Oracle Configuration Manager: Bane or Blessing?

Oct 26, 2007 / By Mark Brinsmead

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I’m not sure how long this has been out there, but there is a new (to me) headline on Oracle’s support website, announcing that next month, they will be phasing out “manual configuration” information for service requests.

Customers are now required to download and install something called Oracle Configuration Manager (OCM), which will gather their system/database configuration information automatically, and forward it to Oracle Support on their behalf.

I don’t know a lot about this tool. Yet. The OCM page on on Metalink offers the following description:

Configuration Support Manager allows you to define computer configurations that describe your Oracle environment, and milestones for projects involving Oracle products. Providing this information will allow you to log SRs with less data entry, track issues more effectively, and will allow Oracle to proactively suggest solutions and resolve issues faster

OCM has been around for a while now, and doubtlessly it does have its uses. For example, I was recently looking for an easy, platform-independent, way of determining the latest CPU update applied to an Oracle home, and OCM popped up right at the top of the list. But, like most DBAs, I’ve been far to busy actually managing databases to really give this tool much thought. Until now, anyway, since it seems I (and you) will have to start using it really soon.

Based on a cursory look and on a few conversations around the office, I gained the impression the OCM is little more than a sophisticated piece of spyware. “Services” like Windows Genuine Advantage spring to mind. You know, “services” that compel you to submit to a scan of your system to establish the validity of your licenses before you can obtain updates or service, and perhaps even threaten to do “bad thingsTM if the scan happens to fail.

I find, though, that upon starting to actually read the OCM documentation (imagine the desperation that motivated that!), OCM does not look quite as scary as it did at first. It still creeps me out somewhat — my vivid imagination has no trouble conjuring up unpleasant images of what Oracle might do with this data once they have it — but the documentation I have read thus far has at least tempered my concerns. Here is what I have found so far:

  • Contrary to suggestions I have found elsewhere on Metalink, OCM does not have to report data directly to Oracle support. It does do this when operating in connected mode (the default), but it can also operate in disconnected mode, where collected data is deposited in a .jar file that you can (I hope!) inspect yourself before electing to forward it to Oracle. The availability of disconnected mode makes OCM at least feel less like spyware.

Okay. That’s a short list. But I’ve only just started. I’m sure I’ll find more, right?

Anyway, the option to run in “disconnected mode” makes a fundamental difference here, as it returns control of the conversation from the software vendor back to us, the customers. Providing the data collected is not encrypted (or so horribly obfuscated as to be completely useless), this means that I have the ability to review what is being collected, and decide for myself whether or not I choose to disclose that information and how much I will disclose, or even reuse the collected data for my own purposes.

So, why the big deal? Why am I concerned about letting Oracle support see the “unvarnished” truth about my system configurations? Well, in all honesty, I do find myself telling Oracle support occasional “little white lie”. By nature, I am a very truthful person, but I can imagine legitimate (or at least justifiable) reasons to withhold certain details from Oracle Support. For example, when opening simple support requests, I can understand how a person could comfortably conceal the fact that their test environment runs a binary compatible clone of a supported operating system, rather than the (much more expensive) commercial release. In situations like that, Oracle Support could (okay, maybe legitimately) deny that person service, even though though the problem has no conceivable connection to the fact that their database runs on CentOS rather than Redhat Enterprise Linux.

On the other hand, OCM is a tool that shows considerable potential, much like RDA. I have already imagined a few internal uses for data collected by OCM, but I won’t be writing about those until I take the time to verify that OCM actually collects the data I am after and lets me see it. At the very least, OCM does promise to make it easier for me to open an SR with Oracle support, by removing, I hope, a lot of that routine dialogue I spend 15 minutes completing every time I open a support request.

So, now I find myself completely ambivalent. Or perhaps conflicted. Or maybe simply confused.

Does OCM represent some sort of Orwellian conspiracy, or is it an incredible blessing, unsought and unexpected? I just can’t tell right now. Could it be both? Ooh! My head is starting to hurt just thinking about that one…

4 Responses to “Oracle Configuration Manager: Bane or Blessing?”

  • Dan Norris says:

    Leave it to Oracle to constantly reuse their acronyms. It’s like they only know half the alphabet and can’t remember that OCM is also Oracle Certified Master. Then again, maybe being an Oracle Certified Master is really the same as being an Oracle Configuration Manager…hmmm.

    Either way, I’d look forward to using OCM for support issues just about as much as I looked forward to taking the OCM practicum way back when. And, similiarly, I suppose that once it is all over, I will possibly appreciate it more than I do right now…maybe.

  • Well put. It looks like we are *all* going to start getting a lot more familiar with OCM than most of us ever planned to be.

    Don’t get me started about Oracle and product naming though. You might regret it!

  • Gregory says:

    Mark,

    There is a bit of confusion down there. What Oracle has removed is the ability to create and store configuration manually in Configuration Support Manager (CSM v2.0 is available now at https://csm.oracle.com/ or from the Configuration Support Manager tab of Metalink )

    Thanks God ! You don’t have (for now at least) to have a stored configuration to create a SR even if it could have been useful in the past. However, most of the time Oracle request a RDA when you open a SR and I don’t know what you think but there are 100x of informations useful to detect fraud in them, no ?

    There is a blog about CSM in addition to all the notes on Metalink.
    http://blogs.oracle.com/supportportal

    Actually Companies like NetApp, EMC or HDS do this for years. I’ve seen once people from NetApp coming to change disks a Monday morning while the storage team wasn’t yet aware they’d lost them. And yes it’s frightening to think that your credit card number is actually probably stored in one of those beast. However, I just lost mine in a bus last Friday so I guess the biggest threat may not be where I think (Couldn’t it simple be me ;) ). Yes : I know I shouldn’t guess ; So I know it’s me !

  • 2007 thread, 2011 issue. The only published method I have found to change the database case-sensitivity is through OCM. My government customer will never allow the required inbound connection to configure and use OCM. Getting the latest and greatest 11gR2 software also had to come from My Oracle Support (MOS). It was not available on Oracle Technical Network (OTN). Of course, patches of all types require MOS. One almost cannot operate reliably without this connection – yet, it will never exist for many. Damn shame.

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