Oracle Scratchpad

July 27, 2011


Filed under: Infrastructure,Oracle — Jonathan Lewis @ 5:54 pm BST Jul 27,2011

One of the biggest problems wih RAC is getting it installed. It’s not something I do often – which means it takes me far too long when I need to do it. But sometimes you’ve just got to go ahead and find the time. Three or four years ago I built myself a RAC stack – four nodes, because that’s the minimum number for sensible testing.  (If you want to know why: two nodes is a very special case because you don’t have to worry about three-way negotiations; three nodes is a special case because if you’re testing failure scenerios then three nodes fails to two nodes – which is a special case. So four nodes is the smallest generic RAC installation – and that’s ignoring the question of standby systems, of course.)

My previous RAC stack, costing me about £2,000, is pictured is pictured on the left.

That’s four boxes I built from kits, an old laptop to do iSCSI emulation, and a 250GB external drive. I’ve got two routers there, one for the public network, one for the private; the boxes have 2GB of RAM and dual core 3GHz pentium chips, and the O/S is Redhat. When I use it I tend to use Cygwin on my laptop and run up lots of telnet sessions. The system is very good for testing failures and node evictions because even with two big fans and a 4″ air gap (the white bits are polystyrene spacer blocks) the third box down tends to overheat and crash after about 45 minutes – so most of the time I’m actually only using a three-node RAC.

Anyway, the reason for showing you this picture is because I’ve finally retired the old boxes and got some new kit. My new RAC stack, costing only £1,600, is on the right. As you can see, it’s a laptop (for people with big laps).

It’s got 16GB of RAM, 2 x 500GB discs, and a 2nd generation i7 quad-core CPU which – according to Windows 7 Pro – is also capable of double-threading. I haven’t actually had time to set up the RAC system yet (I think I’ll have a couple of free days for that around the end of August), I’ve only got as far as installing a basic Linux virtual machine as the first step in the process. But for the photo I created four virtual Windows XP Pro machines under VMWare, then started  six Oracle instances across the four machines. The battery lasted about 90 minutes, but apart from that I think I’ve got a good indication that it will handle a four-node linux RAC with a windows Grid Control front-end if I want it to.

Footnote: Every time I buy some new kit (which is about once a year) I am stunned by the rate of change. My first PC cost me £2.300: it was an Apple II with the full 64KB of RAM, 2 x 360KB floppy disc drives (5.25″), 1MHz CPU (6502) and the special graphics card that allowed something like 320 x 250 pixels – and Visicalc was still faster than Excel on my latest laptop.


  1. My brother bought several apple clones. The one I found the most interesting, hence I still remember what type it was (I forgot the names of the others), was an ‘Orange’. :) yep.

    Comment by Joel Patterson — July 27, 2011 @ 6:23 pm BST Jul 27,2011 | Reply

  2. I’ve seen Jonathan’s latest machine and I had a bad case of laptop envy. Only, you don’t show that power brick in the photo Jonathan. Why? :-)

    My first machine was slightly more recent than your’s – a 486 DX2/50. I remember paying over £350 to raise the memory from the (then very reasonable) 4MB to 16MB, so that I could instal Oracle 7 on it.

    Comment by mwidlake — July 27, 2011 @ 6:24 pm BST Jul 27,2011 | Reply

    • Martin,

      I may have to update the picture, according to the stats a lot of people have been clicking on it – presumably to see if they can spot the make, which isn’t visible. If I do update the picture, I’ll include the powerpack which, for the record, is about 25% of the size and weight of the laptop.

      I see that Dell has a laptop with 32GB, but I decided against that because the upgrade from 16GB to 32GB was about £6,000.

      Comment by Jonathan Lewis — August 1, 2011 @ 11:11 am BST Aug 1,2011 | Reply

      • Hi Jonathan,

        Could you please share the make and model and where did you buy this laptop?
        How much is the total cost?


        Comment by orapsdbaAntony — October 7, 2011 @ 3:46 pm BST Oct 7,2011 | Reply

        • Antony,

          The laptop came from a UK company that probably collects components from many sources and builds their own combinations. The URL for the base version of the model I selected is: You can already get a higher spec – which means faster discs with larger cache, and faster CPU – than I got for £1,650 (which includes a 20% sales tax figure) .

