I’m the SF tour master…

Yesterday I went on three tours.

First was the Alcatraz tour. I didn’t realise it was an army base before it became a prison. Another interesting point was that the families of many of the staff lived on the island also. The audio tour included the voices of inmates, staff and their families. Very interesting stuff. Oh yeah, and the native american occupation of the island. They are doing some refurbishment and some of the concrete is being dug up and removed, so you can buy it. I now own a bit of “The Rock”. OK, it’s just concrete, but it it makes me laugh to think about it.

Next was the Downtown Loop tour. This was an open-top bus tour of the downtown area. It’s pretty cool to hear about some of the history of the city.

Next was the Golden Gate tour. Another open-top bus tour. It was really cold and windy, but I managed to get sun burned. I’m not the lobster-kid!

This morning I continued the tour theme with a trip to Muir forest and Salsolito. The forest was awesome. They’ve got some big trees over there!

Tonight is my last night in San Francisco. I start the flight back to the UK at about lunchtime tomorrow. Tomorrow morning will be a packing and last-minute shopping frenzy!



Las Vegas (Update)

Since my last post my attitude has softened slightly. The only things to do on the strip are to get drunk, gamble and watch shows. None of these really appeal to me, hence my bitchin’. Well, today I remembered the fountain display at the Bellagio and the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it was the sunburn and lack of sleep talking???

This morning I managed to get a last minute booking on a helicopter tour over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon with Las Vegas Helicopters. This was totally awesome! I can’t recommend it enough! If you ever get a chance to do it you really must.

Well, it was straight back from the helicopter ride to the airport, then straight back on a plane to San Francisco. It felt like coming back home.

Tomorrow is Alcatraz and a city tour…



I hate Las Vegas!

I really do hate this place. OK, I’ve only seen the strip, but it is a truely wretched place. If aliens landed and thought this place was a true representation of the human race, they would wipe us out in an instant. If there is such a place as hell on earth, I think I’ve found it!

I have one more thing to do before I leave here, and I hope it redeems the whole Las Vegas visit. I’ll write about that later tonight provided I pull it off.



OpenWorld (Thursday)

Here goes…

“Making the Most of PL/SQL Error Management Features” by Steven Feuerstein – This presentation covered a number of aspects of error trapping available in PL/SQL, including new features in 10g and overall methodology. It was pitched more for beginners and those new to 10g, so there wasn’t a great deal for me. I guessed this from the title, but this was the only Steven Feuerstien presentation I could get to and I really wanted to hear him speak. He’s a great presenter and comes across as a really relaxed and “low temperature” guy. I hope in the future I’ll get to hear him speak on something a little more meaty.

“Sifting Through the ASHes: Advanced Database Performance Tuning Using Active Session History” by Graham Wood – Here we got an overview of how ASH works and what information you can get from it. Essentially, it’s pitched as filling the gap between AWR and SQL_TRACE. The line of argument goes, AWR isn’t realtime and SQL_TRACE is too expensive to have running for all sessions all the time. ASH doesn’t give you as much information as SQL_TRACE, but it’s running all the time, so you get realtime sampling not available from AWR. Pretty good for looking at current problems!

“Welcome to My Nightmare: The Common Performance Errors in Oracle Databases” by Michael Ault – Mike listed some of the major problems he has seen over the last few years of consulting and discussed possible solutions to them. Lots of the people near me were writing furiously, so I guess it went down well.

“Tuning SQL When You Cannot Change the Code” by Dan Hotka – Dan started at a furious pace, banging through lists of ways to affect execution plans for packaged or third party applications. Some of it was pretty obvious, some of it not so obvious. About half way through the hour slot he reached the end of his presentation, then it became apparent he had got the times mixed up and believed he only had 30 minutes. At this point the reason for the furious pace became obvious.

“Dell IT: Get Beyond Oracle Real Application Clusters and Start Deploying an Enterprise Grid Architecture” by Logan McLeod and Kirk McGowan – I advise people to look at some of the figures in this paper. These guys have a serious amount of servers and Oracle power. It makes most of our RAC look like hobby systems. I wish I had got to the technical session on this earlier in the week. Apparently they’ve automated RAC setup to the point where they can install and configure a whole RAC in approximately 30 minutes from booting the hardware to completion. Wild!

I got talking to a guy called Rick at the end of the last session and I ended up chatting to him during the whole of the two hour “It’s a Wrap!” party. He was making notes using Mind Mapper Pro, which I’ve seen before, but never used. We started talking about that, which turned into a general chat about writing, then I mentioned my website and finally we both went into full geek mode. Very cool! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s been really fun meeting and talking to all the people at the conference.

So now it’s over. I’ll probably write a Wrap-Up blog entry in a few days, once it’s all sunk in. So that’s goodbye to OpenWorld, but I still have a few more days in the USA!



