Eye on Oracle

April 16, 2007  5:45 PM

Can Oracle DBAs survive automation?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Today marks the first full day of Collaborate ’07, and the word of the day is overwhelming. The conference is huge, the hotels are huge, and the list of sessions is huge—if you can manage to decide which sessions you want to go to, good luck finding them!

Today after scrambling to grab lunch I caught a very interesting and interactive session called “What impact does automation have on the role of the DBA?” The session caught my eye because the description referred to an article our own Mark Brunelli wrote last year at OpenWorld: “Increased automation means changing roles for DBAs.” It also reminded me of our very popular article “Are DBAs needed anymore?” from back in 2005, which covered a similar session at that year’s IOUG Live conference.

Well, the question hasn’t gone away. And this panel discussion assembled a group of Oracle experts and DBAs, including Steve Lemme, an Oracle Master DBA and a director in the IOUG, and Dan Norris, a consultant working on Oracle DBA issues such as tuning and troubleshooting for 10 years, to address it. In general, the consensus among the panelists was that automation is a good thing—something to be embraced, not feared. Norris noted that many DBAs feel unnecessarily threatened as the Oracle product changes and their job roles inevitably change. “I don’t think there’s any chance of us being out of a job any time soon,” he said. Norris and the other panelists pointed out that we still need DBAs for what they called “firefighting”—what I took to mean high-pressure problem-solving and recovery. Automation, on the other hand, mainly addresses repetitive, “mundane tasks.”

Almost everyone agreed that DBAs spend the majority of their time on such tasks, like daily monitoring and statistics gathering. When such administrative work eats up most hours of the day, there’s less time, if any, for doing what Lemme called “the real work.” (Another panelist quipped that DBA stands for “doing business after hours.”) One audience member said, “I don’t think we’re realizing the benefit of all the automation already out there.” Another disagreed, claiming that only about 20% of what he does in a day can really be automated anyway. The panelists mostly sided with the first DBA, stating, “We tend to say, ‘Oh, that cannot be automated,’” thinking most tasks are too complicated, when in reality they can. Lemme said that one of the “key challenges” of automation is “breaking your current cycle”—DBAs have to realize that once they give it a chance, and put in the initial time and effort needed to figure out how to automate certain daily tasks, the “ultimate result” will be better for everybody.

DBAs, what do you think? Do you worry that increasing automation will suck the life out of your job? Eliminate it completely? Or does automation just give you more breathing room to perform your job better? What tasks are the best candidates for automation? Which of your job functions will never fall into that category and always need real people?


April 11, 2007  12:29 PM

Collaborate ’07 countdown

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Only four days and counting till Collaborate ’07 kicks off in fabulous Las Vegas (an upgrade from last year’s setting of Nash Vegas). As usual the whole SearchOracle team is going to be there to bring you full coverage of the show, including breaking news, fresh database and applications tips, and up-to-the-minute reports right here on the blog.

As of Monday, you can search the full list of sessions available from the IOUG, OAUG and Quest. I hope you’ve got some time on your hands — there are thousands! And lots of them sound very promising. Here are a few that we’re going to try to attend:

  • How to keep yourself marketable in a down or up IT market
  • What impact does automation have on the role of the DBA?
  • Ten things you should NEVER do in PL/SQL
  • Seven deadly SQL traps and how to avoid them
  • Cool tools I use: Demonstrating useful PL/SQL and SQL programming tools
  • Oracle 10g for the very new DBA
  • E-Business Suite customers: 10 things you can do now to prepare for Fusion
  • What’s the fuss about Fusion? SOA and Oracle

Check back with us during and after the show for coverage of these and other technical sessions, the keynote presentations and more. And if you’re going to be at Collaborate, and you see Tim, Mark or me wandering around, stop and say hi!

See you in Vegas!

April 9, 2007  3:07 PM

Petabytes of data: The new normal?

Ken Cline Profile: Clinek

As enterprise Oracle DBAs know first-hand, data growth these days is exponential. Gartner calculates that the average site doubles its data under management every 6 to 18 months. Terabyte-sized data stores were a novelty not too long ago but you’ll soon be hearing more and more about petabtyes. That’s 1,000 terabytes. One million gigabytes. A lot of data.

