Oracle 10g Application Server, what’s the deal?

I’m begining to dislike Oracle 10g Application Server. That’s my polite and understated way of saying I loath, detest and hate it!

Before I move on I want to make it clear I’m a major fan of Oracle databases. I think Oracle consistently hit the nail on the head with respect to new database releases. Yes, they have a habit of adding chaff and bloat, but the core functionality is on the money every time.

I’ve been using Oracle’s application servers for a little over 2 years. My first experience was with 9iAS and if I ever see an installation of that again I will probably go on a killing spree. It’s like Oracle took a bunch of cool software, cobbled it together and made it totally unusable. If people ask me what 9iAS is like my immediate response is, “It’s an abortion!”.

When AS10g was released we moved to it right away. We had no choice, 9iAS didn’t work. For some months I basked in the glow of it’s brilliance, but little did I know the horrors that were waiting round the corner. Rather than list whats wrong with AS10g let’s look at it from another angle, let’s list what we want from an application server:

  • Reliability.
  • Speedy deployment of new applications.
  • Easy configuration.
  • High availability.
  • Simple problem diagnostics.
  • Simple performance monitoring.

The problem is AS10g gives me none of these. Let’s take these points one by one.

Reliability – We have logged untold amounts of bugs against AS10g, most of which have never been fixed to our satisfaction.

Speedy deployment of new applications – Our applications are pretty small and not exactly rocket science, but deployments to our 5 node application server cluster can take hours. You think I’m joking don’t you. I’m not! It’s not unheard of for us to lose our entire production system for a couple of hours during a deployment. Invariable a couple of nodes don’t deploy properly. By the time we’ve undeployed and redeployed the application, along with a few reboots, the user have packed up and gone home.

Easy configuration – Ok, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but there are so many products and layers to deal with that it becomes a nightmare if you want to do anything but the simplest application. I’ve just checked with one of my production app servers and it has 296 distinct log files. When someone asks me, “Are there any errors in the logs?”, it always brings a smile to my face.

High availability – I’ve already told you what happens when we deploy new applications! We have a 5 node cluster to make our application more resilient and maintain availability. Pitty we have to reboot before and after every application deployment. Until recently we were rebooting each app server once a day, but we’ve managed to get that down to once a week, provided we’re not deploying new versions of the application.

Simple problem diagnostics – Too many log files. Too many layers. We were hoping that grid control would come to our rescue, but it doesn’t work properly. I don’t even want to go there. You can read my earlier posts about that crap.

Simple performance monitoring – See previous answer. We’ve ended up writing some of our own tools. Sad I know!

I’m starting to depress myself so I’m going to knock this post on the head soon, but suffice to say, if I had my way we would ditch the lot and use Apache and PHP. No overcomplicated application servers and no J2EE. Simple, reliable and free!

I guess I can dream…



PS. For those of you that are assuming we’re just using it wrong, the consultants we’ve had in from HP and Oracle can’t make it work any better, so I guess we’re in good company 🙂

Oracle 10g Release 2 Installation Guides

I’ve just started producing some brief installation guides for Oracle 10g Release 2 on different versions of Linux. Here’s what I have so far:

Oracle Database 10g Release 2 ( Installation On Fedora Core 4

Oracle Database 10g Release 2 ( Installation On RedHat Advanced Server 4.0

I’ll see if I can get RHEL3 and FC3 done tomorrow, but no promisses.

Interestingly, Red Hat AS 2.1 is not a supported platform for 10g R2 according to the OUI valid platform list. I guess it was about time they dropped this version, but I thought they might carry it forward to the end of 10g. Now some people wil be forced to do an OS and Oracle upgrade.

Happy installing…


10g Release 2, Oracle Spending Spree and Unsecured Wireless Networks

I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that 10g Release 2 is still not available for download. If you’re struggling to cope with its absense you can get ahead of the game by reading these articles:

Oracle Database 10g: Top Features for DBAs – Release 2 Features Addendum

Some very cool stuff has been added in this release!

Oracle has continued it’s spending spree. See: Oracle goes shopping again.

We often talk about the lack of security on wireless networks, but could we find ourselves in court if we use them? Sounds like the answer could be yes! See:

Man Arrested for Using Open Wireless Network



PS. Did I mention I was still waiting for 10g Release 2?

My Utopian Development Environment

Some thoughts about my perfect development environment. Of course it will never happen 🙂

Compulsory PL/SQL APIs
Client application developers would have no direct access to tables. Not even for queries. All access would be provided by PL/SQL APIs. I like this because:

  • It removes the need for triggers as all inserts, updates and deletes are wrapped in APIs. Instead of writing triggers you simply add the code into the API. I loath triggers.
  • It prevents people who don’t understand SQL writing stupid queries. All SQL would be written by PL/SQL developers or DBAs, reducing the likelyhood of dodgy queries.
  • The underlying structure of the database is hidden from the users, so I can make structural changes without client applications being changed.
  • The API implementation can be altered and tuned without affecting the client application.
  • The same APIs are available to all applications that access the database. No duplication of effort.

J2EE abolished
I like Java, but I dislike J2EE. When I look at the way J2EE applications interact with the database it worries me. Perhaps I’ve been unlucky, or perhaps I’m missing the point, but I think it’s shocking. Using container managed persistence (CMP) to generate SQL on the fly worries me. I want to know at development time what is going on. I want to be able to cut and paste the SQL, not try and capture or trace it during a run. At least with bean managed persistence (BMP) you get this, but Java developers seem to avoid BMP like the plague.

