Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oracle Open World 2009 Report - Part Two

Tuesday October 13th

Unconference on Indexes
Richard Foote
10/13/2009 10:00 AM

I started off the day attending the indexing presentation of fellow Oak Table member Richard Foote.  Foote has become quite well known for his expertise on index internals since the publication of Oracle B-Tree Index Internals: Rebuilding the Truth

This was basically a Q&A session, and I will include just a couple of the questions.

Q: Have you ever seen an index Skip Scan used correctly?
A: The short answer was 'No'

Foote mentioned that he had only rarely seen an index skip scan used, and then inappropriately.  For more information on skip scan, see Foote's blog entry on Index Skip Scans

Q: When can you safely drop an index that doesn't seem to be used?
A: That is very difficult to determine

The explanation for this answer is that it is very difficult to determine in an index is never used. It does require some patience, as the code that uses the index may be run only rarely, making it difficult to determine if it is actually used

Oracle Closed World

OCW actually started on Monday, though due to the wonders of technology I missed it on that day.  The event was invitation only, either by being present when it was mentioned, or by receiving an SMS text on your phone.

This is where technology comes in.  The SMS was rather garbled, and I received through a series of very short SMS messages what seemed to be an invitation to stroll into a dark alley somewhere in downtown San Francisco.  It was later cleared up and I attended on Tuesday.

Oracle Closed World is the brain child of Mogens Norgaard, another Oak Table member, and co-founder of Miracle AS Oracle consulting

On Tuesday Jonathan Lewis reprised his "How to be an Expert" presentation, the difference being that this audience was comprised of folks with a wide breadth of Oracle knowledge.

Lewis took advantage of this by making the questions harder, and chiding the audience for not knowing the answers.  All was in good fun. Undoubtedly the presence of beer didn't make the questions any easier to answer.

Wednesday was a presentation by Jeremiah Wilton, Oak Table member and formerly a DBA at

Wilton presented a live demo on using Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to provision a linux server, using Elastic Block Storage (EBS) to provide persistant storage, and preconfigured Amazon Machine Instances (AMI) to build provision the server with Oracle already installed.

The fact that Wilton was able to do this during a 1 hour live demo, complete with the inevitible mishaps that can occur during a live demo, and complete the task was quite impressive.

This appears to be a great method to setup test instances of Oracle for experimentation.  There are companies using this for production use as well.

 Amazon Web Services

Perl - A DBA's and Developers Best (forgotten) Friend
Arjen Visser - Avisit Solutions

Perl is a topic near and dear to my heart.

I have been using it since version 4 in the early 1990's, and have advocated it's use ever since.  It is a robust and powerful language with a huge collection of libraries developed by the user community and archived in the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (URL HERE:

When I spotted the Perl session on the schedule I immediately signed up for it.

What I had not notice was the subtitle indicating it was a session for beginners.

No matter, I had to go.

The sesssion began with a concise but clear introduction to Perl basics.

So far, so good.

When the time came to discuss Perl connectivity to Oracle, it was a bit surprising to be confronted with a slide showing how to use Perl as a wrapper for sqlplus.

"Surely" I thought, "this is going to be a slide showing how not to do it"

If you have used Perl with Oracle, you are no doubt familiar with DBI  and DBD::Oracle

DBI is the Perl Database Interface module developed and maintained by Tim Bunce

DBD::Oracle is the Oracle driver for DBI, also originally developed and mainted by Tim Bunce, and now being maintained by The Pythian Group

DBI and DBD::Oracle are very mature and robust Perl packages for using Perl with Oracle.

You would also likely know that using Perl as a wrapper for sqlplus is something that is very cumbersome and inelegant. So as to not write whole treatise on why you shouldn't do this, I will simply say that doing so is rarely necessary, and never an optimal method.

Which brings us to the next slide in the presentation, which had a diagram showing the how DBI and DBD::Oracle fit into the Perl architecture.

The speaker then told the audience that these were hard to install and difficult to use, and didn't recommend using them.

