Choosing the right server hardware is all about choosing the right software

Before evaluating the server hardware, knowing what edition of Oracle 11g to choose and whether to run that edition on a virtualized server is crucial. This section

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takes a look at factors to consider in making that decision.

Read the other sections of this guide on servers for Oracle upgrades:

Comparing servers for Oracle database 11g upgrades
Oracle database upgrades: the in-place vs. migration upgrade decision
Choosing the right server hardware is all about choosing the right software
The best of the Oracle 11g-ready servers
Can Sun shine running Oracle 11g?

Selecting a new server takes much more than just opening a catalog and buying a system. Administrators have to take several considerations into account to balance performance against costs against support, before buying a server for Oracle 11g.

The first thing to consider is which edition of Oracle 11g will be deployed. For most departmental upgrades, the answer is usually Oracle 11g Standard Edition One, which is designed for single socket (1P) or dual socket (2P) systems, which narrows down server choices significantly. Most administrators will find that a 1P server may suffice, but significant benefits can be realized by choosing a 2P system instead. Dual CPU (2P) servers are easier to scale up, provide ample performance, support more memory and feature higher end components than 1P servers. Although a 2P server can cost more, it offers a higher return on investment (ROI) over time by leveraging technologies such as virtualization and Web applications delivery.

Virtualization is another important consideration. Administrators may want to deploy Oracle 11g on a virtual server, which introduces fail over, fast backup, portability, business continuity and several other capabilities into the mix. Administrators will need to select a server that can run virtual environments, which usually means that the server's CPUs are optimized for virtualization and must offer support for 64-bit operating systems.

The choice of a network operating system will also affect server configuration, as well as what other applications the server will be used for. For most department level installations, the server is expected to do much more than just deliver a database. Servers often perform double duty as file servers, mail servers, web servers and application servers in the typical department, further dictating the level of hardware required.

Oracle 11g Standard Edition One can be run under Windows, Linux and Unix. While each of those OSes has its merits, ultimately, external factors such as IT policy will determine what OS is used. Even so, administrators will need to keep in mind the hardware requirements of the OS, which will impact the CPU, memory and storage technologies selected and ultimately, the overall configuration of the server.

Once again, the best insurance here is to select a 2P server, which should offer the basic processing power to meet OS, Oracle, and other application needs. While there is no set method for calculating the overall requirements for a server, administrators can use some common sense and manufacturers guidelines to best size a server for their departmental needs.

For example, the minimum memory requirement for Oracle 11g is 1GB. That memory requirement is above and beyond the needs of the operating system and other applications. Depending upon the OS selected, the memory requirements can be much larger.

Processor requirements on the other hand are relatively light for Oracle 11g, with the minimum being an 800 Mhz CPU for a host system running Windows Vista. Interestingly, an 800 Mhz CPU is also the minimum requirement for Windows Vista, according to Microsoft. In the real world, 800 Mhz is far from adequate to run Vista, much less Oracle 11g.

Experience has shown that a good starting point for a departmental Oracle 11g database is a server class system running two multi-core 64-bit processors, with 4GB of RAM and a 64-bit OS. Costs can be reduced by cutting corners. Administrators will find that using less powerful processors and less RAM will be detrimental to system performance as the database grows. What's more, lower-end hardware shuts the door on running an application server to deliver the database information via Web 2.0 based applications.

For administrators with restrained hardware budgets, a good compromise is to purchase a 2P server with only a single processor installed, allowing the addition of another processor at a later date if needed. The idea here is to future proof the server, while offering the easiest upgrade path and maximizing database performance.

This was first published in July 2009

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