Beware Oracle Database 11gs Ease of Use

Oracle software's automated features will need a savvy database administrator.

Oracle Database 11g is loaded with automation features that I praised highly in my review. To gain perspective on the features that will be most beneficial to Oracle shops, I asked veteran consultant Don Burleson to name the top five goodies—and gotchas—in Database 11g. Burleson is a senior consultant at Burleson Consulting, of Raleigh, N.C., and the author of more than 30 books on Oracle database management.

What are the top five features of Database 11g?

The new Oracle data compression utility promises to save on disk storage up to three times over storing data in an uncompressed format, with relatively small overhead. This has a whole lot more benefit than just saving on disk space. It will allow companies to go solid state for far less money.

ADR [Automatic Diagnostic Repository] is a re­­pository for critical errors. Its basically automating something that database administrators have been doing manually for decades.

As part of the ADR, SPA [SQL Performance Analyzer] is one of the most exciting features. Its a holistic tuning tool that allows you to define and replay a representative workload on your database. You can then adjust the global parameters for optimal performance very quickly. Its the kind of task that database administrators have been doing manually for years.

By getting these initialization parameters optimized, you can save yourself from having to tune tens of thousands of SQL statements. What SPA does is allow you to bundle together a representative workload and then empirically test what the SQL settings are going to be so you dont have to guess.

[Another feature is] the ability to do "hot updates," which Oracle has been working on for years. Its phenomenally difficult from a software engineering perspective to write software that can update itself while its running. Oracle is raising the bar for all the database vendors with this Real Application Clusters [RAC] feature. People want continuous availability. That doesnt mean just three years—until its time to do a patch upgrade.

Automatic Memory Management [AMM] tuning dates back to Oracle Database 9i, when Oracle provided the first tools to dynamically tune memory pools. [You can read more about Burlesons suggestions for Oracle tuning in his book, "Creating a Self-Tuning Oracle Database." Visit oracle9i_sga.htm.] The AMM tool is basically a detection mechanism. [11g] has a number of RAM pools, and if [it] sees a shortage in one, it will steal RAM frames from one area and reallocate to where they are needed.

And the top five things to look out for?

The "two-day" DBA. Oracle offers a class called the 2 Day DBA where the claim is they can teach someone enough information to manage, or really babysit, an Oracle database in 48 hours. Oracle has become so automated that you can end up with a DBA that doesnt really know what is happening, and that is getting a lot of companies in trouble.

Also look out for choosing a suboptimal replication system. Oracle offers many kinds of data replication, including Oracle Streams, Multi-master and snapshot replication, and Oracle RAC, which is, in a sense, a type of replication.

Misunderstanding the output of the intelligent advisers—Oracle has created artificial intelligence to advise on self-healing operations, and these are often misunderstood and misapplied by people without the requisite background.

Oracle has offered features in 11g that are geared to senior practicing DBAs that have a huge potential for abuse by dilettantes. Many times I see that people are using these automated tools beyond their level of understanding.


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