Even when J2EE developers use BMP with calls to PL/SQL APIs, the containers have some strange ideas about what’s sensible. To update a record the container requests a query, update and requery of the data, rather than just a query and update. What’s this extra work for? I know what the state of the data is. I’ve just updated it. Even if someone does sneak an update in after me, the bean is being destroyed so the extra query was pointless.

I’m not saying that J2EE is pointless, I just think that 90% of the people out there don’t know, or care, how badly their applications interact with the database. Maybe some Java guru will tell me why I’m talking rubbish, but I can only judge this on my experience and that tells me that J2EE applications are not performant.

Just a few extra points to throw into the mix.

  • All client application developers would understand the rudiments of SQL, PL/SQL and DBA work. They don’t have to be experts, but they should understand the basic concepts.
  • All DBAs would understand the rudiments of client application develpment work. Once again, they don’t have to be experts.
  • All DBAs would be skilled at SQL and PL/SQL. I feel they should be the best in the company, but I know others would disagree. Oracle has now dropped the requirement for PL/SQL in the OCP DBA syllabus. In my opinion this is a mistake.
  • Managers would understand when a decision should be made by the techies.
  • Techies would understand when a decision should be made by the management.
  • People would share ideas and information, rather than trying to empire build.
  • Companies would encourage reskilling of employees.
  • Techies would want to keep there skills up to date, or make way for someone who does.
  • Applications would be planned, designed and built using more formal methods, not RAD or iterative development.

Perhaps the most important point is that I would be presented with lavish gifts whenever I entered the room.



My book arrived!

I got home late last night to find a note from the neighbours saying that a parcel had been delivered for me. To my delight it was some copies of my latest book.

I’ve been publishing on the web for years, but it’s quite an ego trip to actually hold a book in your hands with your own name on the cover.

I’ve already noticed a few format changes and additions that have been made by the editorial team, like the inclusion of cartoons at chapter headings, but in general I’m happy with the way it turned out.

I’m nearing the conclusion of my second book, so I’ll keep you posted.



ORACLE-BASE – Recompiling Invalid Schema Objects


I’ve just posted a new article on called Recompiling Invalid Schema Objects.

Since I added the rating and most-viewed sections to the front page I’ve noticed that the really basic articles seems to be very popular. On reflection that’s pretty obvious, but it did surprise me a little. Anyway, this is one of those topics that might interest people that are newer to Oracle, or those that have given up caring 😉



Integration of Oracle products…

OK. I know I’ve posted lots of stuff today, but this is a new blog so I’m venting my spleen. Hopefully over time it will become a little more positive. I love Oracle. I really do, but…

When will Oracle get all their product certifications up to the same level?

Our plan was to have a single production RAC and application server cluster for all our systems, but we use one RAC for our main application, along with clustered 10g application servers with their own Cold Failover Clustered infrastructure. Sounds fine!

Trouble is we also run OCS. Now that needs an infrastructure and application server(s), but it can’t run on the same ones as our production applications. What’s more, it’s not certified against the 10g database, so it has to have a separate database.

We also run Oracle Payroll. Guess what? It doesn’t use standard application servers so it needs to be run on separate servers. Also, it’s not certified on 10g so it needs it’s own database instances.

We tried running grid control. Needs it’s own DB instance and is made up of 9iAS components by the look of it…

We’ve got two third party applications that are certified against various versions of Oracle, two more DB instances (OK, this isn’t Oracle’s fault).

I could go on, but I’m starting to bore myself and I guess by now you get the idea.

Now I know that all the products are produced by independent teams and there is a real “time to market” pressure on them, but how Larry Ellison can talk about product integration and keep a straight face is beyond me.

As a result of attempting to use a single vendor we are using about 3 times the hardware we should be, and all those boxes require Oracle licenses. I think we are single-handedly keeping Oracle UK in profit…

I’m off to Yoga to chill out 😉



Does anyone use Oracle Enterprise Manger and Gird Control?

I’ve been running Oracle 10g RAC in production since it was released, but in all that time I’ve probably had the DB Control running for about 10 minutes. Now admitedly we’re talking about an Oracle product on Tru46, but I can not believe how much memory it takes up. If I leave it on for more than a few minutes it grabs about 450M of memory. I don’t know about you but I can think of much better uses for that memory.

I foolishly decided to give grid control a go. Now the agents on database nodes were fine. They didn’t take up too much memory or CPU, but on the app servers they went berserk. We’re talking 500M of memory and 20-40% of the CPU. The crux of it is, in order to monitor the performance of your box you have to kill the performance of your box. I suppose the plus side of it is that it sends you an email to tell you that the agent processes are killing the box.

Needless to say, the whole OEM and grid control thing is not what I expected. Of course the TAR I raised about the problem resulted in a generic platform bug report that now claims it has been fixed in the next version of Grid Control, which I guess will come out soon after 10g Release 2.

So back to the question that is the title of this post, has anybody got this stuff to work without a massive investment in hardware just to run the agents?



Old fart of Oracle in the making…

My company has just bought several PL/SQL Developer licenses and it’s a pretty good tool, but every time I edit a source file I keep accidentally using my beloved UltraEdit (a posh text editor). I then compile the code using SQL*Plus.

Now I know that PL/SQL Developer is designed for the job, but I have everything I need with UltraEdit. I don’t need a code beautifier because I know how to indent code. I don’t need a debugger as I instrument my modular code. I’ve had syntax highlighting for years in UltraEdit.

I’m seriously starting to think I’m becoming an old fart.

Please, somebody validate me. Tell me it’s OK not to use posh IDEs…



PS. I’m thinking of switching from FireFox to Lynx as my main browser. Those new fangled graphical browsers will never catch on…