An Oracle Instance is Like An Upmarket Restaurant

I recently did an Introduction to Oracle presentation, describing how the oracle instance worked – technically, but from a very high level. In it I used the analogy of a restaurant, which I was quite happy with. I am now looking at converting that talk into a set of short articles and it struck me that the restaurant analogy is rather good!

Here is a slide from the talk:

Simple partial overview of an Oracle Instance

Simple partial overview of an Oracle Instance

As a user of the oracle instance, you are the little, red blob at the bottom left. You (well, your process, be it SQL*Plus, SQL*Developer, a Java app or whatever) do nothing to the database directly. It is all done for you by the Oracle Sever Process – and this is your waiter.

Now, the waiter may wait on many tables (Multi-threaded server) but this is a very posh restaurant, you get your own waiter.

You ask the waiter for food and the waiter goes off and asks the restaurant to provide it. There are many people working in the restaurant, most of them doing specific jobs and they go off and do whatever they do. You, the customer, have no idea who they are or what they do and you don’t really care. You don’t see most of them. You just wait for your food (your SQL results) to turn up. And this is exactly how an Oracle Instance works. Lots of specific processes carry out their own tasks but they are coordinated and the do the job without most of us having much of an idea what each bit does. Finally, some of the food is ready and the waiter delivers the starter to you – The server process brings you the first rows of data.

Let’s expand the analogy a bit, see how far we can take it.

When you arrived at the restaurant, the Maître d’ greets you and allocates you to your waiter. This is like the Listener process waiting for connection requests and allocating you a server process. The Listener Process listens on a particular port, which is the front door to the restaurant. When you log onto an oracle database your session is created, ie your table is laid. If someone has only just logged off the database their session might get partially cleared and re-used for you (you can see this as the SID may well get re-used), as creating a session is a large task for the database. If someone had just left the restaurant that table may have a quick brush down and the cutlery refreshed, but the table cloth, candle and silly flower in a vase stay. Completely striping a table and relaying it takes more time.

The restaurant occupies a part of the building, the database occupies part of the server. Other things go in the server, the restaurant is in a hotel.

The PMON process is the restaurant manager or Head of House maybe and SMON is the kitchen manager, keeping an eye on the processes/staff and parts of the restaurant they are responsible for. To be candid, I don’t really know what PMON and SMON do in detail and I have no real idea how you run a large kitchen.

There are lots of other processes, these are equivalent to the Sous-chef, Saucier, commis-chef, Plonger (washes up, the ARC processes maybe?), Ritisseur, Poissonier, Patissier etc. They just do stuff, let’s not worry about the details, we just know there are lots of them making it all happen and we the customer or end user never see them.

The PGA is the table area in the restaurant, where all the dishes are arranged and provided to each customer? That does not quite work as the waiter does not sit at our table and feed us.

The SGA is the kitchen, where the ingredients are gathered together and converted into the dishes – the data blocks are gathered in the block buffer cache and processed. The Block Buffer Cache are the tables and kitchen surfaces, where all the ingredients sit. The Library cache is, yes, the recipes. They keep getting re-used as our kitchen only does certain recipes, it’s a database with a set of standard queries. It’s when some fool orders off-menu that it all goes to pot.

Food is kept in the larder and fridges – the tablespaces on disc. You do not prepare the dishes in the larder or fridge, let alone eat food out of them (well, some of the oracle process might nick the odd piece of cooked chicken or chocolate). everything is brought into the kitchen {the SGA} and processed there, on the kitchen tables.

The orders for food are the requests for change – the redo deltas. Nothing is considered ordered until it is on that board in the kitchen, that is the vital information. All the orders are preserved (so you know what was ordered, you can do the accounts and you can re-stock). The archived redo. You don’t have to keep this information but if you don’t, it’s a lot harder to run the restaurant and you can’t find out what was ordered last night.

The SCN is the clock on the wall and all orders get the time they were place on them, so people get their food prepared in order.

When you alter the ingredients, eg grate some of the Parmesan cheese into a sauce, the rest of the cheese (which, being an ingredient is in the SGA) is not put back into the fridge immediately, ie put back into storage. It will probably be used again soon. That’ll push it up the LRU list. Eventually someone will put it back, probably the Garçon de cuisine (the kitchen boy). A big restaurant will gave more then one Garçon de cuisine, all with DBW1 to x written on the back of their whites, and they take the ingredients back to the larder or kitchen when they get around to it – or are ordered to do so by one of the chefs.

Can we pull in the idea of RAC? I think we can. We can think of it as a large hotel complex which will have several restaurants, or at least places to eat. They have their own kitchens but the food is all stored in the central store rooms of the hotel complex. I can’t think what can be an analogy of block pinging as only a badly designed or run restautant would for example only have one block of Parmesan cheese – oh, maybe it IS a lot like some of the RAC implementations I have seen :-)

What is the Sommelier (wine waiter) in all of this? Suggestions on a post card please.

Does anyone have any enhancements to my analogy?