This article will cover more of some technical aspects to give attention to while selecting an outsourcing partner.
Hardware Requirements - Your partner of choice should be able to meet the requirements you have set for your environment. Given the assumption that you have a running environment in-house, you don't want to be faced with a platform migration during an outsourcing project. It might very well be possible that you do want to migrate to another platform, but in general, an outsourcing project should not be the primary reason for this. There should be other reasons to migrate to another platform, and it might very well be more sensible to perform the platform migration in house, before starting the outsourcing project. The reason I am taking this approach, is because platform-migrating and outsourcing are two too big changes to your environment to combine in one project. Besides, If your partner of choice is able to provide a similar platform, the direct need for migrating may become obsolete, because they have better resources.
CPU - Many hosting providers, nowadays, offer blade technology. Often, the choices are limited to either Windows or Linux based solutions. The consequence is that the amount of processors is limited, often to 2 (be it single, dual or quad core). For smaller to mid-size environments this usually is no problem, however, whith larger environments environments can become quite complex. It must be said that with the newer CPU technologies, more powerful servers are achieved and the larger server solutions (like SUN Enterprise Servers, larger IBM pSeries, HP SuperDomes) become less in demand.
Network Interfaces - Especially with blade technology, it is of great importance to be able to influence your hosting partner when designing the network interface usage. Take an Oracle E-Business Suite environment running Real Application Clusters database technology. You would probably require a
- Management LAN
- Server LAN
- Interconnect LAN
- Storage LAN (if you are using NAS)
Most blades have a maximum of 4 network interfaces. Many hosting providers will tell you their default configuration is to team two sets of two interfaces, netting you to two network interfaces available to your applications. If you are using as storage LAN (NAS), you want as much bandwidth as possible, especially for your database servers. The Interconnect LAN must be non-routed and dedicated to the Interconnect traffic between the RAC nodes. The only option you have left is to share the Management vLAN and Server vLAN with the Storage vLAN over one Interface. In my humble opinion something you don't want.
Therefore, it might be necessary to move away from teamed interfaces and have dedicated interfaces. The fact that you are running RAC means you will have redundancy on a solution level, and the necessity for redundancy on NIC level will become less.
Linux - In my humble opinion, for small to mid-sized environments I would definitely choose Linux (especially Oracle Enterprise Linux), because it is Oracle's platform of choice and because Oracle can support both application and OS. With business critical environments like E-Business Suite you don't want to spend time going from OS support provider to application support provider and vice versa, just because they are fingerpointing one another. Having the support centralized is one of the key features Oracle can provide when choosing Oracle Enterprise Linux.
However, do make sure your hosting provider is offering you the right type of Linux. Make sure you check the certification matrix, when your partner is offering you a standard Operating System Solution. One of the important details today is that 64-bit OS'es are offered frequently, however, for example E-Business Suite 11i only runs on a 32-bit OS, or at least a 32-bit kernel. It is possible to use 64-bit OS for the database, but not for the application. Things are a little different with E-Business Suite R12. R12 is certified against almost any 64-bit OS. No need to worry there.
Unix Same story here as above with Linux. Make sure your (or the proposed) architecture is in line with certification. Too many different flavors of Unix are available and there is too much to write about in a single article like this one. Certification is the key.
Windows To be honest, I have never seen an E-Business Suite running on Windows in my life, so writing about it would not be honest. What I do know is that you cannot just take a Windows Server and install Oracle E-Business Suite on it. It requires a couple of additional software packages in order to run.
NAS Especially when considering Linux, NAS is the way to go, when you want to have multiple application servers. I am a huge fan of SAN, however, when it comes to the application server, there is a lack of support on shared/clustered filesystems for the application tier of Oracle E-Business Suite. In fact, the only file system (as far as I am aware) that is certified with Oracle E-Business Suite is NFS, which is used in NAS technology. So, for sharing your APPL_TOP, do not consider OCFS, GFS or any other shared filesystem other than NFS. Oracle will help you when you run into trouble, but when problems cannot be reproduced on regular file systems, you will be diverted to the manufacturer of the file system. In production, I would never want to run on an architecture that is not fully certified and supported by the application.
SAN Probably the fastest storage solution available still. If your hosting provider is able to deliver SAN, use it for the database tier. First of all, when running on blade technology, this will save you an Ethernet port, which you can then use for different purposes. Second, performance is generally better with SAN (at least, that is according to my experience).
Backup / Recovery
NearLine Storage Your partner of choice should be able to provide remote storage. One of the key features of hosting your environment is to outsource the responsibility for data recovery. But one should never assume. Please take time to understand what your partner of choice is offering on retention policies, offloading backup data to a remote location, whether they have a remote datacenter at all and how they are dealing with connections between the datacenters.
If your partner of choice hase multiple datacenters, it may be possible to designate one of them as disaster recovery location. You will have the choice of leaving the Disaster Recovery into the hands of your hosting partner, or building your own solution for Disaster Recovery. Most of the time the hosting partner (or rather outsourcing partner) will, or should have expertise on building, maintaining and managing advanced topologies for Oracle E-Business Suite.
Disaster Recovery Establishing Oracle's Maximum Availability Architecture for E-Business Suite can be required to meet the availability and disaster recovery requirements. Your hosting partner should have multiple datacenters and have an idea about connectivity to the other datacenter when a disaster should occur. Creating MAA in one datacente doesn't make sense.
This all might seem trivial, but it is of greatest importance to cover before selecting your partner.
In the next article, I will discuss the surrounding systems, or supporting services.