The Blog from the DBA Classroom

By: Joel Goodman

Archive for February, 2013

Can Supporting an Exadata Database Machine Make You Certifiable?

Posted by Joel Goodman on 28/02/2013

One of my roles in Oracle is to help develop Oracle Certification exams, and I have been extremely busy in recent months. This work is a global activity, and is in addition to teaching courses and seminars for Oracle University in EMEA and to speaking at user groups and special interest group meetings.

The role entails:

  • Collaborating with Oracle Database or Linux Subject matter experts to help write exam items for Oracle Certified Expert  (OCE) certifications
  • Reviewing entire exams written by the core technology exam development team for Oracle Certified Associate (OCA) or Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) certifications
  • Teaching exam item writing workshops to other exam development teams with Oracle, including the Solaris and MySQL item writing teams.
  • Reviewing existing exams to assess where improvements can be made by exam developers for future projects.

The exam development projects in which I have participated in recent months are:

  1. Oracle Database OCP upgrade exam for the next release of the Oracle Database server for existing OCPs
  2. Oracle Database OCA exam for the next release release of the Oracle Database server for new OCA candidates
  3. Bronze exam for certain markets, based on the 2 day DBA overview course
  4. Oracle 11g SQL Tuning OCE exam
  5. Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control  Cloud Administration exam
    • For Oracle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Cloud Administrators –
    • For Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS) Cloud Administrators.  This includes Database as a Service (DBaaS) and Middleware as a Service (MWaaS)
  6. Oracle Exadata Database Machine X3 Administration Oracle Certified Expert exam

Whilst all these exams have their interesting aspects, the focus of this post is the Database Machine OCE exam.

The Database Machine Support Skillset Challenge

Much has been written by myself and others about the different skills involved in provisioning a Database Machine and then maintaining and monitoring the various components. This skill list can be briefly summarised as follows:

  1. Hardware provisioning, installation and maintenance – A Database Machine requires floorspace, adequate ventilation and power supply
  2. Network Administration – A Database Machine must have its Ethernet switch and some other components connected to the corporate LAN. There may also be a requirement to connect Media servers to the Database Machine InfiniBand network.
  3. Operating System Administration  – The Database nodes, also referred to as “Compute” nodes, require O/S administration including backups and patching
  4. Exadata Storage Administration – The Storage nodes or “Cells” need administering and monitoring of Celldisks, Griddisks, Flashcache and other resources
  5. Grid Infrastructure Administration – The Clusterware and Oracle ASM must be administered and monitored> ASM in particular is crucial for monitoring the mirrored disk groups, because Exadata uses ASMs host based mirroring. Mirroring is not done in the Cells.
  6. Oracle Database Administration – this includes Single Instance Oracle, RAC and RAC One Node as all three are possible on a Database Machine

The challenge for an organisation is figuring out how to support a Database Machine (or any other “Engineered System”). There are three models that I have encountered amongst the attendees to the Oracle Database Machine Admin course over the past three to four years:

  1. The Silo Model – This involves having DBAs look after any Oracle products. So DBAs must skill up on all the skills listed above. The advantage is that the support organisation has all the skills in the one team and each DBA can handle support requirements in several areas, but this requires training to expand the traditional DBA skill set.
  2. The Team Model – This involves creating a new team which amongst all the members has the required skills, but where each member is responsible for their own area of expertise. This model requires less training as the members have the required skills already, but requires a change to the organisation.
  3. The Virtual Team Model – This involves creating a virtual team which amongst all the members has the required skills, but where each member is responsible for their own area of expertise. This model requires less training as the members have the required skills already, and requires no real change to existing organisational structures, apart from agreeing on the terms of reference for the virtual team.  This is the most common model I have encountered.

The Database Machine Certification Blueprint Challenge

The challenge for developing the Oracle Exadata Database Machine X3 Administration exam was to address the skill set profile of the typical administrator in light of the  preponderance of the Virtual Team Model. Since few people would be likely to have all the skills to support the Database Machine by themselves, we focused the exam content blueprint on the main skills that one uses in day to day administration. This is predominantly a DBA-centric skill set.

Here is a general outline of the skills and how we treated them for the purposes of the exam:

  • In-depth knowledge of Exadata Storage Server Administration. This is the key component of the Database Machine. The Storage is very DBA-centric, as it is defines specifically for Oracle Databases and ASM, and is not a general purpose storage solution
  • In-depth knowledge of ASM features relating specifically to Exadata based disk groups. This includes but is not restricted to ASM mirroring, Exadata-specific disk group parameters, and Exadata specific monitoring.
  • In Depth knowledge of Clusterware features relating specifically to Exadata resource management and availability. This includes but is not restricted to I/O fencing in for  Exadata based ASM disk groups, partitioning the Exadata storage grid to support multiple database clusters and maintaining storage availability to the storage during patching.
  • In Depth knowledge of Oracle Database administration relating to the use of Exadata based ASM disk groups. This includes but is not limited to Monitoring SQL execution plans when objects reside in Exadata bases ASM disk groups, Exadata specific wait events and Exadata specific statistics.
  • Overview knowledge of network administration. This includes network overview, general IP address and Ethernet connectivity requirements, very general knowledge of the InfiniBand switch topography and port requirements.
  • Overview knowledge of Operating System maintenance requirements. This includes but is not limited to differentiating between the storage nodes and compute nodes, knowing what is and what is not permitted regarding O/S patching and administration, and maintaining high availability during patching.
  • Overview of The Database Machine Hardware components. This includes but is not limited to rack sizes, disk options. site planning, installation and support.
  • Concept Only Overview of Monitoring the Database Machine with Enterprise Manager.  Since both Grid Control and Cloud Control are available for monitoring, the exam focuses only on concepts including but not restricted to as SNMP traps, plug-ins and target discovery

For a complete list of possible exam topics visit the Certification page for the Database Machine Exam and click on the “Exam Topics” tab.

The Exam Development and Quality Assurance Challenge

The Exam was written by a team Oracle University Subject Matter Experts who were all experienced in the product. The review and Beta Test involved Experts from Oracle ACS, with field experience, and other SMEs who were not involved in exam item writing.

If you work with the Exadata Database Machine, preparing for this certification will help you gain a mastery of the skills most often used on a day to day basis as well as a good working knowledge of all the other skill areas listed above.


London February 2013


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