Book Review: Tales of the Oak Table

I’ve just finished reading Oracle Insights: Tales of the Oak Table though I admit I’m coming to this book a little bit late as it’s been available for some 3 1/2 years already. I’m also reviewing this with a little bit of trepidation, as I feel I’m more formica table than oak, and others have reviewed this already, far more comprehensively than I will. I too was skeptical, and only recently got around to obtaining a copy, for some reason I thought it would not have enough technical content – doh!

Tales of the Oak Table is quite unlike any other Oracle book I have ever read. Each chapter is written by a different author, all of whom are world renowned Oracle experts. Though each chapter has a different author, there are universal themes running throughout the book. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the vast majority of the authors, at one point or another, actually used to work for Oracle and there are some very illuminating insider information. There is no filer at all, and you will not find a single screen shot.

I think one of the major themes throughout the book is how the improvement in instrumentation has transformed the diagnosis of Oracle performance problems. In several places the book describes quite well how tackling performance problems was almost like a black art, with “try it and hope” being the order of the day. This was before the wait interface came along, and there is excellent insight into why Oracle came to be so well instrumented. With the advent of this instrumentation, diagnosing performance problems gets put on a far more scientific footing.

Another major thrust of the book is examples of projects that had “design issues”. I’m sure you will recognise the perennial favourites like bind variable. The Jonathan Lewis, Tim Gorman, and Connor McDonald chapters being particularly redolent of this theme.

The book justifies it’s entrance price in the chapter introductions from Mogens alone, they are exceedingly funny. I also thoroughly enjoyed the James Morle chapter as well. In fact the book made me start thinking that perhaps a lot of performance problems today are masked by having faster cpus and a whole tonne more of RAM to play with. How comfortable would you be running your database on 50MHz processors?

I found this book to be an excellent read, full of insight, and if you have not had the opportunity to take a look at, I highly recommend you put it onto your reading list.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Tales of the Oak Table

  1. Hi Niall,

    I thought of promoting myself to pine, but didn’t want to push it! 😉

    Seriously, I wonder if a lot of DBAs will miss out on reading this book – I know it took me too long to get round to it.



  2. I`ve read this book a year ago (more or less), and it rocks from the first page. I read it from time to time. One thing I also use and took from that book is the CTD (Compulsive Tunnig Disorder), that can have a version B –> CTD Version B with the Oracle Tunning Packs and the “why the database don’t do that!?”.
    I also like the direct memory access part, now is a feature of 10gR2.
    En fin, the book don’ t have wastage.

  3. far more comprehensively

    Oh, I don’t think so 😉 Nice review Jason – I think it is an undervalued book because it’s a little different. It doesn’t have a very recent version number in the title, for starters and, as you said, no screenshots!

    a lot of performance problems today are masked by having faster cpus and a whole tonne more of RAM to play with. How comfortable would you be running your database on 50MHz processors?

    I don’t have a shred of doubt about that. I keep coming across databases that would benefit from some attention but the users find the performance acceptable, so why bother? There are still plenty of examples of those which are causing user frustration, though.

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