As Published In
Oracle Magazine
July/August 2008

License to Operate


License to Operate

By David A. Kelly

Oracle serves, supports, and virtualizes the Linux enterprise.

IT administration isn't for the faint of heart. Not only do IT administrators need to scale information systems to meet increasing business demands; they also need to meet service-level agreements that improve performance and availability—while reducing costs. Acquiring operating system, virtualization, database, clustering, middleware, and applications software from different vendors may provide the necessary IT pieces, but integrating these components can become too complex—and too costly—an adventure.

Oracle virtualization, database, clustering, middleware, applications, and management tools running on Linux—backed by Oracle's Unbreakable Linux support program—offer a low-cost and powerful solution that is both complete and elegant. 


Bonnier Corporation

 Location: Winter Park, Florida
 Employees: More than 1,000
 Revenue: US$350 million
 Oracle products and services: Oracle Enterprise Linux, Unbreakable Linux, Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server, Oracle Forms, Oracle Discoverer, Oracle Reports, Oracle Grid Control, Oracle Streams

Beaumont Hospitals

 Location: Royal Oak, Michigan
 Employees: 14,950
 Revenue: For patient care, approximately US$1.85 billion (2007)
 Oracle products and services: Oracle Enterprise Linux, Unbreakable Linux, Oracle Grid Control, Oracle Database, Oracle Real Application Clusters, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Content Database

"Oracle's support for Linux is much more than just adding another deployment option to Oracle products," says Al Gillen, research vice president, system software, at IDC. "IDC sees Oracle's approach as moving toward a more closely integrated stack of software that includes not only Linux, but the virtualization layer—Oracle VM—and middleware—Oracle Fusion Middleware—as well as database and application solutions."

How to Handle Growth

Recreation is not just something that IT professionals wish they had more time for—it's big business. And whether the recreation is powerboats, kite boarding, fishing, skateboarding, gardening, popular science, or just about anything else, Bonnier Corporation relies on Linux to help connect people to their passions.

Bonnier Corp. is the U.S.-based company of the Bonnier Group, an international media company based in Sweden with operations in more than 20 countries. Over the past year, Bonnier Corp. has grown through acquisition from a 350-person company with US$80 million in annual revenue to a company with more than 1,000 employees and approximately US$350 million in revenue.

The company publishes more than 40 magazines (including Field & Stream, Islands, Parenting, Saveur , and Skiing ) and related Web sites aimed at helping people connect with the activities they love. However, managing that kind of fast growth and supporting more than 100 Web sites for magazines, events, and marketing is a big IT challenge.

"We've had a very high growth rate. Over the past year, our Web visitors have more than quadrupled," says Scott Baker, database administration manager, Bonnier. To handle that growth, its expanding content, and the need to manage its broad Web presence, Bonnier turned to Oracle and Linux. "Oracle Database, Oracle Enterprise Linux, and Oracle Streams are all backbones of our company that help us connect people to their passions," says Baker.

Baker decided to upgrade the company's Oracle Database to accommodate the bigger, high-traffic Web sites Bonnier needed to host. And he took advantage of Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control (Oracle Grid Control) to monitor and administer the database. 

Virtual Power for Oracle On Demand

"Virtualization plays a role either directly or indirectly in most deployments going forward," says Al Gillen, research vice president, system software, at IDC. "Most organizations will need to factor virtualization, as a current or future deployment scenario and a consolidation driver, into their deployment plans today."

Oracle VM, a logical complement to the Oracle Unbreakable Linux program, provides a scalable, low-cost server virtualization platform that supports both Oracle and non-Oracle applications. Consisting of open source server software and an integrated Web browser-based management console, Oracle VM provides an easy-to-use graphical interface for creating and managing virtual server pools running on x86- and x86-64-based systems. Users can create and manage virtual machines that exist on the same physical server but behave like independent physical servers. Each virtual machine created with Oracle VM has its own virtual CPUs, network interfaces, storage, and operating system.

Among other benefits, Oracle VM offers well-tested, high-performance server virtualization that can handle mission-critical production environments. With Oracle VM, Oracle provides the combined benefits of server clustering and server virtualization for grid computing and faster deployment through preconfigured VM templates of Oracle Database and Oracle Enterprise Linux. Oracle VM delivers server consolidation and improves resource use, and it also offers a certified solution that supports Oracle's database, middleware, and applications.

With Oracle VM, organizations can have a complete software stack—from the operating system to the virtualization services to the database to the middleware to the applications themselves—with a single point of enterprise-class support.

For Laurent Sandrolini, vice president of product management, Oracle On Demand, Oracle VM is an important evolution in grid computing. Oracle On Demand has already standardized its services on Linux. Oracle E-Business Suite; Oracle's PeopleSoft, Hyperion, and Siebel applications; and Oracle Retail are all delivered on a Linux-managed grid.

"After Linux, Oracle VM is Oracle On Demand's next transformation. Virtualization is a milestone on our continued journey to give customers a superior ownership experience," says Sandrolini. "Virtualization changes the economics of the software delivery business by optimizing the underlying infrastructure while enhancing the service to customers."

Not only can Oracle VM help organizations reduce their infrastructure requirements, it can also help the environment. That's an important consideration for Oracle. As part of the EPA Green Power Partnership program, Oracle is already purchasing 25 percent of its on-demand data center power from renewable sources, far more than the 3 percent required.

