Minimal Downtime Migration with Full Transportable Export Import and Incremental Backups

If you need to migrate a database to the cloud or anywhere else for that matter, you should consider using Full Transportable Export Import (FTEX) and incremental backups. Even for really large databases – 10s or 100s of TB – you can still migrate with minimal downtime. And it works across different endian formats.

FTEX uses transportable tablespaces and the solution has these benefits:

  • You can implicitly upgrade the database as part of the migration
  • You can migrate from a non-CDB and into a PDB
  • You can keep downtime at a minimum by using frequent incremental backups
  • You can migrate across endianness – e.g. from AIX or Solaris to Oracle Linux

How Does It Work

To concept is explained in this video on our YouTube Channel and it includes a demo:

To make the backup and convert process really easy, Oracle is providing a perl script that can automate the entire process. You download the scripts from My Oracle Support: V4 PERL Scripts to reduce Transportable Tablespace Downtime using Cross Platform Incremental Backup.

What You Need to Be Aware Of

Transportable Tablespaces

To get a complete list of limitations on transporting data, you should have a look in the documentation. Also, there are some specific to transportable tablespaces. The most notable are:

  • Character set and national character set should be the same. If not, there are a few options available, however.
  • No columns can be encrypted with TDE Column Encryption. Only option is to remove the encryption before migration, and re-encrypt afterwards.
  • TDE Tablespace Encryption is supported for same-endian migration if the source database is or newer. If you need to go across endianness, you must decrypt the tablespaces, and re-encrypt after migration. Remember in Oracle Database 12.2 you can encrypt tablespaces online.
  • If you are migrating across endianness, you must convert the data files. You must have disk space to hold a copy of all the data files. In addition, you should perform the convert on the platform that has the best I/O system and most CPUs. Typically, this is the cloud platform, which also offers scaling possibilities.
  • The database timezone and timezone file version must be identical.
  • Requires Enterprise Edition.

Full Transportable Export Import

  • Source database must be or higher
  • Target database must be or higher
  • It is recommended to import directly into the target database using the NETWORK_LINK option.
  • Requires Enterprise Edition.

If you can’t meet these requirements, you can still use this solution. But instead of doing a FTEX, you need to use Data Pump in another way.

Incremental Backups Using Perl Scripts

  • Source database must be or higher
  • Target database must be or higher

In addition, it is strongly recommended to use Block Change Tracking (BCT) on the source database. Note, that this is an Enterprise Edition feature (in OCI: DBCS EE-EP or ExaCS). If you don’t enable BCT the incremental backups will be much slower, because RMAN has to scan every single data block for changes. With BCT the database keeps track of changes in a special file. When RMAN backs up the database, it will just get a list of data blocks to include from the change tracking file.

The scripts will create a level 0 image file backup, and you must have room to accomodate this on your file system.


By using a combination of Full Transportable Export Import and incremental backups, you can migrate even huge databases to the cloud. And it even works for cross-endian migrations, like AIX or Solaris to Oracle Linux.

If you want to learn more about endianness and transportable tablespaces, you should watch this video on our YouTube Channel:

Update 30 November 2020

Thanks to Mark for his comment (see below). I have added some additional useful information.

Further Reading