Oracle Configuration Manager: Bane or Blessing?
Oct 26, 2007 / By Mark Brinsmead
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 things“TM 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…