After picking my jaw back up off the floor, I lost all interest in the rest of the presentation.  I don't remember what the rest of the slides were.  Maybe I blacked out from the shock. What I remember is walking away from the presentation rather incrudulous.

Just last week, a friend that had not used Perl asked my how to install it on a Solaris server.  With only a few lines of email that I typed from memory he was able to successfully install DBI and DBD::Oracle.

Hard to install indeed.

11 Things about 11gR2
Tom Kyte

Really it was Tom's top 10 list for 11gR2 - he liked his favorite feature so much he counted it twice.

And that is the one I will mention.

It is Edition Based Redefinition,

In a nutshell this feature allows you to create a new namespace for PL/SQL objects, creating new versions in a production database.

This will allow upgrading applications with little or no downtime, something that has always been on of the DBA holy grails.

Rather than try to explain it (OK, I don't yet know know it works) I will just tell you to take a look at Chapter 19 in the 11gR2 Advanced Application Developers Guide.

Wednesday Keynote
Larry Ellison

Ellison promised to discuss 4 topics, I will include 3 of them.

I left before the Fusion Middleware discussion.

Oracle enterprise linux update

One interesting fact presented was a survey performed by HP detailing Linux usage in corporate data centers.  The numbers are rather surprising.

* Oracle Enterprise Linux 65%
* Redhat 37%
* Suse 15%
* Other 2%

Next was the second generation of the Exadata Database Machine.

Essentially it is faster then gen 1.

It was used to set a new TPCC benchmark record - I believe it was 1,000,000 transactions per seond.

Ellison was proud of the record being 16 times faster than the record previously set by IBM, and rightfully so if those numbers are correct.

It seems IBM has challenged the results however, claiming the Exadata 2 as  'only 6 times faster'.  As you might imagine, Ellison had some fun with that, even offering a $10 million prize to anyone that can show that a Sun Exadata machine cannot run the app at least twice as fast as another other system.  IBM is invicted to participate.

At this time Ellison welcomed a special guest to the stage. Californie Governor  Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Commenting on being in a room with so many IT folks Schwarzenegger commented "As I came out on stage I felt my IQ shoot up 10 pts."

Schwarzenegger talked for a few minutes on the impact of technology on peoples lives. "Technologies impact is flesh and blood" in reference to how tech is used to aid response of public services such as firefighting.

Arnold called for a round of applause for Larry Ellison and Scott McNeely for being technology leaders.

The camera cut to Ellison, looking uncharacteristically humble as he mouthed 'Thank you'.

After Schwarzenegger left the stage, Ellison continued, this time discussing My Oracle Support.

My Oracle Support has been a hot topic lately, as the majority of DBA's are less than thrilled with the new Flash interface being imposed.  It is my understanding that a HTML version of the interface will be maintained, so we won't have to deal with Flash if we don't want to.

Here's where it gets interesting - the unification of Oracle Enterprise Manager and My Oracle Support.

There is now a 'My Oracle Support' tab in OEM.

DBAs will be allowed to opt in to OCM, Oracle Configuration Manager, allowing Oracle to perform automated discovery of bugs and patches needed, either in Oracle or other vendors on server (OS bugs)

Oracle will will then have a global database to mine for proactive response to possible problems.

When a configuration is found to have issues, all users with that configuration can be proactively notified.

The real news IMO though is the impact on patching.

Oracle recently started offering a new patch pacakge - PSU.

This is different than the CPU patch system, as it may require merge patches to resolve patch conflicts.

If OEM My Oracle Support determines that a merge patch is needed, it will automatically file an SR requesting the patch and notify you when it is available.

Even if you don't like OEM, this may be a good use of it.

Ok, that's enough for now, time for lunch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oracle Open World Report for October 11th and 12th

As I am attending Open World 2009 on blogger credentials, it seems proper I should  actually blog about it.

So, here it is.  I won't be blogging about keynotes or other things that will appear in the news the following day, but rather on some of the sessions I attend.

As I got back to my room too late and too tired to do this properly on Monday, I am putting Sunday and Monday in the same post.

