Log Buffer #69: A Carnival of the Vanities for DBAs

Nov 2, 2007 / By David Edwards

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Welcome to the 69th edition of Log Buffer, the weekly review of database blogs.

We start this edition with an item about getting started: K. Brian Kelley’s first installment of Becoming a DBA on Databases, Infrastructure, and Security. It purposes to answer the question, what does it take to become a DBA? “(The) definition of DBA is more ambiguous than ever(.) Therefore, the first place to start is to determine what kind of work you want to do. If you like maintain systems and dealing with hardware, there are DBAs that do only that. If you want to write code, build reports, and do query tuning, there are DBAs who focus on those tasks. And then there are DBAs who do a mix of both. As with any other goal, knowing exactly what you want is important.”

I expect one of the subsequent parts of that series will deal with the necessity of living and working with change. In the opinion of Jeremy Birkett of the Dizwell Blogs, change has visited Oracle — to the extent that 11g shakes the foundations of being a DBA. “Oracle changed the file that is the core to a DBA, the alert log. (Oracle) has deemed it necessary to encapsulate all of the database diagnostic via the ADDM/ADR components. (…) The most heart wrenching trend I see (…) is every single utility and task point towards using Oracle Enterprise Manager, or as I affectionately call it ‘Oracle Hell’.” Jeremy goes on to compare Oracle to Microsoft in an unflattering light, which, as often happens, triggered a somewhat off-topic hissing contest.

The comparison is probably unfair, at least inasmuch as Oracle issues patches regularly, and they work. However, they only work if you actually apply them. On Doug Burns’s Oracle Blog, Doug writes about what he dubs the reality gap: “The difference between what Consulting Firms, Oracle Marketing, Technical Architects, Bloggers and Security Researchers say we should be doing and what most of us really are doing.” A show-of-hands he asked for in his appearance at the OUG Scotland Conference showed that none present had applied a months-old CPU. “Every time a CPU is released (…) it seems to pass by most corporate customers I work with (…) because they have to actually roll the patch out across hundreds of databases, not just talk about it! (…) I see patch management as possibly the most important challenge that DBAs have to address and the more work that Oracle put into making this easier, the better.”

Pete Scott responds on his random notes. In his opinion, “(the) need to maintain certified product stacks (OS, database, application) is a significant inhibitor in keeping up to date.”

On Die Seilerwerks, Don Seiler says that his reason for being cautious with patchwork is, “horror stories”, and Pawel Barut chimes in to confirm.

Gary Myers of Igor’s Oracle Labs has some more Oracle-and-OS business. He has finally gone 11g — on his laptop, with Ubuntu Linux, having given up on a failed Windows XP excursion. He has a couple tips that apply to the Oracle + Ubuntu combo.

Oracle Today’s Yas writes about 11g’s fast=true switch for adding columns with default values. “In 11G when you want to add a not null column with a default value, the operation completes in the blink of an eye.”

Alejandro Vargas’s Blog on Oracle.com has a post on how to generate a script to kill the sessions holding an object. The script generates kill -9 commands to clear the sessions’ shadow processes at the OS level.

Pete Finnigan’s Oracle security weblog reports on word of a new SQL-injection protection PL/SQL package from Steven Feuerstein.

I think I managed to write conference-news-free LB#68, but I don’t think I could go two editions without some blogs on the subject, so here are a couple.

The Informix Zone posts a summary of news of IBM’s IOD 2007 conference in Las Vegas, from an Informix point-of-view, of course.

Joshua Drake likewise offers his wrap-up of the PostgreSQL Conference Fall 2007, mentioning also the upcoming PostgreSQL Conference East 08 in D.C./Marlyland.

Elsewhere in the Postgres ‘sphere… on </depesz>, Hubert Lubaczewski lays out what what should be fixed in PostgreSQL.

On Planet PostgreSQL, Jeff Davis discussed Postgres’s handling of datatypes as a great strength of that DBMS, in particular its approach to user-built datatypes.

Also on Planet Postgres, Magnus Hagander reports on a fix for a little problem Postgres has had on the Windows platform: running out of memory.

Keith Murphy of Diamond Notes has issued a call for articles for the winter issue of MySQL Magazine.

Keith and his magazine have been made aware that MySQL AB (the subject of more IPO rumours, as reported by TechCrunch) has been asserting itself in more than the usual ways. Peter Zaitsev of the MySQL Performance Blog reports that Percona was contacted by the MySQL company because of their having on offer, “MySQL support”. “What is the difference between ‘MySQL Support’ and ‘Support for MySQL’? (…) In my mind there is not much difference in meaning (but it) turns out however there is significant legal differences – first one would be MySQL Trademark violation but not the second one.” And accordingly, his consulting company renamed all their MySQL-specific service on their website.

Sheeri responds with a reasonable defense of the strategy.

Also from Peter, the first part of a Q&A on InnoDB with Heikki Tuuri, CEO of Innobase and creator of InnoDB. The horse’s mouth, in other words.

Geting back to the beginnings of things, When pet projects bite back! is a brand-new blog, by a fellow called Jonathan who’s new to MySQL. In his first post, he describes his entrée to MySQL and introduces the titular project.

Morgan Tocker plays host over a couple posts to a discussion of MySQL with Amazon’s EC2 storage engine. Morgan seems less than impressed, but a couple supporters are given room too. His post of EC2 research and the one on his EC2 findings.

Monty Taylor of MySQL HA responds, writing about his fun with MySQL on EC2. He begins, “The ephemeral nature of the data is troubling,” which I think recommends his blog.

As if DBAs weren’t troubled by enough things already, Willie Favero of Getting the Most Out of DBA… asks, Do you know how “Green” your servers are? He’s talking about the cost of powering a datacenter, and reports that energy use by datacenters is now so significant that the U.S.’s EPA has published a voluntary specification, and IBM has introduced its Project Green initiative, which promises to allow you to monitor and plan your center’s energy consumption.

Chris Eaton of An Expert’s Guide to DB2 Technology looks at automatic compression in DB2 9.5.

From the mainframe side of the DB2 world, Craig Mullins reports on miscellaneous utility enhancements for DB2 9 for z/OS on his DB2PORTAL Blog. Craig promises to continue looking at changes in upcoming posts.

On his Oracle Blog, Robert Vollman says, “Dr. Evil is managing my project. (…) Sound familiar? Then you, too, might have a project being managed by a James Bond villain.”

Like so many of you, I have always dreamt of seeing Oracle DBAs in bathing trunks. Now, at last, our dreams have come true, thanks to Pythian’s Alex Gorbachev and his article on the waterpark session of Miracle Open World. I didn’t even know Oracle conferences had waterpark sessions! Of particular interest: Alex himself putting, if not his best face, at least four of his other ones forward; and Anjo Kolk, Cary Milsap, Jonathan Lewis and others in a shared pool.

They’re obviously not the most retiring bunch, but if you’re concerned about the freshness of your fellow DBAs, Chris Muir of One size doesn’t fit all offers his top 10 signs your DBA might need to retire. My fave: “6. Knows about Edgar’s secret 13th rule.” That must be the one that makes it all work!

Okay, I’m outta here. Log Buffer needs some new blood, so please get involved and publish an edition of your own. You’ll get lots of new readers and have some fun in the process. Read the Log Buffer guidelines and get in touch with me, the LB administrator.

‘Til next time!

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