A petabyte is a difficult concept to comprehend. Consider this:

  • A petabyte of data is the equivalent of 250 billion pages of text, enough to fill 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets. Or imagine a 2,000-mile-high tower of 1 billion diskettes.
  • For comparison, the U.S. Library of Congress, with 130 million items on about 530 miles of bookshelves — including 29 million books,  2.7 million recordings, 12 million photographs,
    4.8 million maps and 58 million manuscripts — can be stored on only 10 terabytes.
  • A single sequential scan through a megabyte takes less than a second, but at 10 MB/s it would take over a year to complete such a scan through a petabyte.
  • It would be faster to send a petabyte of data from San Francisco to Hong Kong by sailboat than over a megabit per second internet connection — indeed, it would take over 250 years!

For this post, I began compiling what I thought would be a short list of petabyte-sized data collections (not necessarily single databases) to show what was on the horizon for DBAs. To my amazement, the list went on and on, for example:

I soon gave up compiling an exhaustive list (email me at tdichiara@techtarget.com with your suggestions). Are petabyte data stores really the new normal? Not quite, but we’re getting suprisingly close

In all, the world has seen the amount of data grow from 5 exabytes in 2003 to 161 exabytes in 2006, according to IDC. The world’s storage systems can no longer store all of the data being created. This year,
the amount of information created and replicated (255 exabytes) will surpass, for the first time, the storage capacity available (246 exabytes).

Database and storage admins: your jobs are safe!  (Edit: Or maybe not. MySpace has NO storage admins for its petabytes.)

April 5, 2007  2:43 PM

Unbreakable Linux update, more on third-party support

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Earlier this week, Oracle finally released the list of companies that had signed up for its Unbreakable Linux offering. Oracle unveiled a list of 26 enterprise-class customers, but as it turns out, only a fraction of these have actually migrated wholesale to Oracle support for Red Hat. International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is the only company on the list that is on the record as completely replacing its Linux support with Oracle’s offering.

Among the companies that have signed up for at least partial support from Oracle are Yahoo, Timex, Diebold, GlobeCast and Replacements Ltd.

Did these customers make the right move? Unsurprisingly, not according to the Linux community. A ZDNet story, “Oracle Linux adopters labeled idiots,” reports that Australian company Opes Prime Stockbroking, in the weeks following its move to Unbreakable Linux, received a host of phone calls, emails and letters from open sourcers, who kindly informed them they were “idiots” for making such a move. Linux enthusiasts also slammed the firm online.

An executive from Opes, Anthony Blumberg, reported no complaints about Oracle Enterprise Linux. He seemed dumbfounded by the response — when Max McLaren, managing director for Red Hat Australia, phoned him unhappily, Blumberg said, “This is probably the first call I’ve had from Red Hat since we’ve been a customer.”

(Read what one Oracle executive, Mike Olson (VP of embedded technologies), has to say about the blogosphere hubbub over Unbreakable Linux on his own blog. He claims that critics of the program have been “measuring the wrong things” — such as software downloads from Oracle’s site. Olson claims this number is meaningless.)

On a related note, SearchSAP questions what Oracle’s recent lawsuit says about third-party support in general. Jon Franke writes, “One reason the suit is unlikely to go to trial is that it could expose some behind-the-scenes information about a business that is very profitable for Oracle, SAP and other software vendors — maintenance and support.” He quotes an analyst who says, “It would be potentially devastating to Oracle for people to find out why this maintenance revenue is so profitable.”

Many think the whole affair will be great for third-party support in the long term, serving to popularize it. One CIO remarked that he wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of Oracle’s and SAP’s installed bases don’t yet realize that discounted third-party support is an option.


April 4, 2007  6:17 PM

Oracle Fusion to be a major focus of Collaborate ‘07

Derek Kuhr Derek Kuhr Profile: Derek Kuhr

Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) president Jan Wagner says that Oracle Fusion — Oracle’s plan to combine the spoils of its many acquisitions onto a single platform — will be one of the major themes discussed at the upcoming Collaborate ’07 conference in Las Vegas.

Collaborate ’07 is one of the biggest Oracle users’ conferences of the year, and as usual, I’ll be there covering it. So I wanted to speak to Wagner to record this Collaborate ’07 preview podcast and get an idea what to expect at the show. After all, he should know. The OAUG is sponsoring the event along with the Independent Oracle Users Group and the Quest Users Group.

Here’s what Wagner had to say about Fusion at Collaborate ’07. It’s edited slightly for clarity:

“I think Fusion will really key off at this conference. This year the people understand that, with the Applications Unlimited program, if they are E-Business users they have the opportunity to stay an E-Business customer. But for those that are interested in taking it to the next level with Fusion, it will probably be one of the very hot topics. I think we have between 25 and 30 Fusion related sessions at Collaborate.”

