Don’t be afraid to ask…


I didn’t come from a computer science background, so when I started working with computers I spent a lot of time asking questions. I knew nothing, so there was nothing to lose by asking others for directions. As my knowledge progressed I found myself less able to ask questions of others because of pride. I didn’t want people to know I didn’t know the answer. It took a few years before I was confident enough to say, “I don’t know”, and ask others for their opinions again. Looking back at it you have to laugh…

I was reminded of this issue recently when someone asked me some questions about storage best practices. The first thing I suggested was to speak with the storage vendor and ask what recommendations and whitepapers they have. Googling aside, this seemed like a pretty reasonable starting point to me. Their response was essentially, “I don’t want to look stupid in front of the vendor”. Sound familiar?

I’ve been there and know exactly how it feels. Hell, it’s still happening (here). Swallow your pride and start asking questions again. You’ll be surprised how well people respond when you do. Sometimes because you are stroking their ego, but mostly because they are genuinely interested in the technology and like to chat about it. We are geeks and geeks love to talk about geeky stuff.

Of course, remember to look for information from credible sources and always test what you’re told. If you can’t prove it, it isn’t real. πŸ™‚



PS. As a result of the storage discussion I knocked up a quick overview of a couple of performance measuring tools from Oracle (here).

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

3 thoughts on “Don’t be afraid to ask…”

  1. Unfortunately there is a problem with information from vendors, especially storage vendors. They have a marketing team who’s purpose in life is to spin the product to look like it is the answer to everything, and the rep often is not qualified to answer oracle-specific questions beyond asserting they have customers who think it is the best thing since drum devices, so give it a try.

    I really appreciate your overview, I just found out I will be evaluating an SSD without near enough time to come up with a proper test harness. I have a mixed OLTP DSS system, and most of the performance issues have been cpu thrashing by the DSS stuff wailing on the SGA. So my initial reaction was hmmmm, if all the OLTP stuff that is performing properly goes faster with an SSD, that will perhaps sink the cpus because of all the other things… I have few I/O problems, even with a low end mostly RAID-5.

    So the question is, will the 11g calibrate give answers applicable to 10g? Of course I’m on hp-ux, which is a redheaded stepchild these days, especially where async is concerned. And the device is likely to get other non-oracle VM kind of stuff too (which I expect will perform better in simple-minded testing and provide the impetus to dump the RAID).

    If I had to prove everything to make it real, we’d all be a figment of my imagination. But it would probably make a good, er, sequel to the Matrix. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi.

    I would expect calibrate_io to give you information that was relevant to 10g also. Admitted, different versions of the database/ASM do things differently, but the whole world hasn’t changed, so I’m sure it would be reasonable information.

    From an I/O alone perspective, ORION would be much better for you as it can test the impact of combined OLTP/DSS loads on storage performance. Obviously, this doesn’t bring in your CPU issues though.

    In your situation, I would probably be more interested in a whole system load test. You could use something like Swingbench ( to test that. It comes with some basic benchmarks, but you can also write your own that hook into your application.

    Finally, Oracle provide a neat feature in 11g called Database Replay ( You can capture a workload before the disks are changed and replay it exactly as it happened after the disks are changed and monitor the affects. You can capture from 10g, but replay is 11g only, so unless you do a test replay before SSD and after SSD you would be comparing applies with oranges. πŸ™‚



  3. Good post – I relate. (Also relate to your OOW ’09 post.)

    I spent some time working at a consulting firm where we got to travel around and work on lots of different environments. One thing that really surprised me the most was the lack of quality control for the consultant job title in the industry as a whole. There are some people who know a lot, and some who actually give rather poor advice. Generally they’re all rather confident in themselves.

    Interesting thing: even after I realized this, I still caught myself thinking that i was very smart and important just because of my job title. It’s a pride thing, like you said. Funny how you can see it in others, dislike it in yourself, and still have the need to be frequently reminded that the title in itself does not bestow any importance.

    It’s good for me to frequently be reminded how lots of people know more than me. Helps me remember to never be embarrased of any question. πŸ™‚

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