Apr 29, 2009

Overcoming MySQL-to-Oracle Culture Shock

Migrating from Oracle to MySQL is not easy. A few weeks ago Baron Schwartz summarized the culture shock in 50 things to know before migrating Oracle to MySQL. It's a great article but as you read through the comments it's easy to forget that culture shock can run the other way.

For example, try building horizontally scaled systems. Oracle has excellent "small" database editions like SE and SE1. However, they lack built-in replication of the type provided by MySQL. Even simple and effective deployment patterns like master-master replication do not exist. The usual approach in the Oracle world is to use RAC + Enterprise Edition features like Streams and DataGuard. That's great for large enterprises, but it's not a good method for smaller businesses and start-ups.

We have been working for some time on a better answer. We are now opening up for general beta testing a commercial extension to our Tungsten Replicator to address replication for Oracle. The new extension adds a process to read Oracle redo logs but otherwise fits neatly into the overall replicator design. It works on Linux Oracle Editions from XE to EE.

Implementing Oracle replication has been a long and arduous effort. Oracle has a huge feature set and a correspondingly elaborate log. It is far more challenging to read than the MySQL binlog. We currently handle basic data types as well as DDL statements. Large object types and XML are on the way. The implementation is a step-by-step process and one that needs to be guided by close work with customers.

On the other hand, Oracle has the features to make advanced replication really work. Most Oracle DBAs know about supplemental logging, which among other things adds keys to data so you can identify updated rows unambiguously. However, there are also far more interesting features like flashback queries, which allow you to see the state of the database at earlier points in time. It makes generating SQL from log entries much easier because we can see the state of system catalogs as of the exact time each update occurred. Flashback query was not on Baron's list or the comments that followed, but it is one of the truly great features of Oracle databases.

If you are interested in alternatives for existing Oracle replication, I would like to encourage you to contact us at Continuent. We are looking for customers who want to work closely with us to build out economical Oracle replication support. MySQL has shown over the years the power of lightweight, simple-to-use replication. It's going to be pleasure to make it work on Oracle.

Finally, there needs to be a list of 50 things you need to know about migrating from MySQL to Oracle. Open source databases are popular not just because they offer free downloads. Simplicity of operation, replication, and support for incremental scale-out patterns are among the strengths of MySQL. It takes some thought and effort to translate them into Oracle.

p.s., Since I wrote this article Robert Treat obligingly started the Oracle to MySQL 50 things list. Several people chipped in to get it up to 50.

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