          Comment by Jonathan Lewis — October 8, 2011 @ 5:19 pm BST Oct 8,2011

  3. First ever was Apple II (you know, those green vector screens bring back some interesting memories, I was in University at the time so I will leave the rest up to you;-)). Then Commodore Amiga 2000. Boy that voice synth was something in those days.

    Now I am typing on a Toshiba with hd screen, 750 gig hdd, 8 gigs of ram and what not. My other one is bigger :-). But I still remember those first ones fondly.

    Comment by Rui — July 27, 2011 @ 6:51 pm BST Jul 27,2011 | Reply

  4. Now, that’s really a powerful machine sir :-) . Can you please share the model no and manufacturer for this laptop?


    Comment by Aman.... — July 28, 2011 @ 2:17 am BST Jul 28,2011 | Reply

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    I was searching with good models number from intel, special desktop (motherboard) in order to setup oracle rac4 node installation for learning purpose and could not able to find out, finally end up with same old laptop which was working of 2 GB RAM with one oracle instance.

    I am very happy that you provided the model which I was looking for and in advance way that is laptop. I am very much thankful jonathan, you are genius…

    Thanks sir….all the best for new LAPTOP and I hope we can get real good new learnings at every day from your end.

    Comment by Pavan Kumar N — July 28, 2011 @ 2:41 am BST Jul 28,2011 | Reply

  6. Ive did similar when I bought an i5 with 8G of Ram and 2 T of disks using Windows 7 and virtualisation software. I tried to set up 3 instances at first . not enough memory ( the install takes quite a bit, although there are some tricks out there about reducing memory requirements ). So, I went down to 2 nodes , just to prove to myself .. then I had various install issues .. teh vmware network config caused the first few issues … I tried VirtualBox and that had its own little set of issues. Anyway , finally got there but … no matter what I did, one of the nodes would evict all the time. It turned out to be a virtual box bug ( ARRRGGGHHHH !!! ) .. Now Im back on vmware with 2 nodes on the main machine and 2 nodes on a seperate machine. For anyone thinking about this, Id recomend this .. (a) i5 or i7 either is OK as the CPU is not that stretched for basic testing (b) Get 16G like Jonathan … I thought 8 woudl be OK, but it didnt work like that .. (c) Take frequent backups of your directories ( vmware sotres all stuff in one place on your hard disk untiml/unless you make your shared drives in a different are ) (d) Keep calm ;o) … it may have all been my fault, I dont know .. but it wasnt as smooth as some of the youtubers seem to show … it took me several weeks to get a properly working system.
    Good Luck Jonathan ( not that you need it – I did ;o) …

    Comment by kent — July 28, 2011 @ 2:33 pm BST Jul 28,2011 | Reply

    • I should have added … try keeping your VMs on different hard disks … ( Im had 7200rpm 6ms seek raptors here ) plain old raid didnt do it for me ( mayeb if you are scsii 3 etc you will be ok ) .. moved to seperate disks for each VM ( and shared disks went under one of them ) and there was a noticable difference.

      Comment by kent — July 28, 2011 @ 2:35 pm BST Jul 28,2011 | Reply

    • Kent,

      I will need some luck – installing RAC is not something I practise, and my old system took a couple of days before I got it right. That’s why I’ve reserved a couple of days in my diary to do it – unfortunately l just lost them to a client – so that’s going to postpone things again – but I’m assuming that I’ll probably have to tear it all down a couple of times before I get it working.

      Comment by Jonathan Lewis — August 1, 2011 @ 11:19 am BST Aug 1,2011 | Reply

  7. Hi Jonathan,

    Cute photo of your first RAC cluster- it brings nostalgic feelings back- my first computer was a Commodore 64 with 300 baud modem, tape drive, hard drive and 64k of memory! I am waiting for Apple to pump up more RAM in their Macbook computers would be nice to have 32Gb of RAM available to build a nice four node 11gR2 RAC cluster on VMware when that is possible. But then again when Oracle releases 12G RAC it will require double amount of RAM per node (perhaps).


