Eye on Oracle

Sep 25 2008   9:52AM GMT

Are some Oracle DBA best practices not?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Have you ever questioned a “best practice”?

Most likely not – – after all, it’s a best practice. It’s what the experts have told you, what Oracle has told you, and what you’ve read in the manuals and documentation.

But according to Arup Nanda, lead DBA at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, that doesn’t mean much.

In his OpenWorld session, “Real World DBA Best Practices,” Nanda said that best practices may be “questionable, misleading or downright wrong” – – and you don’t have to follow one just because someone told you to. For something to be a best practice, it should be justifiable (can you answer how and why it works?) and applicable to all cases, unless you are given clear examples for when it doesn’t apply.

Nanda went on to explain some common best practices – – and why you shouldn’t follow them. Instead, he gives his own recommendations and best practices. But if you learn your lesson from Nanda, you’ll question and look for justification of all of his suggestions as well.

So, what are they?

Many of Nanda’s tips from this session can already be found on SearchOracle.com. To summarize, here are a couple of examples of how he questions traditional DBA best practices:

Applying patches to Oracle Homes: The traditional approach is to apply a patch or patchset to the existing Oracle Home. Nanda’s proposed best practice – – which he says can take nearly three hours less time – is to install a new Oracle Home and apply the patch there.

Using .log with redos: The common practice is that Redo logs are named <Name>.log. Nanda says that this may result in accidental deletion and suggests using .redo or .rdo for redo log files.

Using Oracle Flexible Architecture (OFA): Nanda says that using OFA simply because it’s Oracle’s standard best practice is not a good idea. According to Oracle, OFA is a “set of file naming and configuration guidelines created to ensure reliable Oracle installations that require little maintenance.” But Nanda says that OFA does not allow separation of file systems or allow for passive failovers. He suggests his own layout and says to dump OFA altogether.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any of your own best practices that go against traditional approaches? Share them with the Eye on Oracle community (although they may have to pass Nanda’s best practice standards first!)

5  Comments on this Post

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  • David Fine
    Recently, zzzzi too have been thinking about the term “Best Practices”. I’m wondering if the results would be improved if the term were changed to something such as “Better Practices” or "Current Wisdom". My thinking is along these lines. The term “Best Practices” has implications of Finality, Obedience, Authority, and Universality. The term ‘Best Practices’ implies that some source has the final answer to a matter in dispute or disarray. The matter is closed, decided, set and resolved. The term seems to suggest that a reasonable response to the list is to Obey it, and that the closest obedience is the best; maybe blind obedience is best. The term implies that some recognized authority has come up with these, and since they are ‘Best Practices’, the authority is the best one every way and recognized as such. The term may also suggest that the practices are ‘Best’ for every situation that involves the task, product or goal involved. On the other hand, “Better Practices” or some other term with a similar focus, has implications of continuous quality improvement. It engages the recipient to think about how to apply the practices to his or her own specific situation. It encourages the recipient to seek better ways, which may even lead to tweaking the suggested practice to make it even better. It suggests that all of us together can come up with something better than any one of us can arrive at individually, and places authority in the community. The term may imply that the better practice is not universal, but depends on the specific situation.
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  • Dirk Madison
    best practices - "based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people" - extracted from the piece below. I think the term is flexible and can be interpreted in various degrees of strictness. ------ Best Practice is an idea that asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people. Despite the need to improve on processes as times change and things evolve, Best Practice is considered by some as a business buzzword used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use for management, policy, and especially software systems. Best Practice is, however, often a misused term. It is frequently used to support politically correct ideals which, in reality take no account of individual need or circumstances. In this sense the ensuing practice is far from 'best' when the resulting effects are contrary to the real ideal situation. It is also used to prevent challenges to rules and systems that are, in reality, not best practice. As the term has become more popular, some organizations have begun using "best practices" to refer to what are in fact "rules," causing a linguistic drift in which a new term such as "good ideas" is needed to refer to what would previously have been called "best practices."
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  • Yves Roy
    Hi, I looked at some of M. Nanda's view in "Best Practice" and agree with him. In my mind, every organization should defined there own for database structure and management as well for development that correspond to there needs. They can be implementing existing well known approach with some of there own, that work best for them. When OFA was initially introduce, about 15+ years ago, I already had my own view that some of these "best practice" was not always applying to my environment, so you take some and you leave some. But like M. Nanda said, we just need to document why and the benefit of each. One that I really like is the .log file extension for Online Redo log files... Back in 1992, I was involved in a customer that did delete there log files *.log which affected there databases online redo logs... This best practice of using .redo or .rdo as extension is a MUST... What freak me out is that after more then 15 years, Oracle still define by default .log to the online redo log...!!! Regards, Yves (yves.roy@ericsson.com)
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  • Stephen
    While I agree with Arup that many so-called "Best Practices" may need to be changed, there are many organizations that cannot/will not change for several reasons. 1. Experience level of DBA staff may be unable to perform the required testing to justify a change. Change = risk and even though not changing many not be ideal, many organizations are so risk averse that they will not change. 2. On a somewhat related note, some organizations do not have enough resources (hardware, testers, developers) to be able to test to confirm that a change will be an improvement. Also, they may not have the resources for the production environment to support the recommended change (i.e. RAID 5 is cheaper than striping and mirroring, fewer bigger disks are cheaper than more smaller disks even though that results in a lower maximum I/O, etc) In short, while some Best Practices may need updating (there was a time when maintaining a high BCHR was considered by most to be a Best Practice) many organizations barely have enough resources to maintain existing Best Practices. This is ok, because for the most part they will provide a "good enough" environment to meet these business needs.
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  • Earl Shaffer
    Best Practices are, when you get down to it, an opinion hopefully based on practical experience. As they say, "your mileage will vary". That is because we each work in different Oracle environments. For consultants, we are exposed to many environments. Best Practices at one client will often not work in another. Take the examples of a pharma research shop and an e-commerce site hosting shop. Very different. Some key Best Practices will be unique to each and not useful for the other. Maybe the e-commerce client will use FIRST_ROWS just for a more immediate web client experience. Maybe the pharma client may be more interested in report runs and times. I try to keep a base list of Best Practices that are good for almost everyone. I bring that to the client, then add more as appropriate for that client specifically. If we use the APPEND hint to allow fast INSERT performance, and the next client is 'similar', then we can use that technique again. Earl Shaffer OracleMan Consulting
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