AT ORACLE: Interview

As Published In
Oracle Magazine
January/February 2011

  

A Kernel of Truth

By Tom Haunert

 

Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux delivers support for new hardware, new features, and better data management.

Oracle recently announced the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux. Tom Haunert, Oracle Magazine editor in chief, sat down with Chris Mason, director of Linux Kernel Engineering at Oracle, to get the details. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download the full podcast at oracle.com/magcasts.

Oracle Magazine: What is the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux?

Mason: The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux is a new kernel for Oracle Linux 5.5. The new kernel is compatible with everything existing in Oracle Linux 5.5 now, but it also adds new features, hardware support, and better performance on top of all that.

The Linux kernel interfaces with hardware, so it’s key to performance of the system because it controls the memory and the I/O resources and all the things that the applications use to actually talk to the hardware. With the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux, we’ve packaged up a more recent, more mainline Linux kernel, and we’re offering it with the existing Oracle Linux 5.5 stack.

Oracle Magazine: What are some of the key hardware support features of the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux?

Mason: The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux adds support for a broad range of new hardware. We have newer drivers. We have better support for high-end storage subsystems. We’ve spent a lot of time in the mainline community developing improved support for these things. We have more support for a larger number of CPUs and more RAM on the system. Basically, the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel provides a complete hardware refresh in terms of what the Oracle Linux distribution is able to handle.

There are a number of changes in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel that allow networking processing to scale across all the CPUs on the system. The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel includes support that very effectively spreads the network processing load across all the CPUs on the system.

The 2.6.18 Linux kernel is showing its age in terms of how efficiently it can access solid-state storage. We did a benchmark where the 2.6.18 kernel was only running at around 4 GBs per second accessing a number of high-end solid-state storage drives. When we did the benchmark with the new Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel, we got it up to around 9.5 GBs per second. Most of the improvement came from reduced lock contention and spreading the I/O processing across all the CPUs.

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Oracle Magazine: What’s new in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux in terms of availability?
 

Mason: One of the biggest new features in that area is improved hardware fault management. We have more tools now to detect errors in the hardware and report them back up to the administrator before they actually end up impacting the application. We have the ability to take memory offline as it goes bad without taking down the whole system. The same carries through to individual CPUs and individual components of the CPUs, so that as we start noticing hardware going bad, the system has the ability to do something about it proactively and take that hardware offline.

Oracle Magazine: What’s your favorite administration feature in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux?

Mason: One of my favorite new features is a tool we’ve integrated called Latencytop. This was originally developed by Intel, and it allows administrators to very quickly find out what the system is currently waiting on. It’s a very easy way to answer the old question of, “Am I bottlenecked on the disk, or am I waiting on the network, or am I waiting for CPU?”

Oracle Magazine: What’s involved in running applications on the new Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux?

Mason: Any existing application should work properly on the new Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel. The kernel community dedicates a great deal of resources to maintain stability, and we did a great deal of testing as we were developing the new kernel to make sure that the applications would continue working.

  

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