A fantastically well attended SIG, the large room is packed and it’s at my favourite venue used by UKOUG, just a hop from the houses of parliament. In fact there were 125 registered attendees, which is roughly double the number of the last UNIX SIG event, held in the midlands.

However, I would say having so many Oracle employees presenting (4 out of the 6) is a real shame – perhaps there is a danger in evangelising the product too much rather than giving a more balanced view.

Of course, perhaps it needs more end users to volunteer to do the presenting.

Support Update – Phil Davies (Oracle)

ASM instance hang/ORA-2103 in DB instance. see Note: 468572.1. A few issues with Enterprise Manager.

New Oracle clusterware process oprocd appears with This might cause issues with certain Linux flavours and the hangcheck timer.

Making Life Easier with Grid Control – James Anthony (Oracle)

Came from a command line mindset, but grid control has caused him to become a convert to a more gui based approach. A reasonable minority of people in the audience using grid control. The base product is free, though the “good stuff” is a cost option via various optional “packs”. He has a slide with “Reduced Cost of Ownership”” Whenever I see this, I immediately translate this to the vendor has a product to sell that will cost you money.

Inventory management – reporting what versions of the oracle and O/S software the servers in your database constellation are running. Appealing to the larger companies to keep track of things. This is not just capable of reporting on Oracle DB, but other DB’s and app servers.

A tiny percentage of attendees have applied the April 2008 CPU – this is 3 months after it appeared. PCI DSS demands that relevant patches are installed within 1 month of becoming available. Though of course according to the register 88% of business are ignoring PCI DSS.

Patch advisory will show which patches are needing to be applied to which server software.

Best practice reporting/compliance – apparently over 220 best practice policies that you can automatically test against your various instances with grid control. Other useful feature is automating daily checks. Big push on security checking.

James is really selling this as a tool for reassuring management by pointing them to the varous graphs – heck they can even give you a compliance score – “this database is 89% compliant”!

Auditing & Tracking Changes, Comparing two systems.

Provisioning Pack and automating patch updates. Not one audience member is keen on automated patching of production systems, however I can see that if you had a large number of db servers going round each of them manually would be a full time and tedious job.

Not one audience member is using Oracle Unbreakable Linux.

Data Masking. Only a few DBAs are taking steps to mask production data in test database – the vast majority are not doing this. This can be automated with grid control – assuming you pay for the data masking pack – you pay on a per cpu basis for the machine you are doing the masking on. You can mask on 1 machine and then clone the masked data out to numerous test systems.

Claims masking is fast 120Million row table masked in 1.2 hours on 1 cpu system – of course this table could have few columns or lots of columns, but he has not said what quantity of data this represents.

Active Dataguard, Backup & Recovery – Mike Appleyard (Oracle)

A pre-sales presentation – though the presenter has worked in Oracle Support for 10 years or so. Really hammering home the fact that a standby database is often not providing a great ROI as it has a lot of spare CPU cycles apart from just apply redo data – oh this is where Active dataguard comes in, this is where the standby is open for read only operations but you can still run managed recovery on the standby so your queries are bang up-to-date in terms of the data they are seeing.

Block change tracking can be implemented on the standby facilitating faster RMAN incremental backups.

The big sell, is taking read only reports away from your primary and putting them on your standby you can shovel more transactions through your primary – so instead of paying for more cpu on your primary you can pay for an active dataguard license instead.

Mentions itunes using active dataguard – they used to use logical standby – they have many standby instances.

Active dataguard is a cost option, it costs around 12.4% of an EE license. Hmm, another slide seems to contradict that pricing. Some real confusion out there around the licensing of the dataguard – quite a few questions being generated.

A huge percentage of the audience have a physical standby already.s

snapshot standby is basically opening a standby read-write and then flash it back to become a physical standby. This has become a less manual process with 11g. This is FREE, not a cost option.

He was somewhat skeptical (in terms of reliability) regarding rolling upgrade with a physical standby becoming a logical during the upgrade.

A slide regarding the performance of media recovery, claiming practically doubled number of MB/s that the same system can do going from 10gR2 to 11gR1 – that seems a big claim to make.

A Beginners Guide to Statspack (AWR) – Jonathan Lewis (Independent Consultant)

At last a non-oracle employee. What can you do with statspack:

routine checks for anomalies
Occasional health checks
diagnosing historic performance problems

statspack is not a response time tuning tool. it aggregates over sessions.

Interesting point about victims and culprits – is it my query that is at fault, or is my query just the victim of some other query hogging a lot of system resources? Explaining that competition for resources can be a big cause of increased response time, affecting both wait time & service time.

Advocating checking how various metrics are changing over time, so that any exception really stands out.

Pointed out some inconsistencies in the numbers that statspack reports and not to always cross-check the numbers.

Jonathan is talking about the wait time histograms available with 10g statspack (but I don’t see it in AWR). This shows the breakout from an average wait time – maybe you have some waits that are waiting a very long time that are hidden by the average.

Certification Exams – Joel Goodman (Oracle)

Joel helps write the Oracle University curriculum so has a somewhat vested interest in Oracle certification.

My take on certification is that it’s worthwhile to gain an understanding of features that you rarely encounter in your day to day DBA work, but just having certification without being backed up by practical experience it’s not that useful.