Here goes:

Open World - Sunday 10/11/2009

While attending Oracle Open 2009, I thought it a good idea to make some report of sessions attended, and any interesting developments at OOW.

Some of the sessions I attended may not be considered DBA topics. I thought it would be interesting to break out of the DBA mold for a bit and attend some sessions that might be a bit outside the DBA realm.

Sue Harper - Everyday Tasks with Oracle SQL Developer

Sue Harper is the product manager for SQL Developer, and was presenting some of the useful new features of the SQL Developer 2.1 Early Adopter release.

While I have used SQL Developer from the time it was first released as Raptor, I have not until recently used it simply as a database browsing tool.  After exploring some of the features that allow writing reports with master/detail sections, I converted some SQLPLus scripts for use with SQL Developer.

SQL Developer is a very capable tool, so I attended this session to see what else I might be missing out on.

There was only one hour allocated for the session, and given the first 15 minutes were consumed convincing the audience why they should be using SQL Developer, there was just that much less time available to see the new features.

Taking a few minutes to market it is probably just in the product manager DNA.

Some of the features demonstrated were actually available in 1.5, but maybe not widely known.  As I have not used 2.1, I won't always differentiate between versions here. Some of these features may not be new to 2.1, maybe just improved.

Though not a new feature in 2.1, a few minutes were used to demonstrate the use of the built in version control integration. This is a very useful feature, and can be setup for seamless integration for CVS, SubVersion, Perforce, and one other I can't recall now.  It's definitely worth a look.

Some features that are new to 2.1 looked very useful:

Persistent column organizing and hiding.  When viewing data in SQL Developer, the columns may be easily rearranged and selected or de-selected for viewing.  While previous versions allowed dragging columns around, 2.1 has a nice dialog that makes this much easier.

New to 2.1 is column filtering.  By right clicking on a cell in the data pane, a dialog can be brought up to filter the data based on values found.  This allows filtering the data without requerying the table.

Also new to 2.1 is an XML DB Repository Navigator. It was mentioned, but alas there was not time to demonstrate it.

Christoper Jones - Python/Django Framework

This was a hands on developer session centered on using the Python scripting language with the Django Web application framework.  This was a fun session.  The lab was already setup, running Oracle Linux VM's with access via individual laptops setup in the training room.

The lab was a go at your own pace session, with instructions both printed and available via browser.  Browser based was the way to go with the instructions, as the examples could be cut and pasted, saving a lot of time typing.

I wasn't able to quite complete the lab as I kept encountering an error when running the web app.  It was probably due to an error in one of the scripts I modified during the session, but enough was accomplished to see that the Django Framework looked very interesting.  Perhaps even simple enough to use for a DBA.  Yes, I did search the schedule for a similar Perl session, perhaps using Mason or somesuch.

The training materials are going to be placed on OTN in the Oracle By Example section after Open World concludes.

Ray Smith - Linux Shell Scripting Craftmanship

The last session I attended on Sunday was all about shell script craftsmanship. Ray Smith was sharing some common sense methods that can be used to greatly enhance your shell scripts.

If you have done any software development, the information presented would be similar to what you already know.

  • Use white space and format your code for readability.
  • Don't be overly clever - other people will have to read the shell script.
  • Format your scripts with a header explaining the purpose of the script, and separate sections for independent and dependent variables, and a section for the code.
  • Use getops to control command line arguments.

Smith strongly advocated that everyone in the audience obtain a copy of the book "The Art of Unix Programming" by Eric S. Raymond.  This is not a new book by any means, but Smith drew upon it for many of the principles he advocated in scripting.

A couple of tools new to me were mentioned:

Zenity and Dialog - both of these are graphical dialog boxes that may be called from shell scripts in linux.

Dialog is installed with linux, so just do man dialog to check it out.

It was an interesting presentation.  Though a lot of it was not new to me, the two dialog tools mentioned were, showing that no matter how well you think you may know a subject, you can always learn something from someone else.

