Salisbury and Asquith, my ‘frameworks’ for automated, nearly-hands-free building of Oracle servers, are retiring. Which is to say, I’m not going to maintain them any more.

My attempts over the years to persuade my System Admin colleagues at work that RAC via NFS (as Salisbury uses) might be a good idea have all fallen on deaf ears, Kevin Closson’s fine articles on the subject notwithstanding. So Salisbury became a bit of a dead end after that, which is why I cooked up Asquith. Asquith uses real iSCSI (as real as anything a virtual environment can cook up, anyway!) and layers ASM on top of that and thus provided me with a playground that much more faithfully reflects what we do in our production environment.

But it’s a pain having two frameworks doing pretty much the same job. So now I’m phasing them out and replacing them with Churchill. The Churchill framework uses NFS (because it’s much easier to automate the configuration of that than it is of iSCSI), but it then creates fake hard disks in the NFS shares and layers ASM on top of the fake hard disks. So you end up with a RAC that uses ASM, but without the convoluted configuration previously needed.

The other thing we do in production at work is split the ownership of the Grid Infrastructure and the Database (I don’t know why they decided to do that: it was before my time. The thing is all administered by one person -me!- anyway, so the split ownership is just an annoyance as far as I’m concerned). Since I’ve been bitten on at least one significant occasion where mono- and dual-ownership models do things differently, I thought I might as well make Churchill dual-ownership aware. You don’t have to do it that way: Churchill will let you build a RAC with everything owned by ‘oracle’ if you like. But it does it by default, so you end up with ‘grid’ and ‘oracle’ users owning different bits of the cluster, unless you demand otherwise.

Other minor changes from Asquith/Salisbury: Churchill doesn’t do Oracle installations, since that version’s now well past support. You can build Churchill infrastructures with, and Of those, only the last is freely available from

Additionally, the bootstrap lines have changed a little. You now invoke Alpher/Bethe installations by a reference to “ks.php” instead of “kickstart.php” (I don’t like typing much!). And there’s a new bootstrap parameter: “split=y” or “split=n”. That turns on or off the split ownership model I mentioned earlier. By default, “split” will be “y”.

Finally, I’ve made the whole thing about 5 times smaller than before by the simple expedient of removing the Webmin web-based system administration tool from the ISO download. I thought it was a good idea at the time to include it for Asquith and Salisbury but, in fact, I’ve never subsequently used it and it made the framework ISO downloads much bigger than they needed to be. Cost/benefit wasn’t difficult to do: Webmin is gone (you can always obtain it yourself and add it to your servers by hand, of course).

The thing works and is ready for download right now. However, it will take me quite some time to write up the various articles and so on, so bear with me on that score. All the documentation, as it gets written, will be accessible from here.

The short version, though, is you can build a 2-node RAC and a 2-node Active data guard with six basic commands:

  • ks=hd:sr1/churchill.ks (to build the Churchill Server)
  • ks= oraver=11203 ksdevice=eth0 (to build Alpher)
  • ks= oraver=11203 filecopy=n ksdevice=eth0 (to build Bethe)
  • ks= (to build Atlee, the file server for the Data Guard nodes)
  • ks= oraver=11203 ksdevice=eth0 (to build Gammow)
  • ks= oraver=11203 filecopy=n ksdevice=eth0 (to build Dalton)

With Churchill and the rest of the crew, I can now build a pretty faithful replica of my production environment in around 2 hours. Not bad.

Salisbury and Asquith will remain available from the front page until the Churchill documentation is complete; after that, they’ll disappear from the front page but remain available for download from the Downloads page, should anyone still want them.

My family had an ancient upright piano in the front room of our terraced house in Kent. I guess most people did back then, though even by the 1960s, I’d say it was becoming a little old-fashioned to do so. I distinctly remember as a three year-old suffering from insomnia and sneaking down to the front room at the earliest possible opportunity and banging away on the keyboard, waking the house in the process (and the next door neighbours too, I’ve no doubt). Some parents might have seen in this keenness to play some hints of musical genius and thus encouraged it by all means possible. Benjamin Britten’s mum did, for example, so that he was writing symphonies and tone poems aged four and five.

My father was cut from somewhat different cloth, however, and decided instead to sell the piano to Dr. Shaw, the family GP. Thus was my music career abruptly terminated, aged 3.

Well, I’ve finally wrought the revenge I planned for 47 years:

It is an el-cheapo, second-hand job from a music teacher up in Gosford (so it’s seen a few ham-fisted students, I expect). But it looks the part, sounds OK, and finally gives me something I can learn on. Two hours a month of paid lessons coming up shortly. Apparently, shoes will be compulsory, too.

My piano ambitions remain modest: a rollicking rendition of “Roll Out The Barrell” will do me nicely. I have a deal with ToH, though: the day I manage to play (most of) Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto is the day we go out and buy a nice, concert-grade harpsichord.

Funnily enough, the few exercises I’ve already been practising on the new instrument have helped my computer keyboard work immensely. My left hand has been sitting idle all these years and I never really noticed. I think all DBAs should probably learn the piano in consequence. :-)