A Lifeline for EBS Customers Still on RDBMS 11gR2 and 12cR1

Yesterday, the Oracle E-Business Suite Applications Technology Group made a couple of very significant announcements for E-Business Suite customers.

  • RDBMS 12cR1 (12.1.0.2) Extended Support is available through July 31, 2022
  • The Extended Support fees have been waived for 12cR1 databases used for E-Business Suite through July 31, 2022.  [Previously, December 2020]
  • RDBMS 11gR2 (11.2.0.4) Extended Support is available through December 31, 2020.
  • The Extended Support fees have been waived for 11gR2 databases used for E-Busines Suite through December 31, 2020.

The current certified versions of the Oracle RDBMS for use with E-Business Suite R12.1 and R12.2 include 11gR2, 12cR1, and 19c.

If you’re on 12cR1, you should upgrade to 19c as soon as reasonably possible.
If you’re on 11gR2, you too, should upgrade to 19c as soon as reasonably possible..  You could upgrade to 12.1.0.2, but you would be forcing yourself into another upgrade (to 19c) pretty soon.

The Oracle Server group has switched to a “yearly” release schedule.  So, sometime during 2020, there should be an “Oracle RDBMS 20c” and, sometime in 2021, we should expect an “Oracle RDBMS 21c”.

However, given that it takes a while to certify the database against E-Business Suite on the variety of platforms that are necessary, the E-Business Suite team has indicated their intention to certify on every other release.  Also important is that the certification for E-Business Suite tends to lag the database release by at least 6 months.  So, that means that the next certified release of the Oracle RDBMS for E-Business Suite should be RDBMS 21c and you might not see that certification until late in 2021.

So, if you choose to wait for the next release, you may find yourself praying for another extension… which is increasingly unlikely.

— James

E-Business Suite 12.1 is now Certified on OEL7 and RHEL7

New this week from Steven Chan’s blog:

https://blogs.oracle.com/stevenChan/entry/oracle_e_business_suite_release5

One thing that Steven’s blog posting mentions that deserves specific emphasis is that Oracle Database 11.2.0.4 and 12.1.0.2 are ALSO certified on OEL7/RHEL7 [see MOS 1304727.1].  Please note that the certification is specific to the version of the database.  Most notably that 11.2.0.3 and 12.1.0.1 appear to be excluded from this certification.  As always, be sure to pay close attention to the certification status of your various components when planning any installation/upgrade.

It’s also important to note that, while there is a 32-bit version of RHEL6 (and E-Business Suite 12.1.3 is certified on it), there isn’t a 32-bit version of RHEL7.  This is important and, at the same time, it isn’t.  First of all, it’s highly unlikely that anyone is still using 32-bit hardware.  (Or that they ever were, for E-Business Suite on Linux).  Yes, it’s true that the appsTier components of E-Business Suite 12.1 are still 32-bit, running them on a 64-bit Linux requires only minor adjustments.  The bulk of which involve dependencies on kernel settings and Linux packages.

So, with all of this out there… Go forth and upgrade!

— James

Deciphering support and licensing issues surrounding Oracle on VMWare

I frequently run into clients that are wanting to run Oracle products in their VMWare cluster. Since I generally deal with E-Business Suite customers, I tend to take the position of “anything that swallows machines whole should probably have a physical machine” approach to production systems. However, I can see some distinct advantages to virtualization, particularly when it comes to managing numbers of non-production environments.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion out there as it relates to Oracle and virtualization… particularly surrounding one of the most popular virtualization solutions, VMWare. I’ll try to provide my best understanding of the issues here.

Are Oracle products certified on VMWare?

The short answer is, NO. But, that really shouldn’t be that much of a concern. Keep in mind that a VMWare Virtual Machine is, technically, hardware. Oracle doesn’t tend to certify against hardware. And that’s what that VMWare really is, it’s “virtual hardware”. As such, it’s really no different than a particular model of Dell or HP ProLiant.

What Oracle does do is certify against a platform. A platform is the combination of a particular version of an operating system (Solaris 10 vs. Solaris 11, for example) and processor architecture (Sun SPARC vs. Intel x86-32 or Intel x86-64). In the case of a deployment to VMWare, your platform will be determined by the operating system that you intend to run inside of the virtual machine. (For example, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5/6 for x86 or x86-64).

Are Oracle products supported on VMWare?

