The question of whether mission-critical databases could be virtualized on the VMware platform was emphatically answered “yes” when we released VMware vSphere 4.0 in 2009. Since then, we have consistently rolled out features that support database virtualization and make management easier for database administrators (DBAs). For example, with the introduction of vSphere 5 this summer, DBAs now have the ability to scale up to 32 virtual CPUs. Since adding this new critical functionality, the question has become: “What database workloads can’t be virtualized on vSphere?”
To ensure that vSphere remains the best platform for virtualizing databases, we recently teamed up with strategic partner NetApp to assist a joint customer considering virtualizing its Oracle Enterprise Infrastructure. Together, VMware and NetApp participated as extended team members in the virtualization journey of Green Mountain Power (GMP), the second largest utility provider in Vermont servicing more than 100,000 customers. GMP is a leader in wind and solar power generation.
The GMP Initiative to Virtualize Oracle Enterprise Infrastructure
GMP was in the process of rolling out the Oracle Utility Suite, Real Application Clusters (RAC), Fusion Middleware and the Business Intelligence (BI) Suite. This comprehensive upgrade was an excellent opportunity for both VMware and NetApp to get a first-hand understanding of the customer’s virtualization path. Over a six-month period, VMware and NetApp participated in all phases of GMP’s Oracle project, including the initial design and review, deployment, functional testing, acceptance testing and ultimately, its move to production.
During the project with GMP, VMware and NetApp quickly learned that how to virtualize Oracle Enterprise Infrastructure on vSphere isn’t the question our customers are wrestling with internally. Both NetApp and VMware have published ample best practices documents, as well as tips and tricks white papers on these subjects. Rather GMP and other customers want to better understand why they should virtualize and what level of support they can expect for their Oracle implementations. What GMP learned is outlined in the following lessons:
Lesson 1: Oracle Supports VMware Solutions and Provides Excellent Support
GMP could not have accomplished such a dramatic transformation without Oracle support. During the project, GMP opened up more than 40 service requests with Oracle support and was never denied support or asked to reproduce issues in a physical environment. Any specific questions related to virtualization were correctly directed by Oracle to VMware. Listen to senior DBA, architect at GMP, Nayab Saiyad, discuss the excellent support he received during GMP’s transformation.
To understand the VMware Support Policy with Oracle see the VMware Support Policy.
Lesson 2: Successful Virtualization Initiatives Require Executive Sponsorship
The GMP management staff includes visionaries that are supportive of the company’s journey. Unlike selecting a server, virtualization is a strategic objective at GMP and choosing an established vendor whose core competency is virtualization was a key consideration. VMware and NetApp worked closely with executives and technical personnel to provide them with logical and factual information that explained the benefits of virtualization—including expected capital and operational expense savings—and the realities surrounding Oracle solution support. Like we do for any customer, VMware provides extended Oracle support as part of its existing support agreement at no additional cost.
Lesson 3: Limited Resources Don’t Have to Limit the Environment
The GMP project was and is still quite complex. In just six months, GMP went from an almost 100 percent physical environment to approximately a 70 percent virtualized environment on vSphere. The ability for GMP to quickly backup and provide data protection to its Oracle environment is significantly increased because it has virtualized its Oracle environment using VMware and NetApp solutions. With the company’s limited resources, it is unlikely it would ever be able to effectively manage such a robust Oracle environment without its Oracle applications and databases running on VMware and NetApp technology.
But this is just the beginning. Stay tuned for Episode II and more lessons learned during a very difficult time…