Installing Oracle 9i on Mac OS X, Part 1by David Simpson
Editor's note: In this first part of a three-part series exploring Oracle 9i on Mac OS X, David Simpson provides you with some excellent background information and a look at the ramifications for Solaris administrators. In Part 2, he'll discuss the conversion for FileMaker administrators, followed by Part 3, where he pulls information from Oracle's documentation, various Web sites, and personal research to detail the actual installation process of Oracle 9i Developer Release 1 on Mac OS X.
Oracle and the Macintosh
I've been an Apple customer since I bought my 128K Macintosh in 1984, and I make my living performing Solaris and Windows system administration in my role as an Oracle DBA. So it's been very exciting for me to see the introduction of Mac OS X and now the availability of Oracle 9i on Mac OS X. With its highly regarded BSD UNIX core, Mac OS X enjoys the reliability previously obtained only from UNIX/Linux servers.
This UNIX core also enhances developer's ability to efficiently port applications to Mac OS X. Applications such as OpenOffice, Sybase, and now Oracle 9i would probably never have been ported to the Mac platform if it were not for Mac OS X. UNIX developers who already have a non-graphical program running on an existing UNIX/Linux platform often need to make very few changes to their application in order to support Mac OS X.
Because Oracle databases generally work almost identically on each platform upon which they run, it's really only a matter of learning the quirks of platform-specific installation steps such as running
oradim.exe on Windows to create entries in the Services Control Panel or creating a database startup/shutdown script within the
/etc/rc3.d directory on Solaris. On Mac OS X, this same task is accomplished by creating the
/Library/StartupItems/Oracle/Oracle startup/shutdown script along with its associated StartupParameters.plist file within the same directory.
I have some background information that I need to cover before getting into the specifics of installing Oracle on Mac OS X. So let's take care of that business now.
What Oracle 9i on Mac OS X Means to Apple
Why is the availability of Oracle 9i on Mac OS X important to Apple?
Oracle is one of the best known names in enterprise class software used by corporate customers. Having the Oracle database available for Mac OS X adds significant credibility for Apple whenever a Fortune 500 company is considering the installation of Apple systems. Having enterprise class software available for Mac OS X helps to dispel the myth that the Macintosh is only used by graphics and multimedia professionals.
Now that Oracle 9i is available on Mac OS X, other enterprise class software vendors such as SAP and Seibel whose products use Oracle databases could also choose to port their products to Mac OS X.
The Oracle database represents an excellent purchasing justification for companies to consider buying the Xserve and especially its companion disk array (recently demonstrated at Seybold).
Customers who currently host FileMaker Pro Server on Mac systems may now consider upgrading to an Oracle database running on Mac OS X if they need better performance, recoverability, or the advanced replication features available within Oracle. This is a non-trivial upgrade as will be discussed later, but it's a possible alternative to buying a Sun or Windows server. This is good for Apple because it means that customers have the option to continue using Macintosh systems along with the inherent server manageability advantages available with Mac OS X. However, for truly massively scalable systems in which a customer might need terabytes of disk space or dozens of CPUs in the server, the customer may still need to upgrade to a large UNIX server like a Sun F15K. But even this situation can be turned to Apple's advantage because the customer can start with a smaller Macintosh server for their initial development and rollout, then upgrade to the larger hardware when the actual server load makes it necessary. Data is easily portable between Oracle databases on any platform by using the Oracle export/import utilities, so the customer doesn't have to be stuck with one type of system or another.
There's interest by some Apple customers in using the Oracle Collaboration Suite to consolidate and reduce the costs associated with licensing and managing Microsoft mail and file servers. This is another opportunity for Apple to prevent existing customers from migrating to another platform and provides a new business opportunity which never previously existed for Apple. The Oracle Collaboration Suite is currently available as a production release for Solaris, and a developer release for Linux. A Mac OS X version is not yet available, but this is understandable because Oracle needs to get the database fully operational on Mac OS X prior to adding the Collaboration Suite to their Mac OS X product development effort.
What Oracle 9i on Mac OS X Means to Oracle
Is Mac OS X just another UNIX platform?
To some extent, Mac OS X is just another platform to a large software developer like Oracle. They don't port millions of lines of code between operating systems just for the fun of it! Having Larry Ellison on the board of directors (until recently) at Apple and having the close friendship between Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs probably didn't hurt the situation. However Oracle does need to have good business reasons for making this development effort.
Apple ships roughly 700,000 Mac OS X compatible computers in a typical quarter. Each one of these systems is really a UNIX workstation in disguise underneath the Mac OS X GUI. Based upon a recent Gartner Dataquest press release, Sun shipped 68,000 UNIX systems and HP shipped 330,000 systems. Most of these HP systems were not UNIX systems, but even if they were Apple would still be the highest volume UNIX systems vendor worldwide. This represents a sizable potential base of systems which could run an Oracle database, even if some of these systems are laptops which might only be used by a software developer for testing purposes.
Having the Oracle database available for another robust and popular UNIX platform does provide a wider range of choices for Oracle customers. Don't tell Microsoft, but competition is good for the marketplace.
