Book Review: Oracle Automatic Storage Management

I have been using ASM for 2 years now on both RAC and single instance servers. I think I have a good handle on how to use ASM, but the documentation is extremely light on how ASM actually works and interacts with the RDBMS instance it is supporting. Things are improved a little with the 11g documentation, in that there is a new storage administrators guide book, but still it is not exactly clear on how ASM actually works.

I was therefore keen to get my hands on Oracle Automatic Storage Management which would hopefully give a better insight into how ASM works than is available via the documentation alone. Interesting to note that two of the authors are also two authors on the oracle documentation itself.

I would say it’s a bit hit and miss. The book starts with an introduction from the architect of ASM, Bill Bridge. This was fascinating, in how long it took to go from initial idea to released product, 7 years! I also found it interesting that part of the initial design goal was that there would not be a directory tree, and files would not have names nor be accessible via the standard OS utilities. It now makes sense as to why ASMCMD feels like a bolted on piece of crud. I wonder how much this lack of filesystem familiarity has hurt ASM take up? Certainly when first released I was skeptical, partly as I was so used to being able to “see” my database datafiles – it’s a bit of a mindset shift moving from a cooked filesystem. I’m still not all that convinced it brings much to a single instance, but I think ASM with RAC makes a lot of sense. The changes in name of the product over the years also give an amusing insight into marketing at Oracle.

Chapters 10, & 11 really give you the added value over and above the online Oracle documentation, in that they give more detail on how ASM actually works in terms of the metadata and how the RDBMS actually ineracts with ASM held datafiles. I found the myth-busting in these chapters very worthwhile. While Chapter 5 has a little on Allocation Units and extents that is also of use. Unfortunately, I would say quite a few of the Chapters have a bit of filler in them, and there are many screenshots. I’m not all that keen on screenshots and I personally find they take up a lot of space for little added value. I also felt a few of the chapters did not give much added value over the documentation, which to be fair does tell you what you need to get up and running with ASM.

So all in all, there are some nuggets in this title that I found interesting/useful to know, but I suspect you could bump along happily without it and if Oracle improved their documentation just ever so slightly, you could save yourself a good 30 pounds sterling.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Jason,

    I had put this book in my buying list, but it looks like that I may withdraw it.

    If you had the chance to take a look at Luca Canali ‘s work on ASM (http://twiki.cern.ch/twiki/pub/PSSGroup/Presentations2007/Inside_Oracle_ASM_LC_CERN_UKOUG07.ppt
    for example), would you say that chapters 5, 10 and 11 would not deliver much more ?

    Cheers

    Christian

    Reply
  2. jarneil

     /  January 9, 2008

    Hi Christian,

    Yes, I have read the CERN stuff there is also a paper: https://twiki.cern.ch/twiki/bin/viewfile/PSSGroup/HAandPerf?rev=1.4&filename=ASM_metadata_30012006.html
    it is excellent work. There is some overlap and having read his UKOUG conference presentation, I think he acknowledges the ASM book. Chapter 5 is pretty much covered in Luca’s presentation. The only real value add in the book is a little bit more explanation of the metadata, which is covered in around 20 pages. This stuff is not really well explained in the documentation either. You could argue, however, that you can probably happily run ASM without knowing about the staleness registry, et. al. – that is I’m not sure the metadata information contained in the book is of pratical use, it perhaps is more of academic considerations – though I’m sure we all like to have a deeper understanding of how things work.

    hope that helps!

    jason.

    Reply
  3. Luca

     /  January 9, 2008

    Hi Jason,

    So it looks like it’s only me and Lutz who put the ASM book by Oracle press on their top shelf! :-)
    BTW, I and my colleagues found your talk on dataguard at UKOUG07 very interesting.

    Cheers,
    Luca

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the tips.

    Cheers

    Christian

    Reply
  5. jarneil

     /  January 9, 2008

    Hi Luca,

    Thanks! I’m sorry I missed your ASM presentation – I was at the delivery of my 2nd daughter so it could not be helped!

    I read your presentation & paper over the christmas holidays and found it really fantastic.

    Did you not think there was a lot of screenshots in the book though? Oh and in the 11g docs there is a bit more on ASM.

    Hopefully see you around sometime, I see one of your colleagues is coming to the RAC sig next month.

    jason.

    Reply
  6. Luca

     /  January 11, 2008

    Hi Jason,

    Congratulations on the birth of your 2nd daughter!

    Indeed I agree with you that there is some filler material in there, however my reading of the book was not ‘typical’ being that I got a copy just 2 weeks before I was scheduled to talk on the same subject at the UKOUG07.. so I ended up reading all the ‘advanced’ chapters in one evening (!) and them skimmed through the rest.
    I would also praise the editing of the book and the writing style, it’s way better that the average IT book (but again, I get reimbursement for IT books too.. :).

    Indeed a colleague of mine will be presenting at the next RAC sig on some of the work we have been doing recently (we typically take turns in attending UKOUG events).

    Cheers,
    Luca

    Reply
  7. I have read Oracle ASM Under-the-Hood & Practical Deployment Guide book. It is really fantastic and excellent.

    Reply
  1. New Oracle High Availability Books Coming Down the Tracks « jarneil

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