Zero Downtime Migration – Physical Online Migration

You can migrate a database with Zero Downtime Migration (ZDM) using the Physical Online method. A standby database is built in OCI and kept in sync via redo apply. At your will, a switchover is all it takes to complete the migration. This way even very large databases can be migrated with no or very little downtime.

Concept of physical online migration

With the Physical Online method, you can target:

  • Virtual Machine DB System
  • Bare Metal DB System
  • Exadata DB System (ExaCS)
  • Exadata Cloud at Customer (ExaCC)
  • Exadata (on-prem)

Since the method uses Data Guard as the migration vehicle, this can only be only with Enterprise Edition databases.

Benefits

  • Personally, I like this approach because it builds on technology that most of us know already. Data Guard is heavily in use in most organizations. Although ZDM does all the heavy lifting, it is nice to know what happens underneath the hood.

  • To complete the migration all you need is a regular Data Guard switchover (which ZDM also takes care of). A switchover operation ensures that there will be no data loss at all. In addition, if you have a properly configured application, it won’t experience downtime. Just a brown-out while the switchover takes place.

  • This method has an excellent fallback possibility. When you switch over to the OCI database, the redo flow is reversed. Now, the on-prem database is a standby database, and it is kept in sync via redo from the OCI database. However, this option requires a license for Advanced Security Option on your on-prem system. Read more about it later on.

  • You migrate the entire database. All the internals are brought to the cloud as well. This includes:

    • AWR
    • SQL Plan Baseline
    • SQL Profiles
    • Public objects
    • Etc.
  • The initial backup of the source, on-prem database will use RMAN Compression. It will drastically reduce the size of the backup, and thus the amount of data that you must transport to the cloud. And the really good thing: ZDM can use RMAN Compression even if you don’t have a license for the Advanced Compression Option. You are allowed to use RMAN Compression with ZDM for migration purposes without paying license for Advanced Compression Option.

  • You can customize the RMAN backup. You know your system best, so it is possible to tweak the number of RMAN channels used and the compression algorithm applied. Default is 10 and medium.

  • When ZDM takes the full backup of your source database (Exadata on-prem and ExaCC excluded), it uses Oracle Database Cloud Backup Module for OCI to allocate a special sbt channel. The backup is sent directly to OCI Object Storage. Thus, you don’t need any additional disk space on your source system to hold the backup.

  • When migrating to ExaCC or Exadata on-prem you can use an existing backup. Use the response file option DATA_TRANSFER_MEDIUM=EXTBACKUP. Also, if you have a Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance (ZDLRA) you can restore directly from it, without taking a full backup first. If you are migrating to any other platform, ZDM will need to take a full backup as part of the workflow.

  • The standby database is kept in sync via redo apply. This means that there are no restrictions in supported data types. Further, DDL in any form is supported and even with a heavy workload on the primary database, your standby database should be able to keep up.

  • You can migrate to a higher patch level. ZDM will automatically invoke datapatch for you on the OCI database. But you must handle the on-prem database yourself. After switching over to the OCI database and datapatch has been executed, you should patch the on-prem Oracle Home to the same patch level.

Considerations

  • You can migrate to the same version only. This is a restriction of Data Guard. If you also need to upgrade the database, then you must do that after the migration. But it will incur additional downtime.
  • The same applies to PDB conversion. ZDM can run the noncdb_to_pdb.sql script for you. But that will incur downtime as well. If you decide to convert to PDB, you need to develop an alternate fallback plan (which is Data Pump or Transportable Tablespaces). The PDB conversion is irreversible, and your on-prem database will be useless as a fallback option.
  • It is not possible to migrate between editions.
  • The entire database is migrated. I listed this as a benefit as well, but it has a flipside as well. It is not possible to perform any transformation during the migration, e.g. converting any old BasicFile LOBs to SecureFile LOBs. Also, you bring over any old baggage in your database. Sometimes it is nice to start from scratch because garbage tends to accumulate in a database over time.
  • If you have a Standard Edition database, you can’t use Physical Online method. Only the Physical Offline is supported.
  • You can’t configure Automatic backup on your target database until after the migration has been completed.
  • If you need to protect your OCI database with Data Guard, then you must build the standby database after the migration has been completed. Normally, you would use a cascading standby database to keep the target database protected by Data Guard even after the migration has been completed. But currently the OCI tooling does not support that option.

Fallback

Using this approach, you have a great fallback option. When you switch over to the OCI database, then the redo flow is reversed and the source, on-prem database is now the standby database. If you need to fallback, simply issue another switchover (you could call that a switchback) and start to use the on-prem database again – with no data loss. See step 5 in MAA Practices for Cloud Migration Using ZDM (Doc ID 2562063.1).

There is a catch, however. The OCI database is encrypted using TDE Tablespace Encryption. Any redo generated for an encrypted tablespace is also encrypted. This means that the on-prem database must be able to decrypt the redo before it can be applied. That requires a license for the Advanced Security Option. This means that the fallback is only usable, if your on-prem database has the proper license.

Conclusion

Using the Physical Online method in ZDM is a straight-forward way of migrating your database to OCI. It uses Data Guard which is very familiar to most of us. The method does, however, have some limitations, and you can’t target Autonomous Databases.

Want to Know More

If you want to know more about migrations in general, I suggest that you take a look at our webinar Migration Strategies – Insights, Tips and Secrets

In addition, these links contain additional useful information:

2 thoughts on “Zero Downtime Migration – Physical Online Migration

  1. How does it take care Endian format conversion ? I don’t see option for in-house e.g. moving from Solaris to Linux

    Like

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