Azure database

Oracle on Azure: Fully Managed vs Self Managed

[Azure, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Data Migration, Database, Advanced, 8 minute read, Azure database]

Oracle is the preferred RDBMS solution for line-of-business applications, owing to its proven performance, data integrity, security, and portability features. Deploying Oracle on Azure has become increasingly popular due to the close collaboration and commitment of Oracle and Microsoft to deliver and end-to-end support for Oracle-dependent enterprise applications with Azure database workloads.

There are two primary ways to deploy Oracle on Azure: 

  1. Fully managed database service - using a managed database service by integrating with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI)
  2. Self managed in Azure VM - deploying in an Azure virtual machine using an image from the Azure Marketplace, and leveraging a managed storage service. 

Both of these solutions are certified by Oracle to be deployed in Azure, with out-of-the-box lifecycle support from Microsoft. Which is right for you?

This blog will explore both options for deploying Oracle on Azure, delve into the pros and cons and best fit solution for enterprise scenarios, and see how Cloud Volumes ONTAP for Azure can help.

In this article, you will learn:

Licensing and Migration Considerations

Depending on the deployment option you choose, your licensing options and migration paths will vary.

Licensing
Oracle is available in various editions, of which the Enterprise and Standard editions are certified by Oracle to be deployed on Azure. Let’s look into some of the key considerations while planning for Oracle deployment in Azure.

  1. Fully managed with OCI - OCI supports both bring-your-own-license (BYOL) and pay-as-you-go license options. The BYOL option supports all advanced database functionalities including backup/restore, patch updates, and Oracle Data Guard. You can also change the database licensing type after you provision the database.
  2. Self managed in Azure VM - Oracle offers license mobility, which allows customers to bring their existing licenses and use them for Oracle applications deployed in Azure VMs. If you don’t have existing licenses, you can use a Marketplace image that includes the licenses.

Data Migration
The ease with which data can be migrated to the cloud plays an important role in the success of any digital transformation program. 

  1. Fully managed with OCI - you can migrate an existing Oracle database to OCI using the Storage Gateway service, and RMAN backup.
  2. Self managed in Azure VM - you can migrate an Oracle database to an Azure VM using RMAN backup, by simply restoring to an Oracle VM in Azure, or using Oracle tools like Oracle Data Guard and GoldenGate.

Option #1: Running Oracle as a Service with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

One popular option to deploy an Oracle database on Azure is to use the database-as-a-service (DBaaS) model. In a DBaaS, the platform-level configuration and management are done by Azure and the customer owns the database specific configuration. 

Unlike other DB platforms such as MSSQL and MySQL, Oracle does not have its own DBaaS offering in Azure at the time of this writing. Instead, Microsoft in collaboration with Oracle offers integration of Azure infrastructure with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) so that Oracle applications deployed in Azure can seamlessly connect to backend databases.

To ensure high performance, you need a high-bandwidth, secure connection between the OCI database layer and the Oracle application layer in Azure. You can achieve this using Azure ExpressRoute and Oracle FastConnect. The prerequisite for this configuration is that the peering location of both the services should be in proximity to each other - this is supported in only a few Azure regions.

Many popular Oracle application stacks including E-Business suite, PeopleSoft, Oracle Retail applications and more are certified by Oracle to be deployed using this OCI interconnect model.

Oracle Autonomous Database service on OCI
Oracle Autonomous Database is a managed service offering from Oracle Cloud Infrastructure that can be integrated with your Oracle applications deployed in Azure. Autonomous Database supports transaction processing and data warehousing workloads.

Oracle Autonomous Database supports Oracle database 18c and 19c; however, note these two versions are not available in all regions.

Autonomous Database in OCI makes it possible to automate the creation of full backups on a weekly basis, followed by daily incremental backups. However, the retention period of those backups is limited to 60 days. If the automated backup schedule does not meet your organizational requirements, you might need to trigger backups manually or using the OCI SDK, initiating the backup programmatically with REST API calls.

