Can you use Oracle RAC on Third-Party Clouds?

In DBA on July 11, 2017 at 14:40

Q: Can you use Oracle RAC on Third-Party Clouds?
A: No.

The Licensing Oracle Software in the Cloud Computing Environment document states:

“This policy applies to cloud computing environments from the following vendors: Amazon Web Services – Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) and Microsoft Azure Platform (collectively, the ‘Authorized Cloud Environments’). This policy applies to these Oracle programs.”

The document that lists “these Oracle Programs” does not include RAC (or Multitenant or In-Memory DB).

For more details check Markus Michalewicz’s (Oracle RAC Product Manager) white paper entitled: How to Use Oracle RAC in a Cloud? – A Support Question. The image about is slide 45/50 from the same paper.

And here is how to use Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) in the Oracle Database Cloud Service.

An interesting blog post by Brian Peasland entitled Oracle RAC on Third-Party Clouds concludes: “But if I were looking to move my company’s RAC database infrastructure to the cloud, I would seriously investigate the claims in this Oracle white paper before committing to the AWS solution. That last sentence is the entire point of this blog post.”

For business and mission critical applications I would by all means recommend Oracle Real Application Clusters on Oracle Bare Metal Cloud.

We should not forget that something works and something being supported are two totally different things. Even for the Oracle Cloud check the Known issues for Oracle Database Cloud Service document: Updating the cloud tooling on a deployment hosting Oracle RAC requires manual update of the Oracle Database Cloud Backup Module.

Conclusion: Oracle RAC can NOT be licensed (and consequently not be used) in the above mentioned cloud environments although such claims were published even yesterday in the internet (July 10, 2017).

Twelve new features for Cyber Security DBAs

In Cloud, Data, DBA, Security and auditing on June 2, 2017 at 08:32

In the early years of Oracle, Larry Ellison was asked if clients ever ask for their money back. “Nobody’s asked for their money back yet – he replied – a few have asked for their data back though!

A relatively new Wells Fargo Insurance Cyber Security study shows that companies are more concerned with private data loss than with hackers:

Thus, one of the main roles of the cyber security DBA is to protect and secure the data.

Here is what the latest Oracle release 12cR2 is offering us:

1. A Fully Encrypted Database

To encrypt an entire database, you must encrypt all the tablespaces within this database, including the Oracle-supplied SYSTEM, SYSAUX, UNDO, and TEMP tablespaces (which is now possible in 12.2). For a temporary tablespace, drop it and then recreate it as encrypted – do not specify an algorithm. Oracle recommends that you encrypt the Oracle-supplied tablespaces by using the default tablespace encryption algorithm, AES128. Here is how you do it:


2. TDE Tablespace Live Conversion

You can now encrypt, decrypt, and rekey existing tablespaces with Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) tablespace live conversion. The feature performs initial cryptographic migration for TDE tablespace encryption on the tablespace data in the background so that the tablespace can continue servicing SQL and DML statements like insert, delete, select, merge, and so on. Ensure that you have enough auxiliary space to complete the encryption and run (for example):

FILE_NAME_CONVERT = ('users.dbf', 'users_enc.dbf'); 

3. Support for ARIA, SEED, and GOST algorithms

By default, Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) Column encryption uses the Advanced Encryption Standard with a 192-bit length cipher key (AES192), and tablespace and database encryption use the 128–bit length cipher key (AES128). 12.2 provides advanced security Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) support for these encryption algorithms:

– SEED (Korea Information Security Agency (KISA) for South Korea
– ARIA (Academia, Research Institute, and Agency) for South Korea
– GOST (GOsudarstvennyy STandart) for Russia


4. TDE Tablespace Offline Conversion

12.2 introduces new SQL commands to encrypt tablespace files in place with no storage overhead. You can do this on multiple instances across multiple cores. Using this feature requires downtime, because you must take the tablespace temporarily offline. With Data Guard configurations, you can either encrypt the physical standby first and switchover, or encrypt the primary database, one tablespace at a time. This feature provides fast offline conversion of existing clear data to TDE encrypted tablespaces. Use the following syntax:


5. Setting Future Tablespaces to be Encrypted


CLOUD_ONLY transparently encrypts the tablespace in the Cloud using the AES128 algorithm if you do not specify the ENCRYPTION clause of the CREATE TABLESPACE SQL statement: it applies only to an Oracle Cloud environment. ALWAYS automatically encrypts the tablespace using the AES128 algorithm if you omit the ENCRYPTION clause of CREATE TABLESPACE, for both the Cloud and premises scenarios.

6. Role-Based Conditional Auditing

Role-based conditional auditing provides the ability to define unified audit policies that conditionally audit users based on a role in addition to the current capability to audit by users. This feature enables more powerful policy-based conditional auditing by using database roles as the condition for auditing. For example, auditing for new users with the DBA role would begin automatically when they are granted the role:

AUDIT POLICY role_dba_audit_pol;

7. Strong Password Verifiers by Default and Minimum Authentication Protocols

The newer verifiers use salted hashes, modern SHA-1 and SHA-2 hashing algorithms, and mixed-case passwords.

The allowed_logon_version_server in the sqlnet.ora file is used to specify the minimum authentication protocol allowed when connecting to Oracle Database instances. 
Oracle notes that the term “version” in the allowed_logon_version_server parameter name refers to the version of the authentication protocol.  It does NOT refer to the Oracle release version.

