2.4.1 Data Portability, Well-Known Issues, and Solutions

File systems are neutral to endianness in general, and swapping files is not an issue between SPARC/RISC and x86/x86-64 versions of the same operating system. However, applications storing raw data that needs to be shared across platforms can become an issue.

For example, if an application on a SPARC platform writes the data structures in a raw format to the files, the data stored in these files would be endian-dependent. Reading from or writing to these same data files from a system that is based on an x86-64 processor can create problems regarding the endianness of the data. Binary (raw) data stored in a file is generally not transferable between SPARC/RISC and x86/x86-64 platforms.

Applications that share data between platforms can handle the endianness issues in one of the following two ways:

  • Store data in an application-defined, endian-neutral format using text files and strings.

  • Choose either the big-endian or little-endian convention and do byte swapping (potentially using enabling technology such as XDR) when required.

The need for cross-platform compatibility is so well understood that major applications have been available on big-endian and little-endian Linux environments for years without problems. They range from personal productivity applications to major database management systems from Oracle and other vendors.

While there are many similarities between a database running on SPARC or RISC and one running on x86 or x86-64, moving a database from one platform to the other usually requires some data transformation. If the database product is available on both platforms from the same vendor, this task might become as simple as exporting the database to a standardized file format and then importing it into a new database. When the port also involves a change in database vendors, more extensive data transformations might be required. Most enterprise applications rely on information stored in databases to satisfy user requests.

The choice of whether to use an open-source database such as MySQL or a proprietary database such as Oracle Database is driven by cost, application requirements, and business needs. If the same database vendor can be maintained on both platforms, the migration process is much simpler and straightforward.

Although it is challenging to move data between proprietary databases, most database vendors provide tools to assist data migration. For information about migrating from various proprietary databases to Oracle Database, see https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/products/migration/index-084442.html.