Oracle’s official support position can be found in MOS Note 249212.1, copied below (emphasis mine):

Support Position for Oracle Products Running on VMWare Virtualized Environments [ID 249212.1]

Purpose

Explain to customers how Oracle supports our products when running on VMware

Scope & Application

For Customers running Oracle products on VMware virtualized environments. No limitation on use or distribution.

Support Status for VMware Virtualized Environments

Oracle has not certified any of its products on VMware virtualized environments. Oracle Support will assist customers running Oracle products on VMware in the following manner: Oracle will only provide support for issues that either are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not to be as a result of running on VMware.

If a problem is a known Oracle issue, Oracle support will recommend the appropriate solution on the native OS. If that solution does not work in the VMware virtualized environment, the customer will be referred to VMwar for support. When the customer can demonstrate that the Oracle solution does not work when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required.

If the problem is determined not to be a known Oracle issue, we will refer the customer to VMware for support. When the customer can demonstrate that the issue occurs when running on the native OS, Oracle will resume support, including logging a bug with Oracle Development for investigation if required.

NOTE: Oracle has not certified any of its products on VMware. For Oracle RAC, Oracle will only accept Service Requests as described in this note on Oracle RAC 11.2.0.2 and later releases.

In my understanding of the actual way that the policy is applied, it’s really a matter of whether or not the support engineer suspects VMWare to be the culprit. What I’m saying here is that, generally speaking, the support engineer will work your issue the same way that he/she would if you were on physical hardware. However, once that engineer thinks that VMWare could be the cause of your problem, they reserve the right to “punt” and say “call us back once you’ve reproduced it on physical hardware”.

Now, VMWare, to their credit, has a policy that they call “Total Ownership”, where they will accept accountability for any Oracle-related issues. You can read their official policy at the link below.

http://www.vmware.com/support/policies/oracle-support.html

It is my understanding that, as part of the “Total Ownership” policy, VMware will reproduce the problem on physical hardware for the customer if Oracle decides that VMWare is the problem.

What about Licensing?

Part of the big problem I’ve always had with Oracle on VMWare is caused by Oracle’s per-CPU licensing policy. My original understanding was that, if you have a total of 64 cores in your VMWare cluster, it didn’t matter if you were only using 8 cores for Oracle. Oracle would tell you that you had to pay for 64 cores. The idea behind this is that you could, potentially, resize the virtual machine to suit certain needs. Maybe you need more horsepower during month end?

What I’ve since learned is that Oracle has a policy document (below) that talks about “soft” vs. “hard” partitioning.

http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/pricing/partitioning-070609.pdf

What I’ve described above would fall under the concept of “soft partitioning”. However, “hard partitioning” methodologies allow for a different approach. VMWare has (naturally) a nice document that explains their approach to implementing clusters that are in compliance with Oracle’s licensing requirements.

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/techpaper/vmw-understanding-oracle-certification-supportlicensing-environments.pdf

From that document, pay particular attention to section 2.2. In that section (specifically Scenario B), they discuss DRS Host Affinity rules and VMWare CPU pinning. (emphasis mine)

2.2 Clusters: Fully Licensed Versus Partially Licensed Clusters

Scenario B: Partially Licensed Clusters

When a customer does not have enough Oracle application instances to justify creating a dedicated cluster for those applications, only a subset of the hosts in the cluster are licensed for the Oracle application. In this situation, the customer must be careful to restrict the movement of Oracle application instances and virtual machines to only those hosts that are licensed to run the product.

In this case, DRS Host Affinity rules can be used to appropriately restrict the movement of virtual machines within the cluster. DRS Host Affinity is a vSphere feature that enables you to ensure that your Oracle applications are restricted to move only between a subset of the hosts—that is, not all hardware in the cluster is “available” to the Oracle software. DRS Host Affinity is a clustering technology and is not a mechanism for soft or hard partitioning of the servers. As explained in section 2.1, using VMware CPU pinning to partially license a host is not currently recognized by Oracle as a “hard partitioning” mechanism that receives subsystem pricing. However, once you have fully licensed the host, you have the right to design your environment such that the Oracle workloads are free to run on the licensed hosts inside the cluster. At present, Oracle does not have any stated policy regarding clustering mechanisms or DRS Host Affinity. Customers can easily maiatain records for compliance purposes as explained in section 2.3.

The advantages of this approach are similar to the advantages achieved with a fully licensed cluster. Because customers are typically able to increase the utilization of licensed processors, they reduce license requirements. However, consolidation ratios tend to be lower, because advanced vSphere features can be employed only on a smaller subset of the hosts.