Wagner also had some stuff to say about the newly released Oracle E-Business Suite 12, which is sure to be another hot topic at Collaborate:

“As you know there are about 1500 new features in Oracle E-Business Suite 12. […] What I personally like from what I’ve seen is the update of the user interface. It more easily ties together information from systems spread across different regions and company divisions and also the XML publisher the [support for] open standards. And there’s been quite a significant change in the ability to talk to some of the other applications like Siebel CRM. It’s not as integrated, as Fusion gets, but it’s certainly a step toward the overarching Fusion vision.

What struck me as interesting about these comments is Wagner’s statement that people understand that they won’t have to upgrade to Fusion if they don’t want to. It is true that Oracle announced that it would continue to support and enhance applications under it’s Applications Unlimited program, but I’m not sure how aware people are of that program. Has Oracle done enough to get the word out about Applications Unlimited? Let me know what you think.

And if there’s anything you’d like me to cover at Collaborate ’07 while I’m there, be sure to let me know about that too. I’m open to your ideas.

— Mark Brunelli, News Editor

April 3, 2007  8:06 AM

Oracle on Linux: Users speak out

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Last week I asked you readers out there what you think about the future of Linux — will desktop Linux ever achieve the dream of world domination? What about Oracle on Linux? Last year, IOUG president Ari Kaplan predicted that Linux would be the top operating system for Oracle DBMS deployments in 2007. Did this prediction come true, or is Linux’s big year still, and always, next year?

Some loyal Linux users (and some skeptics) wrote in to respond. Here’s what they had to say. . . .

I’m an IT consultant at BBR E-commerce and Retail in Chile, and so far we are about 60 people, of which 47 use Linux in our workstations, not to mention our servers which are Linux powered, even at home I am using Cent OS 4.4, and even my kid brother (he’s 9 years old) got used to it, it’s got a nice friendly desktop and a very powerful console for people like me.
So in short, I say Linux is starting to take over.

– Carlos E.

Linux will definitely become number 1, its movement is slow but steady.

– Nilesh B.

Of course Linux will rule the world one day. Also, I consider Linux not a dream but ‘our’ dream, therefore I’m sure it will become the number one.

– Mario B.

I’m a committed Linux server man. Desktop? Don’t make me laugh. I’ve been trying to get an off-the-shelf webcam configured on a reasonably new HP laptop running Debian (kernel 2.6). No chance. Not supported. OpenSource community have dropped support (or so it seems). Nothing compiles right. Errors all over. Works like a dream on XP. Skype loads up nice but won’t see my webcam (Logitec Quickcam).
End users have enough to put up with from MS (including half a dozen variants of Vista!…er, which one?) without having to perform complex kernel patches, compilations and variants of desktop  managers. Er which of the dozens of “distributions” should I use? Which Window manager? Which Kernel? Nobody has any answers. It’s a nightmare for the end user unless it’s all done for them.
We need STANDARDIZATION not a free-for-all. How are the hardware manufacturers supposed to keep up with all the differences between distributions?
Want to look at the web for support? Go on, have a go. Unless you’re a propeller head you’ve got no chance.

– Neil B.

From my experiences over the years supporting financial, banking, and mortgage industry customer bases, Linux itself as an enterprise platform still does not meet the “political in-crowd” requirements to take its rightful place as a viable and cost efficient alternate platform to a commercial OS.

Any time efforts stemming from Open Source technology evolve into viable work products, business analysts seem to short sight the value and overstate the obvious regarding Open Source technology:  that some people aren’t always in it for the money.

– Dave A.

I had similar fantasies with Unix back in the early 80’s while in Sunnyvale. We took ourselves too seriously as developers because we thought we could “change the world” with our irresistible code changes to the Unix library. 🙂  Such is the folly of youth. The “egalitarianism” of Linux goes counter to capitalism. Without real funding there is no order, but “developmental anarchy” where companies will be held hostage to the “brilliance of strangers” to bring new innovations and code bug fixes. Microsoft (a.k.a. the BIG Satan) :-)) is very successful because its developers have a good chance at becoming millionaires.

– Rashad M.

Anybody else care to chime in?


