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Oracle channels and NetWorker parallelism

Posted by Preston on 2009-06-30

If you’re backing up Oracle with the NetWorker module/RMAN, there are an extremely large number of options you can choose from. RMAN, after all, is a complete backup/recovery system in and of itself, and so when you combine RMAN and NetWorker you, well, find yourself swimming in options.

One such option is the allocate channel command within RMAN. If you’ve not seen a basic RMAN script before, I should put one here for your reference:

connect target rman/supersecretpassword@DB10;

run {
 allocate channel t1 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 send 'NSR_ENV=(NSR_SAVESET_EXPIRATION=14 days,
       NSR_SERVER=nox,NSR_DATA_VOLUME_POOL=Daily)';

 backup format '/%d_%p_%t.%s/'
 (database);

 backup format '/%d_%p_%t_al.%s/'
 (archivelog from time 'SYSDATE-2');

 release channel t1;
}

You’ll note that one of the first commands used in the script is the allocate channel command. This effectively tells RMAN to open up a line of communication with NetWorker. Now, you can consider an RMAN channel to be a unit of parallelism in NetWorker parlance. Thus, if you want to backup (larger) databases with higher levels of parallelism, you need to allocate more channels.

In many NetWorker/Oracle scenarios, the NetWorker administrator has very little, if no, control over the construction and the configuration of the RMAN script. (The introduction of v5 of the module may change this.)

As a consequence, there’s often a reduced level of communication between the NetWorker administrator and the Oracle DBA which can result in reduced performance or scheduling conflicts. One particular issue that can occur though is that the Oracle DBA, eager to have the database backed up as quickly as possible, will throw a lot of allocate channel commands in. That little script above may become something such as say:

connect target rman/supersecretpassword@DB10;

run {

 allocate channel t1 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t2 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t3 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t4 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t5 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t6 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t7 type 'SBT_TAPE';
 allocate channel t8 type 'SBT_TAPE';

 send 'NSR_ENV=(NSR_SAVESET_EXPIRATION=14 days,
       NSR_SERVER=nox,NSR_DATA_VOLUME_POOL=Daily)';

 backup filesperset 4
 format '/%d_%p_%t.%s/'
 (database);

 backup format '/%d_%p_%t_al.%s/'
 (archivelog from time 'SYSDATE-2');

 release channel t1;
 release channel t2;
 release channel t3;
 release channel t4;
 release channel t5;
 release channel t6;
 release channel t7;
 release channel t8;
}

However, there’s a catch to lots of channels being allocated – channel allocation has no bearing on or is in any way impacted by NetWorker client parallelism. You see, the NetWorker client instance has a single saveset – the RMAN script name (or equivilant thereof, when using the Wizard in v5). Thus, to NetWorker, any Oracle client instance only has one saveset. Thus, that client parallelism will not affect the number of channels that can be allocated, but instead the number of simultaneous instances of the client that can be initiated.

The net result? Consider a client with parallelism of 4, that has 6 databases to be backed up. This would have 6 client instances, one per database. Assuming they’re all in the same group*, then at any one instance NetWorker will only allow the backup for 4 of those instances to be running. However, each instance, or each Oracle RMAN script, can start as many channels as it wants. If each RMAN script has been “tweaked” to allocate say, 8 channels like the above script example, this would mean that backing up 4 instances simultaneously would potentially see the client trying to send 32 savesets simultaneously to NetWorker.

Thus, if using multiple Oracle channels in RMAN backups with NetWorker, and particularly if backing up multiple Oracle databases simultaneously, it’s very important to have the NetWorker administrator and the DBA responsible for the RMAN scripts to communicate effectively and plan overall levels of parallelism/number of channels to avoid swamping the NetWorker server, swamping the network, or swamping the Oracle server.


* There are other considerations for starting multiple Oracle backups on the same machine and at the same time. In other words I’m not necessarily calling this best practice, just using an example.

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