VMWare CPU pinning is a feature that (in my understanding) would allow you to say that a given VM would only use certain cores in a physical host. So, if you have a single host with 16 cores, you can “pin” a given VM to four of them. According to Oracle’s partitioning document (and VMWare’s document), you would still be required to pay for all 16 cores in the box. The basic logic here is that Oracle’s licensing policy is based on the number of cores in a physical server. You can’t license part of a box. Period. No exceptions.

On the other hand, DRS Host Affinity, is a way to pin a virtual machine to a given host (or collection of hosts) within a cluster. So, let’s say that you have ten (10) 8-core physical hosts (total of 80 cores) in your VMWare cluster. Using DRS Host Affinity, youcould restrict your Oracle VMs to a subset of those physical hosts. For example, if you restricted your Oracle VMs to only five (5) of those physical hosts, VMWare’s contention is that you would only have to license 40 cores.

I sould probably include the standard “IANAL” (I am not a lawyer) disclaimer. I’m also not a VMWare administrator. What I am is a DBA and an IT Geek. That’s pretty much the limit of it.

Hopefully this provides some clarity on the issue.

For further reading on the subject, here are a couple of blog links that I used in my research:

http://blogs.vmware.com/apps/2012/11/update-on-virtualizing-oracle.html

http://longwhiteclouds.com/2012/07/21/fight-the-fud-oracle-licensing-and-support-on-vmware-vsphere/

– James

Oracle Support Changes for EBS (part deux)

On Monday, Cliff Godwin announced some significant changes to E-Business Suite support. The official announcement is now available on MOS (Note: 1495337.1). The text of the announcement is below:

As part of Oracle’s continued commitment to our customers, we will be providing an exception for the first 13 months of Sustaining Support on Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11.5.10 (11i10), valid from December 1, 2013 – December 31, 2014. This exception support will be comprised of three components: (1) new fixes for Severity 1 production issues, (2) United States Form 1099 2013 year-end updates, and (3) payroll regulatory updates for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia for fiscal years ending in 2014.


In addition, the Extended Support period for E-Business Suite Release 12.1 has been extended through December, 2018. Customers with an active Oracle Premier Support for Software contract will automatically be entitled to Extended Support deliverables for E-Business Suite 12.1.

NOTE: The changes to 11i Sustaining Support do NOT extend to the security patches. Oracle will NOT provide Quarterly CPU patch for 11i will come out in October, 2013. The one exception to this is that they will provide fixes for “P1” security issues.

— James

E-Business Suite Current Release and Roadmap

Current release is R12.1.3 (but you already knew that!). Enhancements coming with R12.2 include Online Patching (20 years in the making) based on a database feature specifically requested by the E-Business Suite group called “Edition-Based Redefinition”. The expectation is that you will be able to apply patches of any size with minimal downtime (less than an hour, target is more like 15 minutes).  (I will discuss this feature in a more in-depth posting later).

Other enhancements include integration with Endeca to provide an e-commerce shopping experience to many of your ERP business processes. (I’ve heard the “shopping for shoes” reference three times already at OpenWorld when discussing this feature). Cliff Godwin provided an interesting demo of this feature during his presentation earlier today. It is expected that this capability will be released “within the year”. Cliff made a point to indicate that initial releases will cover several modules (I believe it was eight at initial release) but that new modules and Endeca-related features should come along quickly (due to the rapid development cycles available with Endeca). He was unclear, however, as to whether the Endeca feature set will be available on releases prior to R12.2.

— James

Oracle Support Changes Announced for EBS

During his session earlier today, Cliff Godwin announced some significant changes to the E-Business Suite support deadlines. I will put together a more polished post later, but for now, here are the details:

EBS 11i (11.5.10.2) is STILL on Sustaining Support until December 31, 2013. However, they are making a few exceptions to the Sustaining Support policy. First, they will continue to provide bugfixes for Severity 1 production problems until December 31, 2014. Secondly, they will continue to provide updates for US Form 1099 through 2013 Year End. And finally, they are committing to provide Fiscal Year End 2014 Payroll updates for US, Canada, and UK.

For customers on Release 12.1, Oracle is waiving the Extended Support fees until December of 2018.

— James

MINOR CORRECTION: EBS 11i is not “still on sustaining support”. EBS 11i is actually on Extended Support until Nov 2013. (Thanks, Srini, for pointing this out!)

Oracle Waives E-Business Suite Extended Support Fees, again…

Yesterday, Steven Chan announced on his blog (if you don’t read it, you should…) that Oracle was waiving Extended Support fees for E-Business Suite 11i and 12.0. According to the new announcement, the entire Extended Support period (for 11i and 12.0) is now free (if you’ve already paid for it, contact your salesperson). I haven’t dug deeply enough into the history of this, but I don’t think that Oracle has done anything to move the actual dates.

