally introduces a new clustered
file system, the ASM Clustered File System
(ACFS). ACFS is obviously intended for better protection of OCR files and Voting
Disks in a RAC environment. For example, ACFS now allows the creation of up to
five (5) copies of the OCR file for safe retention of the crucial information
stored within them. (Prior releases only permitted two copies, a primary OCR
and a mirror OCR.) But ACFS isn’t intended for RAC environments alone; there
are plenty of files that we’ve normally thought of as under the purview of the
host server’s operating system – for example, external
LOBs
that are referenced by the BFILE datatype, the source files for
Oracle external tables, or even an
Oracle home’s binary executable files – that can benefit
from ACFS’s security and file sharing features:

Dynamic Volume Manager.
Oracle 11gR2 provides the new ASM
Dynamic Volume Manager (ADVM) to
configure, control and maintain files stored within an ACFS file system. With ADVM
I can construct ADVM volume devices
within an ASM disk group, manage
the files stored within ADVM volume devices, and even resize an ADVM volume device as the need
for additional space arises. Best of all, since ADVM volumes are built on top
of the ASM file system architecture, I can ensure that any files stored within
those volumes are protected from unexpected data loss because of ASM’s RAID
capabilities.

File Access Control. An
ACFS directory or file can be granted read,
write, or execute
privileges at the appropriate level using either
traditional Microsoft Windows-style access
control lists
(ACLs) or the UNIX / Linux user/group/other access permissions. ACFS file and directory
security can be administered either graphically through Oracle 11gR2 Enterprise Manager or via the ASMCMD
command-line utility.

File System Snapshot (FSS).
Oracle 11gR2 now offers the
ability to take snapshots of ACFS file systems through its new File System Snapshot (FSS) capabilities. A
snapshot is a read-only version of the selected ACFS file system, and ACFS
automatically retains up to 63 separate snapshots within the same ACFS. This
feature is particularly useful when an ACFS file has been inadvertently updated,
deleted or otherwise damaged. Either Oracle 11gR2
Enterprise Manager or the ACFS acfsutil command line interface
can be used to locate the appropriate version of the file and restore it.

#4: Improvements
to Software Installation and Patching

I’ve
found that patching an Oracle database environment is just about the most
stressful activity I’ve encountered as a DBA, and for an excellent reason: If
the patching should introduce deleterious behavior into my databases, I’ve got
a tremendous amount of work to do to ascertain if the issues I’m seeing are
really the result of applying the patch. So I’m glad to see that Oracle 11gR2 continues to contribute to lowering my
stress level with these new features.

Cluster Verification Utility Integration.
The Cluster Verification Utility (CVU)
that was introduced in Oracle 10g
is now completely integrated into the Oracle Universal Installer and all other
configuration assistants (e.g. DBCA and DBUA). Another nice feature is the
implementation of “fix-it” scripts that can adjust many of the minor but
crucial OS environment settings during creation and installation of a new
Oracle 11gR2 Clusterware or
database home.

Zero-Downtime Patching for Clusterware.
When it’s time to patch an Oracle Clusterware home, Oracle 11gR2 applies the patches as an “out-of-place”
upgrade. This means that the original version of the Oracle Clusterware home co-exists
on the same server with the home that’s just been patched, but only one version of the Clusterware home
is active at one time. In Oracle
11gR2, it’s therefore no longer
necessary to shut down the entire Oracle cluster to complete the patching
operation, which results in zero downtime
when applying patches to clustered databases.

Say Goodbye to DST Patching Migraines.
In the past few years, we’ve all had the joyful experience of having to patch
our Oracle databases to ensure they handled the scheduled changes to Daylight
Savings Time (DST). The good news here is that Oracle 11gR2 can now apply DST patches without requiring
the “bounce” of even a single database instance.