Since OCI supports only the latest version of Oracle, organizations with dependency on legacy versions would have to make additional investments to either upgrade their database or modernize their applications to suit the available database version. 

Option #2: Running Oracle on an Azure Linux VM

For customers who want full control of the deployment stack, starting from OS and up to the application layer, Azure supports deployment of Oracle in an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model. 

This deployment model uses Oracle Linux images in the Azure Marketplace. Customers can also choose to bring their own image to Azure or deploy the database independently in a non-Oracle Linux image, also available in the Marketplace. 

Azure also supports popular Oracle applications such as Oracle WebLogic as readily available Marketplace images integrated with the Azure Application Gateway and Azure Active Directory.

The IaaS deployment model that uses Azure compute and storage services offer more flexibility, compared to the managed service OCI option.

However, it should be noted that compared to a DBaaS solution, there are additional responsibilities to be addressed here: factors like high availability, backup, patching, upgrades, and failovers, especially in production deployments. 

Managing storage for your Oracle database
Customers can leverage the custom-built Azure VM SKUs and employ additional managed storage services tuned for IOPS intensive database operations in Azure. 

The IOPS available for Oracle databases can be greatly improved by distributing the data across multiple disks managed by Oracle Automated Storage Management (ASM). The collective IOPS from the disks deliver much improved storage performance and faster database transactions. Choosing the right storage management solution makes a world of difference here.

Azure managed disks, a managed storage service from Azure, offers different performance options such as Premium and Ultra disks, which can be used to handle storage for your Oracle database. 

Deploying Oracle on Azure with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP: The Best of Both Worlds

While the managed service offering using OCI eases the infrastructure deployment requirements, there are many additional challenges associated with them: restricted versioning, regional availability, and integration complexity. 

Deployment in the IaaS model can help ease up these concerns, as this model provides end-to-end flexibility for the deployment with any Oracle database version in any Azure region. However, it introduces complexity in managing storage and associated issues like high availability and disaster recovery.

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP augments the native Azure cloud storage layer, delivering an enterprise-class data management solution, with the simplicity of a managed service. It provides:

  • Full control over how databases are deployed and managed in Azure
  • Data hybridity and mobility to make it easy to keep the data where you want it, even in different clouds or on-prem
  • Scalability and advanced features not available with the OCI managed service
  • No restrictions on Oracle versions or Azure regions
  • Built-in intelligent caching to decrease latency and increase database performance
  • Storage efficiency technology that lowers the overall cost of the database
  • Cost-efficient snapshot and cloning capabilities
  • A high availability configuration option to ensure RPO=0 and RTO < 60 seconds
  • Easy migration from existing NetApp appliances with SnapMirror® or from elsewhere with Cloud Sync

An Oracle with Managed Storage Case Study
A major online fashion retailer with headquarters in the United Kingdom chose to deploy an Oracle database in a self-managed option on an Azure VM. 

The company offers a selection of hundreds of brands as well as its own line of clothing and accessories and ships to countries worldwide. This company’s entire retail stack is based on Oracle, meaning Oracle is extremely mission critical. 

By deploying their database on an Azure VM and managing storage with Cloud Volumes ONTAP, this company was able to ensure the database has high availability across regions to ensure their business continuity, without the restrictions of the OCI managed service.

Additional Benefits of Cloud Volumes ONTAP: Hybridity, Easier Migration and Snapshots

Here are several more advantages of managing storage for an Oracle database using Cloud Volumes ONTAP:

  • Data hybridity - while OCI managed services restrict you to specific cloud service provider environments, Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables data hybridity, where data can be migrated on the fly across different cloud platforms and your on-premises environment. 
  • Easier migration - Cloud Volumes ONTAP offers the NetApp SnapMirror data replication feature, helping you perform fast and effortless data migrations. 
  • Built in snapshots - the built-in snapshot feature of Cloud Volumes ONTAP enables protection for your Oracle databases with minimal configuration overhead.

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