Video : Attention Log in Oracle Database 21c

In today’s video we discuss the attention log, introduced in Oracle database 21c.

The video is based on this article.

You might also find this useful.

The star of today’s video is Zahid Anwar, who despite being a fellow Brit, is filmed here in the USA. It’s funny how things work out. 🙂



Remembering the bad old days of shared hardware…

I’m in the middle of a conversation with my boss about some old shared kit and it reminded me of the bad old days of shared hardware.

Nowadays we try to keep things really simple, with each VM/container serving a single purpose. Containers are great for this, because they allow the ultimate in granularity without the overhead associated with VMs.

Back in the old days we often had servers with loads of crap installed on them. Multiple versions of the database. Multiple versions of application servers. It was quite common to mix and match completely different tech stacks. The net result was you had a whole bunch of dependencies that meant you couldn’t change one thing without breaking everything else.

I’m sure some people have fond memories of those days, but I would suggest they have rose coloured spectacles. It was horrible, and I’m so glad we don’t do that anymore.

We have a couple of bits of shared kit left in our company, but once those are gone I’m going to purge the whole concept of shared kit from my brain and move on.



Video : DBMS_XPLAN : Compare Execution Plans in Oracle Database 19c and 21c

In today’s video we’ll demonstrate the compare plans routines, added to the DBMS_XPLAN package in Oracle database 19c and 21c.

The video is based on the following article.

The star of today’s video Lumpy the donkey, who is being held by Bjoern Rost.



Video : ANY_VALUE Aggregate Function in Oracle Database 21c

In today’s video we’ll demonstrate the ANY_VALUE aggregate function, introduced in Oracle database 21c.

The video is based on this article.

The star of today’s video is Scott Spendolini, who I suspect has used APEX at least once or twice in his life…



Why Automation Matters : It’s Not New and Scary!

It’s easy to think of automation as new and scary. Sorry for stating the obvious, but automation may be new to you, or new to your company, but plenty of people have been doing this stuff for a long time. I’m going to illustrate this with some stories from my past…

Automated Deployments

In 2003 I worked for a parcel delivery company that were replacing all their old systems with a Java application running against an Oracle back end. Their build process was automated using Ant scripts, which were initiated by a tool called Ant Hill. Once developers committed their code to version control (I think we used CVS at the time) it was available to be included in the nightly builds, which were deployed automatically by Ant Hill. Now I’m not going to make out this was a full CI/CD pipeline implementation, but this was 19 years ago, and how many companies are still struggling to do automated builds now?

Automated Installations

Back at my first Oracle OpenWorld in 2006 I went to a session by Dell, who were able to deploy a 16 node Oracle RAC by just plugging in the physical kit. They used PXE network installations, which included their own custom RPM that performed the Oracle RAC installation and config silently. The guy talking about the technical stuff was Werner Puschitz, who was a legend in the Oracle on Linux space back in the day. I wrote about this session here. This was 16 years ago and they were doing things that many companies still can’t do today.

I can’t remember when the Oracle Universal Installer (OUI) first allowed silent installations, but I’m pretty sure I used them for the first time in Oracle 9i, so that’s somewhere around the 2001 period. I have an article about this functionality here. I think Oracle 9.2 in 2002 was the first time the Database Configuration Assistant (DBCA) allowed silent installations, but before the DBCA we always used to create databases manually using scripts anyway, so silent database creations in one form or another have been possible for well over 20 years. You can read about DBCA silent mode here. Build scripts for Oracle are as old as the hills, so there is nothing new to say here. The funny thing is, back in the day Oracle was often criticised for not having enough GUI tools, and nowadays nobody wants GUI tools. 🙂

Sorry, but if you are building stuff manually with GUIs, it kind-of means you’re a noob. If consultants are building things manually for you, they are wasting your time and need to be called out on it. At minimum you need build scripts, even if you can’t fully automate the whole process. A deliverable on any project should be the build scripts, not a 100 page word document with screen shots.

Random – Off Topic

While writing this post I thought of a recent conversation with a friend. He was showing me videos of his automated warehouse. It had automated guided vehicles (AGVs) zipping around the warehouse picking up products to ship. It was all new and exciting to him. We were laughing because in 1996 I was renting a room in his house, and my job at the time was writing software for automated warehouses using Oracle on the back end. It wasn’t even a new thing 26 years ago. One of the projects I worked on was upgrading an existing automated warehouse that had already been in operation for about 10 years, with AGVs and automated cranes.

