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February 2009

Dad, do I really need math?

My kids are pretty good about their math homework. They seem to enjoy it for the most part. It wasn't always that way. When the going gets tough, the natural human response, it seems, is to quit. So at times in our kids' school careers, their Mom and I have had to hang tough with them to try to make them do their homework. (The credit here belongs to their Mom.)

I remember when I was in school, the prevailing attitude in the classroom was, "When are we ever going to need to know this?" The much sadder one was, "My Mom and Dad said that I'm never going to need to know this stuff."

I couldn't have told you, when I was 10 years old, that I'd need to understand queueing theory one day in order to finish an Oracle project I had to do for Fidelity Investments. Or that I'd be able to win a Jim Sundberg autographed World Series baseball by using the distributive law of multiplication in my head while he was showing 400 people how Gaylord Perry liked his signs on the mound. It didn't matter to me, because I just had faith that there was a good reason I was supposed to learn everything I could in school. Having that particular faith was no accident.

I don't remember my Mom and Dad ever forcing me into doing math. I knew, of course, that it was My Job to do as well as I could in school ('A's are loafing unless they're '100's). But I don't remember ever feeling forced.

Security, Forecasting Oracle Performance and Some stuff to post… soon…

I’ve been busy this February “playing around/studying” on the following:

1) Oracle Security products (Advance Security Option, Database Vault, Audit Vault, Data Masking, etc. etc.). Well, every organization must guard their digital assets against any threat (external/internal) because once compromised it could lead to negative publicity, lost revenue, litigation, lost of trust.. and the list goes on.. I’m telling you, Oracle has a lot to offer (breadth of products and features, some of them are even free!) on this area and you just need to have the knowledge to stitch them..

Dang it, people, they're syscalls, not "waits"...

So many times, I see people get really confused about how to attack an Oracle performance problem, resulting in thoughts that look like this:

I don't understand why my program is so slow. The Oracle wait interface says it's just not waiting on anything. ?

The confusion begins with the name "wait event." I wish Oracle hadn't called them that. I wish instead of WAIT in the extended SQL trace output, they had used the token SYSCALL. Ok, that's seven bytes of trace data instead of just four, so maybe OS instead of WAIT. I wish that they had called v$session_wait either v$session_syscall or v$session_os .

Here's why. First, realize that an Oracle "wait event" is basically the instrumentation for one operating system subroutine call ("syscall"). For example, the Oracle event called db file sequential read: that's instrumentation for a pread call on our Linux box. On the same system, a db file scattered read covers a sequence of two syscalls: _llseek and readv (that's one reason why I said basically at the beginning of this paragraph). The event called enqueue: that's a semtimedop call.

Seminar: Deploying Oracle on Amazon Web Services

We are organizing a Seminar about Oracle on Amazon Web Services. This event will be held on June 16th and 17th in The Netherlands. The exact location will be will be announced later and more information will follow later.

Seminar Description

If you say the words “Cloud Computing” frequently in meetings and at the workplace, your colleagues will realize that you are very intelligent, and you will be promoted.  In addition, cloud computing improves upon traditional hosted infrastructure in many ways.  Deployment of new host resources takes only minutes. Applications can scale up quickly without costly hardware upgrades.  In this one-day seminar we will learn the pros, cons and details of deploying Oracle databases on the Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud. We will also learn how to leverage Amazon’s Web Services to maximize performance and availability using features such as RMAN, Data Guard, ASM and RAC.

Oracle on 32-bit Windows: ORA-4030 errors

Over the last year I have seen a number of customers that have problems with Oracle on windows. They are getting frequently an ORA-4030 error.  Now Oracle on windows is implemented differently than Oracle on UNIX. The big difference is that Oracle on Windows shares one process with all clients (threads in this case). This process has a limited process space, which is by default 2GB and can be enlarged to 3.5GB. So this process space has to accommodate all the Oracle sessions (threads). So if you have a quick look at the Process space it basically consists of 4 parts (there are probably more, but I am not an Windows geek/expert): 

Throughput versus Response Time

I like Doug Burns's recent blog post called Time Matters: Throughput vs. Response Time. If you haven't read it, please do. The post and its comment thread are excellent.