"The deployment of Oracle VM on our managed grid will contribute up to a 25 percent reduction in server power usage. Oracle On Demand manages the largest Oracle Linux grid. More than 5,000 servers are dedicated to supporting enterprise customers. Yet since our VM initiative started, we've been able to add customers while reducing our overall server footprint," says Sandrolini.

By adding virtualization to its Linux foundation, Oracle On Demand can also enhance key services for customers, such as provisioning, capacity management, change management, and even disaster recovery. "Virtualization isn't only about consolidating servers," Sandrolini says. "Oracle VM affords faster provisioning of services, a new model to deliver capacity on demand, and an opportunity to innovate within the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a framework for IT best practices. All in all, Oracle VM is fast becoming a critical aspect of enhancing every area of our on-demand service."

"Oracle Grid Control saves us many hours of menial DBA tasks," says Baker. "We've used the database cloning feature within Oracle Grid Control to move databases from one server to another, and the total time that it takes us to clone a database is five minutes." The team uses Oracle Streams for the migration of the Web sites into Bonnier's new data center.

"It's a good solution for us," Baker says. "We can keep the databases replicated and in sync and move all the sites over into the new data center gradually." The data migration was completed on time, and moving the Web sites is about 80 percent completed and has worked without a hitch so far.

Cost-Effective Growth

Bonnier runs 35 Linux servers in a mixed environment to handle the QA and production systems for the development teams. For support, they rely on Oracle's Unbreakable Linux program. "We maintain enterprise-level support on all our production systems in case something happens," says Brian Smith, Bonnier's manager of lab operations. "But we haven't had to call in much for support—we haven't had the need."

With Bonnier's many Web sites for magazines, events, and marketing, having a single source of support was an important consideration for Smith when he was evaluating the move to Oracle Enterprise Linux.

"We migrated from Red Hat Linux because we were going to be running Oracle Database on those servers and wanted to standardize on Oracle Enterprise Linux 5 because it's less expensive and we'd only have to go to one place for support," says Smith.

"We initially saved thousands by using Oracle Enterprise Linux instead of Red Hat, but that cost savings just increases over time because of the reduced amount of recurring support or maintenance that we have to pay," says Smith. "As time goes by, it'll definitely save us more and more money."

Bonnier also benefits from knowing that its Linux servers will work more smoothly with its Oracle Database environment. "Oracle has worked to optimize the way the database and operating system work together, so there won't be new problems when we upgrade either one," Baker says.

Saving Money, Increasing Availability

Bonnier isn't the only company seeing great benefits from Linux. Take the example of Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Beaumont migrated from another platform and now has 24 servers that run Oracle Enterprise Linux. "On those servers we have Oracle Identity Manager, Oracle Application Server, Oracle Database, and Oracle Grid Control," said Paul Dillard, Beaumont's manager of database administration.

"The systems that we support on Linux at this time are our contact database, our Web environment—which is an Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) environment—and our identity management environment," he says. Up to 15,000 people can be registered on the identity management system, and at any given time about 1,000 are logged on. The identity management environment consists of three servers that replicate to one another to ensure constant availability in the event of a failure. Oracle databases are used as warehouses for the clinical systems.

The switch to Oracle Enterprise Linux has enabled Beaumont to cut costs significantly.

"For half the price of one of our old servers, we were able to get a highly available Oracle Linux environment, including two Oracle RAC nodes," says Dillard. "The cost savings is significant, not just in hardware but in maintenance fees for the hardware environment. By moving to highly available Oracle Enterprise Linux-based servers for our Web environment, we've reduced our costs by 40 percent. The money we've saved by moving to Oracle Enterprise Linux has allowed us to invest in other areas of IT and do things that we may not have been able to do otherwise."

Not only has Beaumont saved money, it has also increased availability and performance.

Next Steps

 VISIT the Linux Technology Center

 READ more about Oracle VM

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"Performance with Oracle [Enterprise] Linux has been equal to or better than our previous environment," Dillard says. "In addition, we have virtually no downtime in our highly available Oracle environment. The failover environment we were using had at least 5 to 15 minutes of failover time."

Beaumont also uses Oracle Grid Control to provide out-of-the-box management for its multiserver Linux environment, and having one central place to monitor the network has proven to be very beneficial.

"Virtually our whole network is monitored by Oracle Grid Control," says Dillard. "We manage the environment using Oracle Grid Control. We can even buy patches using Oracle Grid Control."

Support from Top to Bottom

For most IT organizations, low cost and the enterprise-class support available with Linux have made it a viable alternative to traditional data center solutions. With new options such as Oracle VM (see sidebar, "Virtual Power for Oracle On Demand"), organizations have even more reasons to consider Linux.

Oracle demonstrates its own confidence in Linux by running everything from internal Oracle systems to its massive Oracle On Demand data center on it.

"We have the virtualization layer, Linux, the database, application servers, applications, and management products that manage top-to-bottom," says Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's vice president of Linux engineering. "We also have a single support number that goes top-to-bottom, so it completes our single contact/single management control solution."

Having that type of assurance and support when deploying business-critical Linux systems is an important factor for forward-looking organizations. That's why Oracle continues to invest in supporting Linux top to bottom.

"We're very serious about Linux," says Coekaerts. "We wouldn't be running the company on it if we weren't."

David A. Kelly ( is a business, technology, and travel writer who lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.

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