By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-07-06 Print this article Print

Oracle Database 10g, the foundation of Oracle Corp.s long-awaited platform overhaul, emerged from eWEEK Labs tests with our Analysts Choice recommendation. Database 10g addresses the needs of organizations pressured to increase uptime while cutting database staff, and it will pique the interest of administrators forced to manage growing collections of unstructured and multimedia data.

Available in configurations ranging from the two-processor Standard Edition One ($745 for the minimum five-user license) to the Enterprise Edition ($40,000 per processor), Database 10g offers improvements in every aspect of database operations.

Still in the future for most enterprises are the dynamically allocated computing grids that are closely tied to the "g" in "10g." Our conversations with prospective users find that data-model consistency and application compatibility are hurdles that will have to be jumped before this becomes a useful feature.

Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP are all prepping 10g-certified applications. Click here to read the story. Our tests found Database 10g installation more streamlined than with previous versions, with fewer initialization parameters to be tuned. The number of memory parameters, for example, falls from six in Database 9i to two in Database 10g, with automatic tuning replacing previously manual settings. We did not perform a side-by-side comparison against 9i installation, but Oracle claims a one-third reduction in out-of-box setup time. Our own installation of Database 10g proceeded without incident.

Ease of management heads the list of requirements for nudging harried IT administrators into moving off the status quo, and Database 10g provides a number of tools that will mitigate technical risk and data grooming issues.

Database 10g offers a choice of control panels—the Java-based Enterprise Manager Console or the Web-based Enterprise Manager. During tests, we found that both offered useful collections of streamlined tools for proactive database management.

Especially appealing to overworked data center operators will be Database 10gs Automatic Database Diagnostic Monitor, which gave us a view into the statistical data collected by the databases Automatic Workload Repository.

Automatic for the people

As we tracked our test operations during a seven-day period, Automatic Database Diagnostic Monitor kept a running snapshot that let us return to events that might be associated with exceptional situations. We could view data in context, such as SQL statements being issued against the database at the actual time of the observed behavior. Database 9i and most other database platforms would have required us to go through the laborious, unreliable process of re-creating workload to reproduce a problem.

Better than ease of inspection is avoiding the need for operator attention. We therefore appreciated the potential convenience of Database 10gs unified task scheduler. We say "potential" because some aspects of the task-building wizard were not immediately intuitive. Operators should expect to devote some effort to becoming familiar with its capabilities. Even so, when compared with similar aids that weve seen, we found the 10g scheduler an acceptable balance between complexity and flexibility that will repay investment in mastering the tool.

Another automation bonus eliminates manual tuning of the Undo_Retention parameter, a critical adjustment for the proper function of error-recovery Flashback Query operations. The entire Flashback feature set has been expanded in Database 10g to offer simple SQL syntax and graphical interface tools for correcting errors that previously required time-consuming recovery procedures—for example, accidentally dropping a table.

Also crucial in data-dependent operations is the balance between raising security and lowering management overhead. Database 10g introduces more granular auditing tools for insert, update and delete operations and reduces the number of separate passwords per user by integrating identity management and database provisioning features.

The EPAs Superfund unit calls Database 10g crucial to their missions. Click here to read eWEEK Labs case study. Database 10g administrators may now be able to offer better guidance on maximizing application performance. The Advisory Framework aids that come with the package assisted us in optimizing SQL statements. Many such systems are more trouble than theyre worth—one almost needs to know the answer just to be able to pose the question—but we found that Oracles system made it easy for us to find what we needed.

Other features of Database 10g will require evaluation under site-specific workloads. The products native XML storage, for example, is a high-profile feature that allows data to be repurposed through Web services and other XML-centric technologies. The efficiencies of XML on the application development side will have to be balanced, however, against the costs of potentially resulting data bloat.

Hand in hand with rich-media collections come vastly larger enterprise databases—rapidly passing the terabyte threshold with exabyte (megaterabyte) scale not far over the horizon. LBOs (large binary objects) in Database 10g can be up to 128 terabytes, and multiple storage devices can be combined to create a single virtual store using Oracles Automatic Storage Management, a feature brought forward with improved large-database capabilities in the new Oracle platform.

Working with such massive database objects would be awkward with conventional tape-based backup and restore mechanisms; Oracle 10g streamlines this aspect of database operations with a Recovery Area feature that automatically maintains incremental backups of data blocks changed since the last system backup operation.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be contacted at michael_caton@ziffdavis. com. Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be contacted at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

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