The principle Doug has recognized is why the knee in the performance curve is defined as the traffic intensity (think utilization, or load) value at which, essentially, the ratio of response time divided by throughput is minimized. It's not just the place where response time is minimized (which, as Doug observed, is when there's no load at all except for you, ...which is awesome for you, but not so good for business).

I'd like to emphasize a couple of points. First, batch and interactive workloads have wholly different performance requirements, which several people have already noted in their comments to Doug's post. With batch work, people are normally concerned with maximizing throughput. With online work, individual people care more about their own response times than group throughput, although those people's managers probably care more about group throughput. The individual people probably care about group throughput too, but not so much that they're happy about staying late after work to provide it when their individual tasks run so slowly they can't finish them during the normal working day.

Oracle Open World 2001 in Berlin: The Truth (Finally)

It’s time that we admit it. We did horrible things at OOW in Berlin. We’ve not told anyone for all these years, but the pressure is building inside. So I’ve decided to come clean.

We had just started Miracle, so we were only about eight folks or so in total. So we decided to go to the conference in Berlin all of us. We rented two or three apartments and also invited our friends (customers) to stay with us.

We drove down there in a few cars and found out upon arrival that the apartments were empty except for the mattresses on the floor. Oh well, easier to find your way around.

I’m still not sure why Peter Gram or someone else decided to bring along our big office printer/scanner/copier, but the guys quickly set up the network, the printer and the laptops, and then we just sat around, worked on the laptops, drank beers and talked about all sorts of Oracle internals.

RMOUG Training Days

RMOUG Training Days was once again a fantastic experience. It is an amazing value for the cost, and Denver is such a beautiful place to visit. The dehydration thing seriously effects me though ... you'd think I'd remember that and start chugging water before I'm 24 hours into it. Maybe next year I'll do better :)Highlights of the conference for me included:Tim Gorman's AWR session: I've used

Diving in Iceland, June 2009

It seems to everyone that I travel a lot. I guess I do compared to most people, but I enjoy traveling, seeing new places, new people, and old friends about as much as I enjoy anything. It’s usually part of my job anyway. So, with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a place I’ve never been and may not have much reason or opportunity to visit again plus do some scuba diving, I couldn’t pass it up.

That’s right, in June 2009, I will visit Iceland and willfully plunge into the +2 C water that is the clearest body of water in the world. The reasons it is so clear have something to do with the fact that the water is the runoff from melting glaciers, filtered by volcanic rocks, and is very, very cold. It supports no wildlife (another reason it’s so clear/clean). Rumor has it that visibility is over 300 feet–that is something I really do have to see to believe.

The trip is being arranged by my friend Mogens Nørgaard who may very well be completely crazy. If you ever get a chance to meet and engage in conversation with him (a.k.a. “Moans Nogood”), do it. You won’t regret it, guaranteed.

The trip is highlighted on, Iceland’s (probably only) dive shop website. Oh, I forgot to mention that the lake bottom is where two tectonic plates (the North American and Eurasian plates, to be precise) meet up (!), so you’re essentially diving on or in one of the continental divides.

forcedirectio: Another victim

I see it all the time: people using Best Practices and ending up in a big mess afterwards. This time it is the mount option forcedirectio. According to a NetApp best practice for Oracle one should always use forcedirectio for the File Systems that store the Oracle Files. So people migrating to these systems read the white papers and best practices and then run into performance problems. A quick diagnosis shows that it is all related to IO. Ofcourse the NAS is blamed and NetApp gets a bad reputation. It is not only NetApp, it is true for all vendors that advice you to use the forcedirectio.

What does forcedirectio do?