    Comment by Ben Prusinski — July 28, 2011 @ 5:57 pm BST Jul 28,2011 | Reply

  8. How about a 4 Node RAC on a 4GIG MAC ?

    Comment by Ron Chennells — July 29, 2011 @ 8:13 am BST Jul 29,2011 | Reply

    • Ron,

      That’s pretty impressive – and he makes it look so easy !
      Does the MAC have a very clever, or fast, virtual memory implementation ? I struggle to run 2 nodes on 4GB.

      Comment by Jonathan Lewis — August 1, 2011 @ 11:22 am BST Aug 1,2011 | Reply

      • I’m surprised by this video, too. It could work for 10gR2, 1GB was enough for one node and it could run even with 600-700MB. But the memory footprint has been increased heavily in 11gR2 for grid infrastructure. And the ASM instance is using more memory in 11gR2, too. I was forced to increase memory for each guest to 2GB. With 1.5GB, my virtual machines were still swapping like crazy

        Comment by Pavol Babel — August 25, 2011 @ 11:56 pm BST Aug 25,2011 | Reply

      • I gave it a try on my iMac (Early 2009) Core Duo 3.06Ghz with 8GB RAM and 2x 7200 rpm disk (internal + Fire Wire 800). I’m using VirtualBox and Shared Disks. I created DB with only 400MB of memory (memory target, although I’m not very keen on Automatic Memroy Management) and I have to say 2GB you need at least 2GB of memory for each note for 11gR2. So I am able to run only three-node RACon my MAC. I really do not understand how could someone run 4nodes cluster on MAC with only 4GB RAM.
        One more note, memory requirements seems to be even higher for, it seems 3GB per node will be minimum.

        Comment by Pavol Babel — August 31, 2011 @ 9:19 pm BST Aug 31,2011 | Reply

  9. I read this from the rss feed in Google Reader. For some reason the pictures are the other way around there!

    Comment by Jimbo — July 29, 2011 @ 11:14 am BST Jul 29,2011 | Reply

  10. Hoo, it’s nice to build rac in laptop vm ,and save more room now!

    Comment by liumaclean — July 31, 2011 @ 7:03 pm BST Jul 31,2011 | Reply

  11. Jonathan,
    Looks like you and me are on the same build project, except mines a heavy monster and yours is a fighting fairy!

    Comment by Darryl Griffiths — August 1, 2011 @ 2:24 pm BST Aug 1,2011 | Reply

  12. Well it took some time to find enough time – but I now have a 4-node RAC on my laptop.
    I still have a couple of (relatively minor) problems:

    I can’t get OEM on my Windows VM to talk to Linux VMs – no obvious reason yet

    Grid control installed on two nodes quite happily during the DBCA run, but failed on the other two nodes – and I haven’t been able to fix them yet, so I can 4 nodes in the cluster from OEM, but I can only control two of them.

    Somewhere there’s a network layer (possibly the IP6 stuff) messing with startup operations so it takes about 20 minutes to get from booting 4 nodes to getting the whole cluster running – and most of the time seems to be O/S time waiting on something that isn’t reported/

    Problems aside, it’s nice to be able to decide to write a note to test something on RAC, and then be able to find an odd hour on a plane, train or automobile to do it,

    Comment by Jonathan Lewis — September 27, 2011 @ 8:11 am BST Sep 27,2011 | Reply

  13. […] Thanks to Tim Hall, I can now show you a snapshot of OEM demonstrating my personal four-node RAC. […]

    Pingback by Personal RAC « Oracle Scratchpad — October 3, 2011 @ 12:55 pm BST Oct 3,2011 | Reply

  14. Hi jonathan,

    May i know whihc laptop it is …? ( I mean brand)

    I have configured 4 node rac smoothgly on my laptop which is same as your configuration.

    Comment by zaheerappsdba — October 16, 2011 @ 12:43 pm BST Oct 16,2011 | Reply

    • Zaheer,

      I don’t think the laptop has a brand; I believe it’s essentially made to order from components.
      Thanks for the link to you step-by-step – I haven’t read through it, but I hope other people will find it useful.

      If you ever get around to installing 12c of OEM/Grid Control/Enterprise Control (or whatever it’s called) feel free to post a link to a “How-to” here.

      Comment by Jonathan Lewis — November 13, 2011 @ 12:21 pm GMT Nov 13,2011 | Reply

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