Best Practices for Gathering Oracle Database Statistics – Martin Widlake (ORA600 LTD)

Martin was talking a lot about the automated stats gathering job that is turned on by default in 10g. The idea of this job is to collect stats when the underlying tables have changed enough to have the stats marked as stale. Of course it may run at a very inconvenient time for your system and there is little information on what it is really doing.

I hope there are less Oracle employee presentations in future.

7 thoughts on “UKOUG DBMS SIG

  1. I’d say the DBMS SIG agenda still looked good even though there was a high Oracle employee count. As you say it can be quite difficult to find non-Oracle volunteers to present at SIGs, especially end users. I know you’ve presented at a few SIGs Jason, but sadly you’re the exception rather than the rule! If anyone has ideas as to what we can do to encourage people to present we’d be happy to hear them. Personally, I find putting together a presentation usually helps broaden my knowledge of an area – trying to explain something is a good way of testing your understanding, plus I’m always paranoid about that tricky question from the audience… (not that there’s anything wrong in saying “I don’t know”).

  2. Hi Simon

    It is such a shame that more people don’t volunteer. At the previous UNIX SIG I was speaking to a guy who was doing fantastic work with VM’s and while I did try to encourage him, he seemed reluctant to present but I’m sure his experience would be well worth sharing.

    I could not agree more that actually having to teach/present something is the best way of learning something – you find your lack of knowledge of something is quickly exposed.

    I think I just felt, that several of talks from the Oracle employee’s just happened to be on areas that were additional license costs and it is really vital that the UKOUG does NOT become an extension of Oracle marketing.

    By the way, you’ve probably seen that there is quite a large cull of abstracts for the conference fiting 200 odd abstracts into 64 slots is quite difficult. I wonder what % of those 64 are going to be Oracle employees!


  3. Interesting to get some feedback on our presentations. Sometimes, as in the last 5 times I’ve presented at the OUG, we (Oracle employees who have presented in the past) get asked to present. It seems they struggle to fill the slots unless we do.
    As an Oracle employee I like to support this as much as possible, but as an attendee for the day it’s also nice to see some non-Oracle people, it jsut seems enough people don’t want to step up.
    It’s always tough when we get criticism for presenting on stuff that costs money, after all that’s not our decision on what does cost and what doesn’t (we’re way to insignificant for that). At the end of the day we often just present on sometime we’ve been working on, and whether that costs or not often is secondary to us. In my case I’d just come off 2 big customer sites doing these projects where the customer got a huge amount of benefit.

    It;s also tough when I bit off quite a few sections as the temptation is to get technical (I ama DBA by trade) but in an hour you struggle. I also agree with some of the comments above that I always get the most out of the presentations where someone awakens an interest or shows me something different rather than tries to teach me technical stuff that I’ll forget or could best learn myself. But that’s all personal choice…

    Anyway… please don’t shoot the messengers when stuff does cost, it’s not our choice and we’re just doing what we’ve been asked to do by the OUG due to lack of other presenters.

  4. Hi James,

    Thanks for reading, and responding!

    I completely appreciate you and other Oracle employee presenters are not making the strategic decisions when it comes to what is and is not a cost option.

    I actually would say one of the most interesting aspects of the day were the questions you asked of the audience – I always find it insightful to know what a poll of my peers are doing.

    You are absolutely correct in saying to not shoot the messenger – that would indeed not be fair, and perhaps in a somewhat clumsy way, I was pleading for more people to volunteer to present – I still maintain some of the best talks are “war stories”.

    BTW, I have seen you present before your Oracle incarnation and have the utmost respect for technical abilities – do you still get to do the real echnical stuff these days?

    Anyway, looks like you are doing the warm up for me at the next UNIX SIG 😉

  5. Thanks… it was today I got my feedback actually from the event and some people give you really scathing feedback because stuff costs, which bugs me a little, not saying anyone on here, just made me feel a little less appreciated.
    Totally agree with the customers presenting, it’s also good for me (and I’m sure a lot of other Oracle people) to hear the real world stuff.

    Yep, I’m lucky my job is mostly these days to play with new technology as it comes out on the DB side (mostly security stuff), so I get to do lots of Proof of Concepts etc. That’s pretty cool infact as we’re sort of trail blazers for some of the stuff, but it also means we often get to find the bugs – not that there are any :-), and limitations before other people!

    Looking forward to the next SIG… I’m talking about totally free stuff !!!!!

  6. Still on the topic of presenters, I think SIGs need a balance. I’m always very grateful to the Oracle presenters, who I think often end up doing work in their own time to support the SIGs. From discussions with delegates and other SIG chairs what is interesting is that people expect to see some sessions delivered by Oracle at a SIG (and I gather attendance figures support this theory). For the App Server & Middleware SIGs we try to have a mix: say, 2 Oracle presenters, plus a short Oracle Support update plus 3 consultancies/end users.

    Of course, much of the value of a SIG is talking to your peers – I see the agenda content as a springboard for getting people with similar interests together in a room. Don’t forget the old definition of an “extrovert techie” though: “someone who looks at *your* shoes when they’re talking to you” 🙂

  7. Hi Simon,

    Ha ha, I had not heard that one before, but sadly it is too true! And such a shame I’m sure there are loads of UKOUG members doing fantastic stuff with the technology but just don’t think of themselves as presenters – but I seriously think everyone has a story to tell.

    Interesting what you say about people expecting an Oracle delivered talk.

    I’m sure attendance figures, if the last DBMS sig are anything to go by also support the theory that a Jonathan Lewis presentation is a ratings smash!

    I think a good balance is definitely what is called for!


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