Open World - Monday 10/12/2009

Jonathan Lewis Unconference - How to be an Expert

Jonathan Lewis had an interesting unconference presentation.

In a nutshell, it comes down to this:

You must practice, and practice quite a lot.

To make the point, he used the joke about the American Tourist asking the grounds keeper how the lawns of the Royal Estates are maintained to be so lush, have such and even texture and in short, to be so perfect.

The groundskeeper explained while the tourist took notes.

First you must dig down 4 inches.

Then you must put down a layer of charcoal.

Then another 1 inch layer find sharp sand.

Finally a layer of fine loam goes on top.

You then must seed the lawn, and water it very well for 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks, you must cut the grass, being very carefully to remove only a small amount as you mow.  This must be done three times a week.

And then you continue doing this for 200 years.

Ok, everyone had a good laugh at that, but the point was made.

Reading some books and being able to run some scripts does not make you an expert.  Lots and lots of practice may make you an expert, if you apply yourself well.

During the presentation he asked a number of questions of the audience made up mostly of DBA's. I will reprise a couple of them here.

Q1:  Assuming you have a simple heap table, with no indexes, you update a single column in 1 row of the table.  How many bytes of redo will that generate?

Q2: Who of you in the audience when you insert data into a table, deliberately insert duplicate data into the database?

I will leave you to speculate on the answers a bit.

Of those 2 questions, only 1 was answered correctly by the audience.

Leng Tan and Tom Kyte DBA 2.0 - Battle of the DBA's

What is the difference between a DBA 1.0 (the old days) and a DBA 2.0 ( the modern DBA)

DBA 2.0 has modern tools, self managing database enabled by AWR and the Diag and Tuning packs.

DBA 1.0 uses scripts and works from the command line.

One the stage in addition to Kyte and Tan were two DBA's, each with a laptop and an oracle server to work on.

Two scenarios were presented for a timed hands on problem that each DBA must work through.

First scenario - Security Audit

Each DBA is given 6 minutes to do a database audit and report on possible vulnerabilities

DBA 1.0 ran scripts to check for open accounts, default passwords, publicly granted packages and umask settings.

After doing so he ran a script to remove privileges granted to PUBLIC, and locked a couple of accounts.

DBA 2.0

DBA 2.0 worked from the Oracle Enterprise Manager console, using the Secure
Configuration for Oracle Database.

He was able to observe the database security score, navigate through several screens and correct the same security problems that DBA 1.0 did.  Following that he was able to see that the security score for the database had improved.

So the conclusion made by the presenter is that OEM is clearly superior because OEM will automatically generate the needed data every night.

By contrast DBA 1.0 can only do one db at a time.

I do not believe this demonstration to be a valid comparison - it's quite simple to run the script against any number of databases from a script, and report on anomalies.

At this point it should be mentioned that DBA 1.0 spent 4 minutes explaining what he was going to do, another minute explaining what the scripts were doing, with less than 1 minute spent actually running the scripts.

By comparison, DBA 2.0 was navigating through screens through nearly the entire 6 minutes.

The statement was made by the presented that doing this with scripts at the command line was far too tedious a task, and DBA 1.0 would never be able to accomplish the task for 200 databases.

I won't belabor the point (well, not too much) but automating these kinds of tasks is relatively simple for command line tools.  Which is easier and more productive?  Automating a set of scripts to poll all of your databases, or navigate through OEM for 200 databases?

The present referred to using OEM as "really convenient"  Sorry, but I have never found OEM to be at all convenient.  Whenever I run into problems with it, it requires a SR to fix it.

Thetre was a round 2 as well regarding testing execution plans both before and after setting optimizer_features _enable to a newer version.  OEM fared well here compared the the scripting method as the scripts used 'explain plan' and OEM actually executed the queries to gather execution plan information.

That isn't to say however that the scripts could not be modified to do the same.  No, I am not completely against GUI environments.  I am just against making more work for DBA tasks.

Enough for now, I will report on Tuesdays conferences later this week.