– SQLNET.ALLOWED_LOGON_VERSION_SERVER=8 generates all three password versions 10g, 11g, and 12c
– SQLNET.ALLOWED_LOGON_VERSION_SERVER=12 generates both 11g and 12c password versions, and removes the 10g password version
– SQLNET.ALLOWED_LOGON_VERSION_SERVER=12a generates only the 12c password version

8. New init.ora parametercalled OUTBOUND_DBLINK_PROTOCOLS

Due to direct SQL*Net Access Over Oracle Cloud, existing applications can now use Oracle Cloud without any code changes. We can easily control the outbound database link options:

– OUTBOUND_DBLINK_PROTOCOLS specifies the allowed network protocols for outbound database link connections: this can be used to restrict database links to use secure protocols
– ALL_GLOBAL_DBLINKS allows or disallow global database links, which look up LDAP by default

9. SYSRAC – Separation of Duty in a RAC

SYSRAC is a new role for Oracle Real Application Clusters (Oracle RAC) management. This administrative privilege is the default mode for connecting to the database by the clusterware agent on behalf of the Oracle RAC utilities such as srvctl. For example, we can now create a named administrative account and grant only the administrative privileges needed such as SYSRAC and SYSDG to manage both Oracle RAC and Oracle Data Guard configurations.

10. Automatic Locking of Inactive User Accounts


Within a user profile, the INACTIVE_ACCOUNT_TIME parameter controls the maximum time that an account can remain unused. The account is automatically locked if a log in does not occur in the specified number of days. Locking inactive user accounts prevents attackers from using them to gain access to the database. The minimum setting is 15 and the maximum is 24855. The default for INACTIVE_ACCOUNT_TIME is UNLIMITED.

11. Kerberos-Based Authentication for Direct NFS

Oracle Database now supports Kerberos implementation with Direct NFS communication. This feature solves the problem of authentication, message integrity, and optional encryption over unsecured networks for data exchange between Oracle Database and NFS servers using Direct NFS protocols.

12. Lockdown Profiles

Lockdown profile is a mechanism used to restrict operations that can be performed by connections to a given PDB for both cloud and non-cloud.

There are three functionalities that you can disable:

Feature: it lets us enable or disable database features for say junior DBAs (or cowboy DBAs)
Option: for now, the two options we can enable/disable are “DATABASE QUEUING” and “PARTITIONING”
Statement: we can either enable or disable the statements “ALTER DATABASE”, “ALTER PLUGGABLE DATABASE”, “ALTER SESSION”, and “ALTER SYSTEM”. In addition, we can specify granular options along with these statements. Example:


But .. the most secure database is the database with no users connected to it.


In DBA, Security and auditing on May 25, 2017 at 07:10

Exactly one year from now, from May 25th 2018, all businesses that handle personal data will have to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.

At 260 pages in length, with 99 Articles and over 100 pages of explanatory notes known as ‘Annexes’, the GDPR is roughly three times the length of the Data Protection Act 1998 it is replacing.

The requirements for databases are:

– Discovery
– Classification
– Masking
– Monitoring
– Audit reporting
– Incident response and notification

The maximum penalty for non-compliance is 4% of annual revenue or €20 million, whichever is higher. Lower fines of up to 2% are possible for administrative breaches, such as not carrying out impact assessments or notifying the authorities or individuals in the event of a data breach. This puts data protection penalties into same category as anti-corruption or competition compliance.

What DBAs should start with now is account and identify 100% of the private data located in all databases!

There are 4 major categories where DBAa will be involved. The details can be found in the appendix on page 19/23 entitled Mapping of Oracle Database Security Products to GDPR.

1. Assess (Article 35 and Recital 84)
2. Prevent (Articles 5,6,29,32 and Recitals 26,28,64,83)
3. Detect (Articles 30,33,34)
4. Maximum protection (Articles 25,32)

Article 25 is about data minimization, user access limits and limit period of storage and accessibility.
Article 32 is about pseudonymization and encryption, ongoing protection and regular testing and verification.
Article 33 and 34 are about data breach notification: there is 72 hour notification following discovery of data breach.
Article 35 is about the data protection impact assessment.
Article 44 treats data transfers to third country or international organizations where the allowed transfers are only to entities in compliance with the regulation.

As you can see, DBA job ads include nowadays the GDPR skills and responsibilities:

The main lawful bases for data processing are consent and necessity. Data can be recognized as a necessity if it:

• Relates to the performance of a contract
• Illustrates compliance with a legal obligation
• Protects the vital interests of the data subject or another person
• Relates to a task that’s in the public interest
• Is used for purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the controller or a third party (expect where overridden by the rights of the data subject)

Data subjects’ requests for access should be responded to within a month and without charge. This is new legislation within the GDPR and the same one month time frame applies to rectifying inaccurate data.

Breach notifications should be made within 72 hours of becoming aware. If this time frame isn’t met, a fine of 10M€, or 2% of global turnover, can be issued as a penalty. A breach is any failure of security leading to the destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure of/access to personal data. Supervisory authorities must be notified if a breach results in a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals.

Data held in an encrypted or pseudonymized form isn’t deemed to be personal data and falls outside of the scope of these new rules altogether. Despite this, data that’s encrypted and considered secure using today’s technology may become readable in the future. Therefore it’s worth considering format preserving encryption/pseudonymization which renders anonymous but stills allows selected processing of that data.

Here are few interesting articles meant mostly for DBAs:

Accelerate Your Response to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data Privacy and Protection GDPR Compliance for Databases

European Union GDPR compliance for the DBA

SQL Server 2016 – Always Encrypted and the GDPR

How Oracle Security Solutions Can Help the EU GDPR

Top 10 operational impacts of the GDPR