last 2010 huzzah

2010 was a bit of a roller coaster...

First, the passing of four very good friends and colleagues:

- John Alexander Wildgoose, a fellow dba and IT pro as well as my long time golf buddy and friend.
- Dr. Paulo Abrantes, a very good adolescence friend I hadn't seen in many years, who quietly passed away recently. I do miss our talks about the future, Paulo.
- Noel Vanspaal, my database technology mentor and someone I respect professionally more than any other. Over more than 25 years Noel always had a moment to discuss any weird and wonderful issue I came up with, often followed by the sharing of a fiery curry from his native Madras, prepared by his wonderful wife Renata. We shared a similar professional background and had a perfect empathy in what relates to database issues and their resolution.
- Carlos Correia, my uncle and fishing mentor who also got me into the DIY bug and taught me how to catch just about any fish in any situation.

Vale, each and every one of you. I miss your presence and company but your friendship and fellowship will never leave.

And please: can it stop now? Had enough losses, thank you...

On the other hand I have had the great fortune and joy of meeting again many of my high school friends and colleagues from East Timor and some from my native Mozambique.
Amazing how our lives have branched out from each other, and yet after all these years we could still find so many things in common.
We are now all in touch regularly through Facebook and other social networking sites. And that has helped tremendously in coping with the above losses.

Still, that's all beyond the purpose of this blog. Meant more as an explanation of why it's been so hard for me to find the time to come here and talk about dba work.

On this one, I just wanted to show you the sort of performance we're getting in our main DW production node. Please understand: this is not some fancy-shmancy multi-million dollar RAC environment with everything in hardware-land thrown at it and infinite cost limits.

Far from it.

It's a simple Aix LPAR (a Unix VM in IBM parlance) with between 2 and 4 cores assigned to it, varying with the load we put on the system overall.

In this same box we run two i-series JD Edwards databases and applications, two other smaller Oracle databases and the main DW (1.8TB of it). As well as a SOA app server.

On the storage front, we have a Clarion SAN shared with every other server in our data centre.

Let me just stress that out again in case it was not clear: EVERY OTHER server.

That's Aix, Linux, Windows, you name it.


You see: we like to run our data centre as a private cloud.

It was that way, long before this expression became common place with people who haven't got a clue what weather patterns are...

So, let me see: the performance has to be abysmal, right?

Because in-house is necessarily bad: outsourced services are much more "specialized" and "cost-efficient", isn't it?

Well, not just quite. You see: it's not enough to quote from "white papers".

I submit the following to your appreciation. It is a 30 second summary sample of the "topas" tool supplied with Aix, from our DW database node. Taken the 24th Dec 2010, around lunchtime. A timeframe that I'd dare suggest is slightly "idle" by definition.

Here it is:

Most Oracle experts nowadays claim that one CPU core is capable of 200MB/s sole absolute max I/O capacity. That's assuming it's not doing anything else.

We have 2 cores here busy as heck with PL/SQL packages. I'd dare say 300MB/s of aggregate mixed reads and writes - that's MegaBytes per second, Virginia! - sustained over a period of 30 seconds WITH an average of 1.1% I/O wait time, is not bad at all.

That's on an idle Xmas eve, in a server that cost half a megabuck and is being shared with 5 other applications and everything and the kitchen sink in the SAN.

I may be an eternal optimist but this nicely fits my definition of "running very well, thank you!".

Check out the number of luns involved in the I/O and the iops and MB/s each is pumping. Pretty even, eh?

But you should listen to the SAN experts telling me I should "balance my I/O". And the Oracle "experts" telling me I should use ASM/RAC/whatever-technology-de-jour they are flogging that week.

Interesting that NOT ONE of those "experts" has EVER asked to see the performance figures of the system.

They just jump straight into "it must be bad" mode.

On a really busy day this system pumps out in excess of 500MB/s, with around 5% I/O wait time aggregate for periods in excess of 1 hour, solid.

But you should hear the "architects" I've been seeing in the last three months telling me the performance would be much better if we outsourced our systems to people who are "experts" on the subject.   For a "lot less cost", of course.

(Interestingly, NOT ONE of them has asked to see the actual current system and its performance figures...)

I suppose that'd involve using a cloud as well because it is "cheap"?

Hang on, but we ARE using a cloud! And we have shared the cost of this infrastructure with our ENTIRE data centre storage resources.  Prove to me you can do it cheaper first!

Hey, I defy ANY "expert" out there to produce a set of figures like this from an EQUIVALENTLY specified system, under the SAME load constraints and sharing the SAME infra-structure cost with everyone else.

And that is the simple reality, folks. Fact, not fiction.
Actual load figures. Not white papers.

You see: I like to show results, not theories.
And I demand to see facts backing anyone else's theories.

Nuff said.

Have a great 2011 everyone!