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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reducing Patching Downtimes via Shared Apps File Systems

I had a chance conversation with an Apps sysadmin late in the evening at the Collaborate conference. He wearily noted that he had to somehow cover increasing maintenance costs with reduced levels of staffing. The conversation suggested that our support for shared E-Business Suite application tier file systems may be one of our better-kept secrets. If you haven't come across this yet, here's a way of reducing the amount of time that you spend patching.


Scaling Up with Load-Balancers

When your E-Business Suite user base grows beyond a certain size, it's likely that you'll look into deploying multiple application servers in a load-balanced pool of nodes. Your deployment topology might look like this:

Generic Apps Load-balancing:

Regardless of whether you're running Release 11i or 12, each of these
nodes would need its own disk space and would to be maintained and
patched separately. What a pain.

Different File System Structures in Release 11i and 12

In Release 11i, the Applications tier file system includes the APPL_TOP, the COMMON_TOP, and the Applications technology stack (8.0.6 and iAS ORACLE_HOMEs). In a traditional deployment, each one of these application servers would have its own Applications file system, like this:

Distributed Application Tier Filesystem:

In Release 12, the Applications tier file system includes the APPL_TOP, the COMMON_TOP, and the Applications technology stack (10.1.2 and 10.1.3 ORACLE_HOMEs), plus a new INST_TOP. Each node would have the following:

Release 12 application tier structure 2:

Enter the Shared Application Tier File System

For Release 11i, starting with 11.5.10, it's possible to put the Applications tier file system on a shared disk resource mounted to each Application tier server node in the system, like this:

Shared Application tier file system:

Similarly, in Release 12, you could put the Applications tier file system on a shared disk resource mounted to each Application tier server node, like this:

Release 12 shared filesystem:

Migrating to Shared File Systems

There are a few prerequisites:
  • Different nodes must be running the same operating system and the same O/S patches
  • You must be on a UNIX platform (Windows doesn't support shared file systems)
Certification of Shared File System Solutions

If you've gotten to this point, you're probably wondering, "Is my _____ SAN/NAS shared file system software certified with the E-Business Suite?" File system solutions that customers have recently asked about include:
Supported but not Certified

The short answer is that your shared file system solution is supported but not certified with the E-Business Suite, for either Release 11i or 12. Remember that there's a key distinction between support and certification, which I've covered in detail in this article:
The complexities of whatever shared disk resource management solution that you're using must be transparent to the E-Business Suite. Aside from that, there aren't any special requirements for shared disk resources. They can be local to the server or on a standalone disk array.

Almost Irresistible

Regardless of which E-Business Suite release you're running, the main advantage of using an Application shared file system is simplicity and ease of patching: when
you apply patches or changes to the shared disk resource,
they're immediately visible on all application tier server nodes. You
patch in a single place and deploy those changes across multiple
servers. You save disk space for each additional application node you
deploy, and it's easier to deploy additional nodes, too.

If you've been wondering how to squeeze more productivity out a packed roster of administration activities, I'd recommend setting up a testbed to try this out. Feel free to post a comment with your experiences with this; I'll make sure your feedback gets back our team.

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HAPPY LEARNING!

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