For customers who simply don't want to run Windows due to security, reliability, or anti-trust concerns, Mac OS X provides an easily manageable alternative to other operating systems. Customers who wouldn't normally consider buying a Sun server due to their lack of UNIX experience may be very willing to consider at least testing an Oracle database on an Apple system.
Oracle charges the same price for their database licensing regardless of the operating system with pricing determined by either the number of users or the number of CPUs installed in the server. By adding yet another platform to their product line, Oracle can make the same revenue per server but pick up a customer who might never have previously considered licensing an Oracle database.
I would not expect for Oracle to see a large difference in their support costs on Mac OS X compared to other platforms. Unlike many applications which would probably see reduced support costs, complex products like enterprise class database servers generally get supported via a command line interface by technical support departments. Oracle Worldwide Support services will generally troubleshoot customer issues via the command line so that they can clearly understand exactly what the customer is doing. When troubleshooting over the phone or via the Web, you just can't tell what a customer has clicked when using a graphical interface.
Oracle may actually see a slight increase in support costs for Mac OS X customers if significant numbers of FileMaker Pro Server customers choose to migrate to Oracle. Managing the complexity of an Oracle database will be quite a challenge compared to working with FileMaker.
A production release of Sybase is currently available for Mac OS X. Oracle does not want to concede this market to Sybase, so it is necessary for Oracle 9i to be available as an alternative to Sybase. Sybase actually takes advantage of the newest Mac OS X features such as Rendezvous for auto-discovery and auto-configuration of clients. Oracle has not indicated whether it will support these features on Mac OS X for the 9.2 release. However, it is likely that this first production release of Oracle 9i will simply support the basic database functionality which is already available on other UNIX platforms. Even this is no trivial task when dealing with a product as complex as Oracle.
Oracle generally takes a conservative approach by adding features to its database on an incremental basis. For instance, every revision of Oracle for Windows lists "improved compatibility" with the Windows platform. One of these Windows-specific features makes use of a Windows domain controller to authenticate user access to the database. This would be equivalent to Oracle using the NetInfo directory service to authenticate Mac OS X user access to the database. This functionality would enable a company to setup a master NetInfo server for company wide authentication to desktop systems and access to the Oracle database. This feature is not hinted at in any of the Oracle 9i documentation for Mac OS X, but this is the type of feature which could be made available in future revisions.
There is significant interest in the Oracle database by Apple customers. Oracle exhibited at the January 2002 MacWorld Expo in order to demonstrate its Web-based E-Business suite of applications. These Web-based applications are available for client access via a Web browser on almost any platform. However the E-Business Suite is not available for hosting on platforms which don't run the Oracle database server. Oracle booth personnel who worked at the Oracle booth reported that quite a few customers were disappointed that the Oracle database was not available for Mac OS X. They were actually a bit surprised by the amount of negative comments they received from customers. Perhaps this feedback from the sales people helped Oracle to determine that there was enough interest to warrant porting Oracle 9i to the Mac OS X platform. If Oracle chooses to exhibit at the January 2003 MacWorld Expo, then I think that they will find an enthusiastic audience among the attendees.
Oracle corporation has a lot of learning to do in regards to improving the usability of their products. Mac OS X users can greatly assist Oracle with this learning process. When I attend Oracle instructor led training classes, the instructors keep telling us that Oracle's goal is to make their database as easy to use as Microsoft SQL Server. I estimate that the Oracle database is an order of magnitude more complex to setup and administer than a Microsoft SQL Server database. I think that Microsoft SQL Server is still about an order of magnitude more complex than FileMaker. Considering that there are almost 500 configuration parameters available for the Oracle database, they have quite a ways to go to improve in this area. I suggest that Oracle is setting their goal too low. They should really attempt to become as easy to use as FileMaker Pro. If they miss this goal, they may succeed in achieving Microsoft SQL Server ease of use, which would still be a significant improvement.
This doesn't mean that Oracle isn't trying or making progress with improving usability. The latest versions of the Oracle Enterprise Manager Console are rich with features and continue to improve with each revision. And with each revision of the database, additional database configuration parameters are automatically tuned by the database instead of the DBA. Some of the complexity is the result of the fact that the database has so many features and options available. And customers certainly like as many features and options as they can get in any product.
Oracle may end up being surprised at the usability demands made by Macintosh customers. Macintosh customers have very high standards for usability. In the UNIX server marketplace, most applications have two user interfaces. One interface is the pretty looking graphical interface you see on the marketing brochures, and the other interface is the command line interface. It is generally accepted by UNIX administrators that the GUI interface versions of most applications just simply don't work well. Experienced system administrators will often go right to the command line interface and seldom use the GUI interface.
This is quite different from the environment expected by Macintosh customers. On a Macintosh, the GUI interface to an application has usually been the only interface available therefore it had to work correctly every time. And if the GUI interface didn't work correctly, the application would receive very poor reviews. Therefore Macintosh customers will push Oracle (and all other Mac OS X software vendors) to improve the user experience with their products. The end result will be an improvement in usability on all platforms. This would be especially true for Oracle because the Oracle GUI tools are all written in Java, which is very portable between platforms.
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