OpenWorld (Wednesday)

I didn’t get to update the blog yesterday because I had a little bit of an issue with my hosting provider. The site seems OK now, so sorry for any inconvenience it caused… ๐Ÿ™

As mentioned previously, I didn’t get to see too many presentations in the first two days because of the “Ask the Experts” panel and “Meet and Greet” presentations, so I was determined to do as much as possible on Wednesday, so here’s what I went to see…

“Recent Enhancements in Oracle’s Cost Basede Optimizer” by Jonathan Lewis – Over the years I’ve read quite a bit of Jonathan’s stuff and it has become obvious to me that my brain is too small and squishy to think on that level for too long. Sometimes I read his stuff and think, “I rubbish and I’m going to give up!” With that in mind, I was a little nervous about this presentation, thinking it may confound me to the point of making me quit Oracle. Fortunately, he dummed it down to mortal-level and an went away thinking, “Cool! I know what I’m doing.” Nice one Jonathan! ๐Ÿ™‚

“Oracle Real Application Clusters: Scale Up or Scale Out” by Erik Peterson & Lan Shao – I’ve been using RAC for quite some time and I’ve seen my share of issues, so I was interested to see some comparisons between single large nodes and many small nodes. The presentation was very “big picture”, so it didn’t contain much raw data, but it seems that scale out (lots of small nodes) gives much better performance than scale up (one node). By the presenters own admission, some of the performance comparisons were very surprising. If you are thinking about RAC, it might be worth taking a look at this overview to get a feel for the configurations you might want to consider. You have to remember, these performance benchmarks were specific for the China Lottery, high numbers of small OLTP transactions, so you can’t assume hybrid or warehouse systems will respond the same way. Interesting stuff though!

“Recent Advances in Automatic SQL” by Jonathan Lewis – Once again, I didn’t walk away feeling like a rank amateur, so thanks Jonathan! This was a quick run through a number of the automatic SQL tuning features in 9i and 10g. It’s well worth checking out this paper if you are new to the automatic SQL tuning features because it will help you avoid a number of common mistakes people make when using these features.

“Tuning Oracle9i and Oracle Database 10g with Statspack and Oracle AWR Report” by Rich Niemiec – This presentation contained about 130 slides, most of which had numerous subsections. As a result, it felt like 500 slides in 60 minutes and I’m sure this confused this hell out of the newbies in the crowd. That said, Rich is a funny and interesting presenter. A little time was spent discussing the use of hit ratios for tuning, which you don’t hear a lot of these days. His attitude was, variations in hit ratios can give an indication that something has changed in the system, not that specific values of the ratios mean good or bad performance.

I also spent a lot of time at the trade stands speaking to techies, rather than sales staff. You can get some very useful real-world information from some of these people, and it’s not all biased in favour of their products.

It was a really busy and ejoyable day, but by the time I got back to the hotel I was too tired to go out again, so I just went to bed. ๐Ÿ™‚



OpenWorld (Tuesday) – Part 2

I already posted to say this mornings “Meet and Greet” went really well. This afternoons was even busier! All the seats were full and there were people standing at the back watching my presentation on PL/SQL tuning. I was extremely surprised by the turnout considering it was a trade stand. Over the last two days I gave away about 60 books, so there are plenty of people going home with heavier suitcases. It was a really cool experience and I got some great feedback from the people I spoke to. I can see how this public speaking thing could get very addictive! ๐Ÿ™‚

This afternoon I went to a presentation called, “What Every DBA Must Know About Grid Control”. As the name suggests, it was a quick run through everything you can do with OEM Grid Control, so there wasn’t really much new information for me. The main reason I went was because Julian Dontcheff from Nokia was one of the speakers. I first met (on the net) Julian a few years ago when we were discussing Oracle 9i OCP beta exam on DBASupport.com, but I’ve not heard much about him since he moved to Nokia. I now know why. He’s part of a six-person team managing approximately 500 databases on versions varying from 8i to 10g. He’s a bit too busy to be frequenting forums these days. It was really cool to meet up with him in person after all these years!

I’ve got the bloggers bash tonight, which coincides with the big OpenWorld party. So I’m going to miss out on seeing Elton John perform live to spend the evening with a load of Oracle geeks. That just goes to show how geeky I truely am. ๐Ÿ™‚



Update: I went and met the guys as the blogger drink. It’s always good to meet up with other like-minded people. A few of us then went on to the OpenWorld party. We were lucky, as we got there just before the doors to the Elton John show were closed. I’m not a fan but I was hoping to hear “Yellow Brick Road” and “Rocketman”, which I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Next-Generation Self-Managing Database (11g)

This session by Leng Leng Tan was very interesting, listing all the new self-managing features of the next release (codenamed 11g). These features include…

Change Management:

  • Database Replay – Allows the total database workload to be captured, transferred to a test database created from a backup or standby database, then replayed to test the affects of an upgrade or system change. Currently, they are working to a capture performance overhead of 5%, so you could conceivably capture real production workloads.
  • SQL Replay – Similar to the previous feature, but this only captures and applies the SQL workload, not toal workload.
  • Plan Management – Allow you to fix plans for specific statements, regardless of statistics or database version changes.

