Upgrading Oracle: Linux vs. Windows

An ITKnowledge Exchange (ITKE) recently member had a question about moving an Oracle implementation from RISC/Unix to either Windows or Linux, and fellow techies jumped in on the conversation and helped out. Here is a portion of the

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"ROMEROGT" asked:
We are planning an upgrade of our main database cluster (RS6000/AIX) to Oracle on Intel. The research we've done has provided us with a lot of papers from Dell, HP and Intel about the ROI of moving out of RISC/Unix, but there is no clear evidence about performance issues between Linux and Windows Server as the selected OS. Do you have info about Oracle on Linux vs. Windows ROI and TCO? What about a performance comparison? I would appreciate something specific about Oracle, since I'm not comparing the OS, but rather the performance Oracle has on both platforms.

"ETHERAPE" responded:
We migrated four servers running Windows Oracle databases to one Linux server (Dell Poweredge with external SCSI). The advantage to us is RedHat Linux is able to address the 8+ GB of RAM for Oracle vs. only 2 GB for Windows standard server. The Enterprise CPU licenses we freed from the Windows servers are now utilized in a data warehouse project. We have a massive increase in performance, in part due to the hardware.

TCO and ROI may be hard to quantify. There was a good paper showing a 38% improvement on identical hardware using Linux, but it is gone now. If you have to provide numerical data, you may be forced to use the vendor stuff. Like I said we have a great improvement in performance, but no methodology to prove it.

I was able to convince the executives based on the savings for consolidation related to the data warehouse ($40k for a CPU is substantial), less administration costs (we have Linux/Unix servers up without reboots for years, and that is pretty convincing compared to Windows), less critical security issues and the fact that Oracle develops on Unix/Linux and ports to Windows. Gartner has some great stuff on cost of administration for Windows vs. *nix.

Even CIO and CEO marketing material is hawking Linux solutions at this point, so they should be familiar with it. Hope this helps.

"ARCHITECT57" responded:
Two years ago we performed performance trials for an SAP landscape with Red Hat and an Oracle database vs. Win2K and an Oracle database. The results were that Linux ran more than 30% faster than Win2K on the same hardware. As a result, we chose Red Hat and ultimately ran more than 1100 users in a three-tier architecture.

We also ran a significant Win2K SQL Server environment for another application. Downtime on that system far exceeds the downtime on Linux. My administrators like it better!

"MARKALLCOCK" responded:
We've been running Oracle applications on Windows NT since 1997, from 10.7 smart client through Release 11 and currently 11i. We were the first site live (in the world!) running apps on NT. We're also an official Oracle reference site. So we know a thing or two about this!

There's plenty of press about Linux vs. Windows, and most of it is conflicting. So you can always find an article to support one over the other. I think the argument is relatively simple. Both Windows and Linux offer a potentially low-cost computing platform, so the choice is more readily driven by:

  • If you come from a Unix background, then migrating to Linux is no big deal, and I would suggest you stick to what you pretty much know and love.

  • If you come from a non-Unix background (especially if it's mainly a Windows background), then the migration to Unix can be very costly in training and skills conversion. For those Unix/Linux lovers/Windows haters out there, here is some factual information about Oracle on Windows:
    • There can be memory issues running Oracle on the 32-bit versions of Windows. The main problem is that Oracle coded all of the database-related processes to run within a single ORACLE.EXE executable, rather than keeping the processes as separate executables/threads as they do on other operating systems. All 32-bit operating systems have a fundamental 4 GB memory limit, unless they invoke some kind of extended memory handling.

    • Windows Server Standard editions (NT, 2000 and 2003 varieties) limit any single process to address only 2 GB of memory, even though up to 4 GB of physical memory may be installed; the other 2 GB is reserved for operating system use. If you install the Enterprise Editions (or above) of Windows Server, you can use the 4 GT (4 GB Tuning -- use /3GB in BOOT.INI) feature to allow any executable to address up to 3 GB of memory. Also, with Windows 2000/2003 Server Enterprise Editions (and above) Oracle can address memory above 4 GB for database read buffers (check the /PAE setting at microsoft.com and AWE on Oracle MetaLink). We are currently implementing new server hardware running Windows 2003 Server Enterprise Edition with 12 GB of memory. So it can be done if you know what you are doing.

    • If you use 64-bit versions of Windows, then you can have (pretty much!) as much memory as you like and can afford. At the moment, this is limited to Itanium processors, but the latest generation Intel processors with 64-bit extensions (look for EMT) and AMD 64-bit processors will be properly supported with the x86 64-bit version of Windows Server due in 2005.

    • As for overall performance and reliability of Windows? Well, as an Oracle reference site, we have hosted visits from many large corporations with large, Unix-based installs. All of them were envious of both the performance of our Oracle apps and the reliability. Our system is available 24x7 and is rarely shut down, usually for applying Oracle patches!
Having said all of this, Oracle does indeed develop on and champion Linux as a platform of choice. There are compromises on Windows, especially with the Oracle EBusiness Suite. So back to my original statement: If you already have Unix skills, why would you not choose Linux? It's your obvious "low-cost" solution, and you really shouldn't lose any sleep over whether you could have saved a little bit more by going Windows.

Read the rest of this thread here.

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This was first published in February 2005

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