#5: DBMS_SCHEDULER
Upgrades

The
venerable DBMS_SCHEDULER package that revolutionized how
DBAs schedule jobs and tasks in Oracle Database 10g gets some neat new and welcome features in Oracle Database
11gR2:

File Watcher. The
ability to fire off a DBMS_SCHEDULER scheduled task in response to an
event or raised condition was added in Oracle Release 10.2.0.1, as I
illustrated in an earlier article on how to create Job
Chains
. However, there was no direct way to detect one of the most typical
triggering events in batch processing: the arrival of an operating system file
in a directory. Oracle Database 11gR2
alleviates this with the new File Watcher
feature. Once the desired file has arrived within a specified directory, DBMS_SCHEDULER
can now detect and register its arrival in new object type, SCHEDULER_FILEWATCHER_RESULT,
that’s used to signal a DBMS_SCHEDULER job to start via the new CREATE_FILE_WATCHER
procedure.

Built-In E-mail Notification.
Whenever a DBMS_SCHEDULER
scheduled task starts, fails, or completes, the task’s status can be signaled
immediately by sending an e-mail to an appropriate destination address. Though
I could implement this feature in earlier releases with a call to the
appropriate procedure of either DBMS_MAIL or DBMS_SMTP,
this functionality is now incorporated into every DBMS_SCHEDULER job and can be
implemented with a few keystrokes.

Remote Jobs. DBMS_SCHEDULER
now permits the DBA to create and schedule jobs on a remote database other than the current database. For
example, I can now run either a PL/SQL anonymous block or invoke a stored
procedure on production database PROD07 via a call from a
scheduled job that I built via DBMS_SCHEDULER on production
database PROD03
without having to create the scheduled task on database PROD07.
This means I can now centralize scheduled task creation and maintenance on only
one database.

Multiple Job Destinations.
Finally, it’s now possible to schedule DBMS_SCHEDULER tasks that can be
executed on one or more databases instances simultaneously.
This is extremely useful in a RAC environment because I can take advantage of
the power of multiple database instances to break down a long-running task into
smaller tasks that can run in parallel across multiple nodes.

Next Steps

In
the final article in this series, I’ll take a look at five more new features in
Oracle Database 11gR2. Here’s a
brief sample of the most intriguing new capabilities:

  • Significant database performance improvements,
    especially for parallelized operations
  • Upgrades to Recovery Manager, including automatic repair of corrupted blocks
  • Improvements to Data Guard features like Real Time Query
  • Large Object improvements, e.g., the ability to “watermark” LOBs
  • Database object sizing enhancements, including on-demand segment creation

References and
Additional
Reading

Before
you proceed to experiment with any of these new features, I strongly suggest
that you first look over the corresponding detailed Oracle documentation before
trying them out for the first time. I’ve drawn upon the following Oracle
Database 11g Release 2 documents
for this article’s technical details:

E10881-02 Oracle Database 11gR2 New Features

E10592-03 Oracle Database 11gR2 SQL Language Reference

E10700-01 Oracle Database 11gR2 DataGuard Concepts and
Administration

E10595-05 Oracle Database 11gR2 Administrator’s Guide

E10713-03 Oracle Database 11gR2 Concepts

E10820-02 Oracle Database 11gR2 Reference

E10500-02 Oracle Database 11gR2 Storage Administrator’s Guide

E10837-02 Oracle Database 11gR2 VLDB and Partitioning Guide

»


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Jim Czuprynski

Jim Czuprynski
Jim Czuprynski
Jim Czuprynski has accumulated over 30 years of experience during his information technology career. He has filled diverse roles at several Fortune 1000 companies in those three decades - mainframe programmer, applications developer, business analyst, and project manager - before becoming an Oracle database administrator in 2001. He currently holds OCP certification for Oracle 9i, 10g and 11g. Jim teaches the core Oracle University database administration courses on behalf of Oracle and its Education Partners throughout the United States and Canada, instructing several hundred Oracle DBAs since 2005. He was selected as Oracle Education Partner Instructor of the Year in 2009. Jim resides in Bartlett, Illinois, USA with his wife Ruth, whose career as a project manager and software quality assurance manager for a multinational insurance company makes for interesting marital discussions. He enjoys cross-country skiing, biking, bird watching, and writing about his life experiences in the field of information technology.

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