Fault Management:

  • Automatic Diagnostic Repository (ADR) – When critical errors are detected, they automatically create an “incident”. Information relating to the incident is automatically captured, the DBA is notified and certain health checks are run automatically. This information can be packaged to be sent to Oracle support (see following).
  • Incident Packaging Service (IPS) – This wraps up all information about an incident, requests further tests and information if necessary, and allows you to send the whole package to Oracle Support.
  • Feature Based Patching – All one-off patches will be classified as to which feature they affect. This allows you to easily identify which patches are necessary for the features you are using. EM will allow you to subscribe to a feature based patching service, so EM automatically scans for available patches for the features you are using.

Performance and Resource Management:

  • Automatic SQL Tuning – The 10g automatic tuning advisor makes tuning suggestions in the form of SQL profiles that will improve performance. You can tell 11g to automatically apply SQL profiles for statements where the suggested profile give 3-times better performance that the existing statement. The performance comparisons are done by a new administrative task during a user-specified maintenance window.
  • Access Advisor – The 11g Access Advisor gives partitioning advice, including advice on the new interval partitioning. Interval partitioning is an automated version of range partitioning, where new equally-sized partitions are automatically created when needed. Both range and interval partitions can exist for a single table, and range partitioned tables can be converted to interval partitioned tables.
  • Automatic Memory Tuning – Automatic PGA tuning was introduced in Oracle 9i. Automatic SGA tuning was introduced in Oracle 10g. In 11g, all memory can be tuned automatically by setting one parameter. You literally tell Oracle how much memory it has and it determines how much to use for PGA, SGA and OS Processes. Maximum and minimum thresholds can be set.
  • Resource Manager – The 11g Resource Manager can manage I/O, not just CPU. You can set the priority associated with specific files, file types or ASM disk groups.
  • ADDM – The ADDM in 11g can give advice on the whole RAC (database level), not just at the instance level. Directives have been added to ADDM so it can ignore issues you are not concerned about. For example, if you know you need more memory and are sick of being told it, you can ask ADDM not to report those messages anymore.
  • AWR Baselines – The AWR baselines of 10g have been extended to allow automatic creation of baselines for use in other features. A rolling week baseline is created by default.
  • Adaptive Metric Baselines – Notification thresholds in 10g were based on a fixed point. In 11g, notification thresholds can be associated with a baseline, so the notification thresholds vary throughout the day in line with the baseline.

So in summary, the performance and resource management is very much and evolution of the 10g automatic management features, but the change and fault management is completely new in 11g. Exciting stuff!



OpenWorld (Tuesday)

This mornings “Meet and Greet” went really well. I must have given away about 20 books and was asked to sign most of them. That’s my 15 minutes of fame, well 30 minutes I guess. I think people are a little surprised to see you present some technical information at an exhibition stand, rather than a sales pitch. More information to come!



OpenWorld (Monday) – Part 2

I was totally stitched up in the “Meet the Experts” session with Tom Kyte. Tom got the times mixed up and arrived a little late, so I spent the first few minutes taking questions from a bunch of people who really came to see Tom. I was a bit nervous, but anyone who knows me knows I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, so I managed OK. Of course, when Tom turned up I didn’t manage to get a word in edge-ways. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s really interesting hearing Tom answer questions. He doesn’t just answer a question, he does a complete brain dump on the subject. It’s very impressive to witness. Certainly something to aspire to.

Later on I did a “meet and greet” at the Texas Memory Systems stand. This involved a 15-20 minute presentation on PL/SQL tuning and then just chatting to people and signing books. It’s quite wierd doing this sort of thing because you essentially have to start presenting before people will sit down. I started presenting to 1 person, but as soon as I started talking other people came and sat down. It was good fun. I’ve got two more of these today (11:00 and 16:00), then that’s my official duties over for the week.

I attended the a session by John Kanagaraj called, “Using ADDM, AWR, ASH, and Database Metrics with Oracle9i and Oracle8i Database”. His company manages lots of 8i and 9i databases, so he has looked at some of the monitoring features in 10g and “backported” bits of them to 8i and 9i. Some of the ideas were quite neat. It’s certainly worth taking a look at his paper if you are using older releases of the database.

In the evening I went out to the Oracle Technology Network party. There was food, drinks, a quiz show, dancers, contortion artists and some artificial camels. What more could a guy want?

While I was there I bumped into John Scott. We had a bit of a chat about being new ACEs. Nice guy!