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Don Burleson Blog 







Creating Backups in RAC Environment

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson


There are several tools included within Oracle to achieve all backup methodologies. These tools include:

  • User-created scripts

  • exp and expdp

  • RMAN

Additionally, it is possible to implement user-created scripts to perform a backup.

Using Scripts for Backup

A cold backup can be taken on a RAC database whether it is in ARCHIVELOG mode or not.  Cold backups require that the entire database environment be shut down; this includes access by all instances in the cluster.


Once the database is completely shut down on all nodes, a script can be used to copy all datafiles, redo logs, control files, the SPFILE, and archive logs to a remote location.  Careful documentation should exist recording where these files must be placed in order to restore the database in the event of a failure.


Information about current file placement can be found with the following queries:


select file_name from dba_data_files; 

select name from v$controlfile; 

select member from v$logfile; 

select value from v$parameter where name = 'spfile';


All files returned by these scripts must be backed up in order for a cold backup to be complete consistent.


In the case of a hot backup or a cold backup from which the database will be fully recovered, archive logs must also be backed up.  In order to become fully consistent, all archive logs during which a hot backup took place and all archive logs up to the point of recovery must be identified.  The v$archived_log view shows archive logs for all instances.


TIP: Even though gv$ views are usually used to display RAC information instead of traditional v$ views, in the case of redo and archive logs the information regarding all nodes is stored on each node.  Instead of specifically using inst_id as most gv$ views do, the thread# keeps track of the instance to which each redo or archive log belongs.


The biggest drawback to using script driven backups is management.  When using RMAN (Recovery Manager), Oracle's internal dictionary will keep track of backups within the control file or an external catalog.  When using user-made scripts, there is no record of backups taken or locations within Oracle.  All backup information must be documented very carefully.


Cold backups present another major drawback. The database must be down while the backup takes place.  Again, in a RAC environment this defeats the purpose of high availability.


Hot backups, while better on uptime, do cause issues when run from user-created scripts.  In order to prevent block fracturing, the DBA must place each datafile in hot backup mode.  This is done either at the database level or the datafile level:

  • Datafile hot backup mode: 

alter datafile '/path/to/datafile.dbf' begin backup;

  • Database hot backup mode: 

alter database begin backup;


Once the backup is complete, the files can be taken out of hot backup mode:

  • Datafile hot backup mode: 

alter datafile '/path/to/datafile.dbf' end backup;

  • Database hot backup mode: 

alter database end backup;


When a datafile is in hot backup mode via these commands, Oracle must record the entire contents of a data block to redo the first time that block is modified since going into hot backup mode.


For instance, if file #5 is placed in hot backup mode and someone writes data to block #50 via DDL or DML, the entire contents of the data block will be written to redo logs.  After the initial change to block #50, writes to the block will only require the deltas be recorded to redo.  If the database block size is the default of 8k, this will result in a large amount of data being written to redo if the database is in use during the hot backup.


While it may be tempting to try taking a backup without placing the datafiles into hot backup mode, it is obviously not recommended.  The backup will likely not be usable and will not be supported by Oracle.  Even if third party snapshot tools are used, it is necessary to place the datafiles into hot backup mode before taking the snapshot.  Once the snapshot is complete, the files can be taken out of hot backup mode.


If manual scripts are going to be used, it is a good idea to generate these scripts using the views mentioned in this section to automatically create the backup script required.  This ensures that when database changes are made, such as the addition of a datafile, the changes will be present during the next backup.

Oracle Grid and Real Application Clusters

See working examples of Oracle Grid and RAC in the book Oracle Grid and Real Application Clusters.

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