New is a matter of perception.

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying all this stuff in an attempt to make out I’m some kind of automation or DevOps thought leader. If you read my blog, you know all about me. I’m just trying to show that many of us have a long history in automation, even if we can’t check all the boxes for the latest buzzwords. Automation is not new and scary. It’s been part of the day-to-day job for a long time. In some cases we are using newer tools to tidy up things that were either already automated, or at least semi-automated. If someone is presenting this stuff like it’s some brave new world bullshit, they are really trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It should be an evolution of what you were already trying to do…

I wrote a series of posts about automation here.



Why Automation Matters : Why You Will Fail!

The biggest problem you are likely to encounter with any type of change is people!

People don’t want to change, even if they say they do. You would think an industry that is based on constant innovation would be filled with people who are desperate to move forward, but that’s not true. Most people like the steady state. They want to come to work today and do exactly what they did yesterday.

Automation itself is not that difficult. The difficult part is the culture change required. There is a reason why new startup companies can innovate so rapidly. They are staffed by a small number of highly motivated people, who are all excited by the thought of doing something new and different. The larger and more established a company becomes, the harder it is to innovate. There are too many people who are happy to make do. Too many layers of management who, despite what they say in meetings, ultimately don’t want the disruption caused by change. Too many people who want to be part of the process, but spend most of their time focussing on “why not” and (sometimes unknowingly) sabotaging things, rather than getting stuck in. Too many people who suck the life out of you.

It’s exhausting, and that’s one of the worst things about this. It’s easy to take someone who is highly motivated and grind them down to the point where there is no more fight left in them, and they become a new recruit to the stationary crowd.

I’ve been around long enough to know this is a repeating cycle. When I started working in tech I encountered people telling me why relational databases were rubbish. Why virtualization was rubbish. Why NoSQL is rubbish. More recently why Agile is rubbish. Why containers are rubbish. Why cloud is rubbish. Why CI/CD is rubbish. Why DevOps is rubbish. The list goes on…

I’m not saying everything “new” is good and everything old is trash. I’m just saying you have to give things a proper go before you make these judgements. Decide what is the right tool for the job in question. Something might genuinely not be right for you, but that doesn’t mean it is crap for everyone. It also doesn’t mean it might not be right for you in the next project. And be honest! If you don’t want to do something, say you don’t want to do it. Don’t position yourself as an advocate, then piss on everyone’s parade!

I’m convinced companies that don’t focus on automation will die. If you have people trying to move your company forward, please support them, or at least get out of their way. They don’t need another hurdle to jump over!

I wrote a series of posts about automation here.



Why Automation Matters : Dealing With Vulnerabilities

The recent Log4j issues have highlighted another win for automation, from a couple of different angles.

Which Servers Are vulnerable?

There are a couple of ways to determine this. I guess the most obvious is to scan the servers and see which ones ping for the vulnerability, but depending on your server real estate, this could take a long time.

An alternative is to manage your software centrally and track which servers have downloaded and installed vulnerable software. This was mentioned by a colleague in a meeting recently…

My team uses Artifactory as a central store for a lot of our base software, like:

  • Oracle Database and patches.
  • WebLogic and patches.
  • SQLcl
  • ORDS
  • Java
  • Tomcat

In addition the developers use Artifactory to store their build artifacts. Once the problem software is identified, you could use a tool like Artifactory to determine which servers contained vulnerable software. That would be kind-of handy…

This isn’t directly related to automation, as you could use a similar centralised software library for manual work, but if you are doing manual builds there’s more of a tendency to do one-off things that don’t follow the normal procedure, so you are more likely to get false negatives. If builds are automated, there is less chance you will “acquire” software from somewhere other than the central library.

Fixing Vulnerable Software

If you use CI/CD, it’s a much simpler job to swap in a new version of a library or package, retest your software and deploy it. If your automated testing has good coverage, it may be as simple as commit to your source control. The quick succession of Log4j releases we’ve seen recently would have very little impact on your teams.

If you are working with containers, the deployment process would involve a build of a new image, then replacing all containers with new ones based on the new image. Pretty simple stuff.

If you are working in a more traditional virtual machine or physical setup, then having automated patching and deployments would give you similar benefits, even though it may feel more clunky…


Whichever way you play it, the adoption of automation is going to improve your reaction time when things like this happen again in the future, and make no mistake they will happen again!

I wrote a series of posts about automation here.