Hi Elisa,

I’m a Consultant in Australia and have obvserved the following:

Linux is extremely popular for servers in small to medium sites and in larger sites for non mission critical systems. It has moved heavilly into network based services as a platform of choice, mail, file servers, web servers, etc. It is seen as cheap, manageable and reasonably reliable. Rule the world, I doubt it, but a major player, definitely.

Linux on the desktop is playing catchup and not gaining any ground in my opinion. Many organisations have looked into, a number I work with have pilots running at this time and the results are uniformly negative. Project teams are chronically facing “how do we fix this problem” questions and management looks at their cost proposals and sees no cost-benefit or even work value benefit in switching from Windows. All they see is a slippery ride. I’ve been involved in a couple of these now and remain very disappointed.

So, Will Linux ever rule the World? Well, what do you mean by World?

– Andrew M.


Unfortunately for Linux, Windows is a moving target. How much is spent and how many people work on Windows? What was the development budget on Vista? How much for KDE? Linux will never catch up — except among hard-core IT folk.

– Mike F.


March 29, 2007  12:30 PM

Oracle on Linux: Is Linux’s big year always next year?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Around this time last year we ran a story called “IOUG: Linux to be top platform for Oracle by next year.” Mark Brunelli had spoken with IOUG president Ari Kaplan about a survey of the organization’s members, which indicated that Linux was poised to overtake Solaris as the top operating system for Oracle DBMS deployments in 2007. Did these predictions bear fruit?

Unfortunately, it’s not clear. The IOUG conducted a similar survey this year, but they did not ask respondents the exact same question. Instead, members were asked to check all operating systems in use. Here’s what they reported:

  1. Windows 509
  2. Solaris 475
  3. Linux 448
  4. HP/UX 283
  5. AIX 247
  6. Unix 176
  7. z/OS 42
  8. Tru64 37
  9. VMS 39
  10. System I (iSeries,A/400) 14
  11. No Answer 10
  12. Other 9

Due to the wording of the question, we don’t know what the favored OS for the Oracle database currently is. It’s too bad – I became curious about predictions of Linux domination after reading a blog post by Marco Craveiro. With desktop Linux as well, it seems, domination is always just around the corner:

Well, three months into 2007 and very few mass migrations to desktop Linux have been announced. A few thousands here and there, but not the millions we all want. It’s beginning to look like our hopes for 2007 as the Linux Desktop Year (TM) have been misplaced yet again. The algorithm for the Linux Desktop Year is becoming clear now: N + 1, where N is the current year. Yep, its always next year. What’s going on here? Are we never going to have Linux on the desktop? […] What about World Domination?

So is Linux’s big year ever really going to arrive? What do you think? Does your Oracle shop already run on Linux? Does it have plans to switch? Do you think Oracle-on-Linux will eventually have its day in the sun, or are the open-sourcers just dreaming?


March 27, 2007  12:11 PM

Information is useless

Ken Cline Profile: Clinek

I recently came across a survey done by Accenture a few months ago that drew some sobering conclusions about the data-rich yet insight-poor corporate environment of today.

Accenture surveyed 1,000 managers at large enterprises and found that:

  • Managers spend up to two hours a day searching for information and more than 50% of the information they obtain has no value to them.
  • Only half of all managers believe their companies do a good job in governing information distribution or have established adequate processes to determine what data each part of an organization needs.
  • 59% said that as a consequence of poor information distribution, they miss information that might be valuable to their jobs almost every day because it exists somewhere else in the company and they just can not find it.
  • 42% said they accidentally use the wrong information at least once a week.

The upshot: the terabytes of data that enterprises gather — and spend millions on storing, managing and analyzing — is bordering on useless for decision-makers. The cause for this sad state of affairs is the usual culprit: difficult to access, poorly-integrated and siloed data.

New integration technologies like SOA and master data management are rising to meet this need. BI is also evolving, converging with performance management to give managers better insight into business processes and trends.

But it’s obviously going to be an long, uphill battle — especially given that the majority of managers in the survey said that they store their most valuable information on their own computers or individual e-mail accounts!

Does this sound familiar at your organization? Any horror (or success) stories you’d like to share?  Or do you think — as one reader told me yesterday — that this survey is just a pretense to scare more people into hiring Accenture consultants?

Cheers, Tim

March 26, 2007  1:06 PM

Oracle sues SAP: The real deal, or frivolous and hypocritical?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Last week we reported that a number of analysts think Oracle’s lawsuit against SAP is a serious and substantial thing.

