Oracle Database Management Strategic Directions

1. Best Practices for managing Oracle database servers.
2. Oracle Fusion Middleware products like J2EE, ADF, XML, BPEL, SOA, Web Services, Discoverer...).
3. Oracle Application Servers and Apache.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tools for Enterprise Database Management I

I'm still surprised when I go into different companies, and see how they are still using cron, Unix, Perl and other tools to do their event management and monitoring for their Oracle database environments. This is how we were managing databases fifteen years ago. I used to be a PerlHead and used to teach a ton of Perl classes. Now, I haven't touched Perl in over a year and I don't care to. I don't want to get better at writting Perl scripts, I want to get better at managing multi-tier infrastructure environments.

Although scripts like these are the normal ways DBAs grew up monitoring databases, this approach is no longer scaleable or the best management method for monitoring databases. I remember in the old days, a DBA would write a cool script for monitoring an Oracle database that took a look at internal information. Other DBAs would look at the cool script the way the first cave person looked at fire. Scripts like these are high maintenace and impact overall DBA productivity over the long haul.

For example, I was updating backup scripts for a company in the East Coast and they were running RMAN but storing the RMAN code in Unix and Perl scripts. They had over 150 platforms where they had individual Unix scripts for their backups. There was a large number of different versions of the scripts so to do any updates was a nightmare. To me in my head I was screaming, "they're Oracle DBAs!" why are they not using RMAN global scripts in a catalog database and the Oracle Scheduler. It is true how hard it is for organizations to change how they do things if they have to done it a certain way for a long time.

As Application Servers, messaging software, RAC, Oracle Streams, Data Guard and other software are added to Oracle environments, it is not feasible to expect DBAs to keep writing these types of high maintenace scripts. Compliance is also enhanced with improved process automation. So what are the best software options for managing databases and what are the pros and cons of each option.

When someone clicks on button in a web application and it takes too long, the first thing they say is the database is running slow. The performance issue can be within the application server, the web applications, the network, the drivers or the database. It is going to be important that DBAs have a better understanding of the infrastructure environment a database runs in. So there is going to be a need for more people with a solid understanding of multi-tiered infrastructures. This is why organizations need to look at what the right software is the management of all tiers not just the database tier. There is going to be more of a demand for Infrastructure Administrators and not just Database Administrators.

It also just kills me when I see marketing pieces that talk about how easy Oracle 10g is to manage with OEM. This misleads of lot of management to think Oracle database administration is getting easier. I guarantee you, an Oracle 10g database administrator needs to know a lot "more" to manage the complex environments that Oracle 10g databases run in.

Before Oracle10g, you could go to an Oracle conference and be more popular wearing a shirt that said "I have SARS", than to wear a shirt that said "I Love OEM". That has changed in Oracle 10g. Oracle 10g Grid Control has really grown into a true enterprise managment tool that can allow you to manage a multi-tiered environment running the Oracle Application Server, applications and the Oracle database server as well as additional products through plug-ins. This is great if you are running Oracle but what if you are running WebSphere, WebLogic, JBoss, MySQL , SQLServer or UDB/DB2 databases. Is it better to run Oracle with plug-ins to run a multi-vendor environment or is it better to use a 3rd party tool? Before starting this my initial thoughts are Oracle Grid Control does not have all the bells and whistles of some of the 3rd party tools but when I'm running RAC, Streams, Data Guard, AQ, etc, Grid control has more functionality with advanced Oracle features than the 3rd party tools.

Oracle OEM Grid Control can be used with plug-ins or 3rd party options like CA UniCenter, Quest Spotlight, BMC DBXray and Smart DBA, and Embarcadero are some of the products I see our clients using. I don't know about you but sometimes I get a headache other standing all the different versions of the products and which ones to use and how much each one costs. Also, I for one don't like spending a lot of time developing expertise learning a new management tool on top of Oracle. Once a DBA learns one product, its like being imprinted with your first language, it can sometimes be quite an effort to be interested in learning another tool. In a lot of companies I know, the DBAs would revolt if the company tried to change the current tools they are using.

I am going to contact different customers and start getting their perspectives on what they like and what they wish they had to manage their database environments. We'll look at how much functionality they have, how easy are they to work with and what do DBAs like and not like about them. I'm also involved with evaluating different beta releases from different vendors. Some of the new features are "really" interesting. I decided to start with some new beta products so I can look at where these management products are going , not just where they were.

Oracle Grid Control is gaining a lot of interest but it still seems that companies are slow to move to it. If you are looking at Oracle Grid Control, I think companies should start looking at running their Oracle9i environments with Grid Control, so they get comfortable with it in an environment they understand. This is better than implementing Oracle10g and Grid Control at the same time.

I also want to start taking a look at different database managment tools and comparing them. As I talk to customers that are running these different tools, I will start building a table giving you their feedback as to what they like and don't like. I'm not going to try and solve the meaning of life here, but to provide insights from customers that you can't just get from the Vendor datasheets.

I will be looking at database managment tools such as:
  • Oracle Grid Control
  • CA UniCenter
  • Quest Spotlight and Foglight
  • Embarcadero DB Artisan
I will also look at database tools such as:
  • Oracle SQL Developer
  • Quest SQL Navigator
  • Quest Toad
  • CA SQL Station
I'm looking for feedback on what you like on different products and what additional tools you wish you had to help you manage your databases. My goal here is not to slam any product or provide negative feedback on any product. I have clients that are running all of these tools and are happy with the tools they have, so I don't think there is any reason to say anything purely negative on any of these products. They can all be a good solution in the right situation.


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