This means that customers who are on 11i and 12.0 (who have also met the minimum baseline patch requirements) have some extra time to get to the next release (which is currently 12.1.3).

What is Premier Support?

Premier Support is the “normal” support category that Oracle puts around “current” software. Under Premier Support, Oracle obligates themselves to actually fixing bugs and finding solutions to problems.

According to Oracle’s website:

Premier Support – Delivers full system support for your Oracle hardware, operating systems and applications with an upfront, minimum five-year support commitment that helps you plan and budget.

What is Extended Support?

Extended Support is just like Premier Support, except that they charge you more for it. All of the features of Premier Support are there, and they will still produce new bugfixes when they’re needed.

According to Oracle’s website:

Extended Support – Offers an additional three years of support for select Oracle software and operating systems for an additional fee so you can effectively manage your upgrade strategy.

What comes after Extended Support?

Sustaining Support. Here, you still have access to the support site and analysts. However, no new bugfixes will be produced. If you encounter a previously unknown problem, your only choice may be to upgrade.

According to Oracle’s website:

Sustaining Support – Provides investment protection by further extending support for Oracle software, operating systems and select hardware products. Features include access to online support tools, knowledgebases, pre-existing fixes, and assistance from Oracle’s technical support experts.

More information is available at: http://www.oracle.com/us/support/lifetime-support/index.html

What does this mean for me, by version?

For Release 11i, Premier Support ended November 30, 2010 and Extended Supprt will now end on November 30, 2013. You’ll want to be on 11.5.10.2 with the minimum baseline patches applied (according to Note: 883202.1). Ideally, you should also be on RDBMS 11.2.0.3.

For Release 12.0, Premier Support ended on January 31, 2012 and Extended Support will now end on January 31, 2015. The document you’ll need to follow is 1195034.1. For that you will need to be on 12.0.6 (12.0 RUP 6), with the mainimum baseline patches applied (according to the document). Ideally, you should also be on RDBMS 11.2.0.3.

For Release 12.1, Premier Support will end in June of 2014 (I’m not certain, but I believe that it is May 31, 2014) and Extended Support will end on the same date in 2017. Oracle has also (back in October) announced that they are waiving the first year of Extended Support fees for R12.1 (which means you are good until May of 2015). As far as baseline patching is concerned, keep an eye on 1195034.1. At this point, the only minimum baseline requirement for Extended Support is that you have applied at least the R12.1.3 Release Update Pack. As with the other releases, you should also be on RDBMS 11.2.0.3.

Why are they doing this?

Obviously, I have no real information on what’s going on inside of Oracle. What I can say is that, based on customers I (and others) have spoken with, there are still a large number of customers on 11i and 12.0. Release 12.2 has been “coming soon” for quite some time, and, with R12.1.3 dates appearing on the horizon, many customers are waiting for R12.2 to be released. They don’t want to finish one upgrade project only to immediately start another.

My advice? It is my understanding that you will not be able to upgrade directly from 11.5.10.2 to R12.2 (I could be wrong on this). If you’re on 11i, you should be working on your upgrade to R12.1.3 now. If you’re on R12.0, you may want to wait until R12.2 comes out and figure out if you can go straight to R12.2. If you’re on R12.1, get to R12.1.3 and be ready to start planning your R12.2 upgrade shortly after it is released.

In all cases, get your databases upgraded to 11.2.0.3 as well. Many of the deadlines for 10gR2 have already passed.

– James

Changes are coming to My Oracle Support

Oracle is in the process of getting rid of the incredibly annoying “Flash-based” version of My Oracle Support and replacing it with a site developed using their own Application Development Framework (ADF).

Over the weekend of January 27, 2012, they deployed the new site to replace their “html-based” version. It is available at: https://supporthtml.oracle.com

It’s my understanding that, at some future date, the main flash-based site (https://support.oracle.com) will be replaced by this new version.

So, go check it out! It works pretty well… (and, for those of you using “i” devices that can’t use Flash, it’s a viable alternative…)

I should also note that Oracle does have a mobile version of My Oracle Support. While the mobile version does not offer the full functionality of the normal site, you can at least view and update your SRs. This feature, alone, can be a godsend when you’re working on that Severity 1 SR!

The mobile version of My Oracle Support can be found at: https://support.oracle.mobi

– James