One blogger at InfoWorld sees it differently. In a post titled “Oracle sues SAP for allegedly behaving like it has toward Linux,” Matt Asay announces that his first reaction to the lawsuit was “What a waste.” To boot, he claims that the lawsuit is essentially a case of the pot calling the kettle black — Oracle, he says, is accusing SAP of the same shenanigans it recently pulled on Red Hat:

Replace “SAP” with “Oracle,” and “Oracle” with “Red Hat,” and “illegal” with “legal but gauche,” and you’ll get a rough picture of what Oracle has attempted to do with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Rather than build up its own distribution, Oracle has opted to piggyback on Red Hat’s labor and brand. What it’s doing is not illegal — the key difference, perhaps, between what it alleges of SAP and what Oracle has done to Red Hat — but it’s still humorous.

But just how key is this “key difference”? As Asay admits himself, Oracle didn’t break any laws — Red Hat is open source. So can Oracle be fairly accused of hypocrisy here?

Asay also points out a few other takes around the Web, including that of Josh Greenbaum, who think this case illustrates how important third-party support providers are becoming: the announcement, he says, “highlights the effectiveness with which TomorrowNow is hitting Oracle where it hurts: right in the old maintenance fee.”


March 23, 2007  11:34 AM

Oracle sues SAP: Analysts say charges are serious

Derek Kuhr Derek Kuhr Profile: Derek Kuhr

Big software companies like Oracle, SAP, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and others like to file lawsuits. It’s just a fact of the IT world. And oftentimes the lawsuits quickly fade away from the media spotlight, leaving folks to question whether they were frivolous, designed only to create negative PR for competitors. 

But despite that tendency, IT industry analysts are saying that there’s actually some meat to Oracle’s lawsuit against SAP.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco this week, Oracle charged SAP with “corporate theft on a grand scale,” alleging that the German ERP giant stole a laundry list of Oracle’s copyrighted software and other proprietary information.

The 44-page complaint states that SAP wrongfully gained access to Oracle’s password-protected customer support systems and stole software products and other confidential materials, presumably, according to analysts, so that SAP could use the information to enhance the discounted support it provides to Oracle customers through its TomorrowNow arm. (SAP acquired third-party PeopleSoft support provider TomorrowNow following Oracle’s acquisition of PeopleSoft.)

Michael Doane, founder and chief intelligence officer of Performance Monitor in Peachtree City, Georgia, read the complaint and says he believes the charges are substantive, believable and serious.

“There’s more smoking gun in here than I even would have dreamed when I opened the brief,” Doane said. “What it’s definitely going to do is be an enormous blow to the SAP brand, because this complaint is so substantive. It’s going to be a death blow to TomorrowNow. They’ll stay in business for now, but talk about crippled.”

The case against SAP is particularly unique because SAP’s alleged actions go way beyond the typical intelligence-gathering practices of major software competitors, said Martin Schneider, senior enterprise software analyst with The 451 Group in New York City.

“The fact that [Oracle claims] to have the IP addresses and the data coming from the Bryant, Texas, offices of TomorrowNow shows the charges have merit,” Schneider said. “If it’s something they are bringing up in a document I imagine it’s something they can furnish in court.”

Oracle’s lawsuit against SAP also shines a light on the fact that third-party maintenance is becoming a sensitive topic, says Ray Wang, a business applications analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. The reason, Wang said, is because any success by third-party maintenance providers gives one vendor an advantage over another by cutting off lucrative maintenance contracts — contracts that are becoming increasingly important to the likes of Oracle.

“Typically, the profit margins on third-party maintenance are in the 40% to 60% range towards the later years of the software lifecycle,” Wang explained. “We are in the same situation as the 1970s when IBM had a lock on all maintenance contracts for hardware.  Software companies are trying to do the same thing at the expense of customers who need to free up budgets to innovate.”

Wang added that SAP is having better luck at moving Oracle customers onto third-party maintenance contracts than Oracle is at moving SAP customers. (Oracle partnered with Systime for third-party SAP support.)

We want to know what you think about Oracle’s case against SAP. Is it as serious as Doane and Schneider say it is? Or is it just another of those cases that will fade from our minds with the next passing news cycle? And what do you think of third-party support vendors? Do they offer the same level of service as the initial software provider? Post your comments here and we’ll use them in upcoming SearchOracle.com and SearchSAP.com coverage of Oracle’s lawsuit against SAP. Let’s get a discussion going as this thing heats up.

Mark Brunelli and Jon Franke, News Editors

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