In the past, several teams would work to provision an Oracle ERP environment, and it took weeks.
Now, it takes hours.
Whether a new environment is being created or an existing one is refreshed, it literally takes one person a few mouse clicks to initiate an entire environment, and it takes about 10 hours for the complex installation, configuration, and data-restore to run by itself.
Like many companies, one of the most important systems inside VMware is our Oracle ERP system. It has 7 terabytes of data in the transactional database and records all transactions related to order management, service contracts, install base, customers, accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, and more. When our IT team set out to start using vFabric Application Director, we decided that this ERP application would be one of the critical places to automate deployments. At the end of the day, our main goal was to have a repeatable, fully automated process for provisioning and configuring an EBS instance. For those who are interested, we are running:
- Oracle Database 10gR2 (10.2.0.5.0) on the database tier
- Oracle EBS 11i (126.96.36.199) on the application tiers (one Concurrent Manager node and one web/forms server node – uses the shared application tier feature)
You can get additional background from this post, and, if you are at VMworld, our sessions on Wednesday and Thursday go into even more detail on the topic of how VMware IT uses vFabric Application Director.
How a Refresh Worked before vFabric Application Director
Before we explain some of the detail, let us provide more context for the situation:
- This ERP application impacts a significant number of upstream and downstream systems across multiple Dev, Test, UAT, and Load Test environments. For all of these systems and environments, people need a snapshot of the Production database and code so that we are working from the current code base and have a clean way to test all use cases.
- The application supports virtually every department. Even if a department isn’t a direct user, they are an indirect user in some way. The main users are from the order management, renewals, support, and finance departments.
- Since the application supports internal corporate users, we have identity and access management to integrate with. There are also externally facing customer portals. And, we have middleware and master data management integrations.
- Before we implemented this solution, a project manager would head the process and members from several different teams would participate. Usually, system admins, DBAs, application admins, networking, and storage teams would be involved along with QA and development team members to smoke test.
- The process was mainly a manual one for the teams. Some steps would include restoring the data from a production back-up, provisioning VMs, obtaining IP addresses, load balancing, installing the database, restoring the data, apps, etc. This would be managed with tickets and approvals – it was a tedious, error-prone process, and took a lot of time. While steps cloning and application configuration were lengthy efforts, the biggest time waster was hand-offs, approvals, and just waiting for other people. In project management terms, the duration was probably greater than the actual effort.
Fully Automated with the vFabric Application Director Blueprint
Below, we outline the steps of the blueprint in vFabric Application Director and explain what it does to fully automate the entire process. For various environments, the blueprint stays the same, and the deployment execution plan changes (i.e. logical separation of environment definition from underlying infrastructure). When the blueprint runs, it:
1. Provisions three VMs (Oracle Linux) – one each for Database, Concurrent Manager, and Web/Forms with below OS configuration
- OEL_EBS_DB: OEL 5.6, 64 bit, 8 vCPU,16 GB memory
- OEL_EBS_CCM: OEL 5.6, 64 bit, 4 vCPU, 4 GB memory
- OEL_EBS_APP: OEL 5.6, 64 bit, 4 vCPU, 4 GB memory
2. Executes scripts to restore 7 TB Oracle Database and EBS Application Binaries from the gold copy.
3. Executes scripts to create oracle E-business suite database and start DB listeners in DB node.
4. Executes scripts to Configure EBS Concurrent Manager Tier to communicate with EBS database in CCM node.
5. Executes scripts to Configure EBS Web/Forms Tier to communicate with EBS database in App node.
6. Executes scripts to run post-clone steps like scrambling HR data, trunk-ing custom tables, updating email addresses in workflow tables, make password changes, and more.
7. Executes scripts to start Application Services (CCM, forms, apache) for end user consumption.
The blueprint described above is shown below in the vFabric Application Director UI.
- At the top left, there is a panel listing application blueprints like the one shown in the middle panel.
- The bottom left panel shows a list of logical templates (VMs).
- The top right panel lists application components (JARs, SQL, etc.).
- The bottom right panel lists services (i.e. middleware and other applications).
- The middle panel shows blueprint with the three OS configurations mentioned above, the steps to automatically create each, and the dependencies between them.
We would also love to see you on Wednesday or Thursday at VMworld for a deeper dive.