Book Review, Oracle Database 11g-Underground Advice For DBAs….

I work as an Oracle consultant and most of the part of my work is related to train other Oracle professionals, letting them know that how this marvelous piece of software Oracle database, works! Though, we do discuss many things in the sessions, there are still tons of things which get skipped, either unwillingly because of lack of time,  or willingly because they are better explained than I could in some other book/note. Oracle docs is a mandatory reference from me to the delegates. In addition to it, I  also refer lots of MOS notes, articles, web links and books to my delegates since there is so much that’s written out there about Oracle at these places which at times, surpass even the standard Oracle docs as well.

Books, though being a very integral part in the learning, need to be very carefully chosen. I normally mention that even though one read 10 (bad) books about Oracle database, he/she still may not learn even a single thing. It takes a lot of effort to write a good book and when such kind of book becomes a part of your library, it becomes an asset of yours. At least, this is true for me for sure since I do purchase a lot of Oracle related books and because I spend my own personal money for this purpose, I take utmost care when I am making a purchasing decision. Today, I want to share with you one such book which I would surely recommend in my next DBA session,

Packt Publishing is doing a great work by giving opportunities to many authors to share their knowledge with the rest of the Oracle community. I got an offer by Packt Publishing earlier also to review their title Middleware Management with Oracle Enterprise Manager Grid Control 10g R5 by Debu Panda! You can read that review from here . Once again, I have got an opportunity by Packt to review another new title from them, Oracle Database 11g – Underground Advice for Database Administrators by April C.Sims. April has been working as a senior DBA with Utah University and also maintains an active Oracle related blog.

The very first thing that I liked about the book is that it was really concise. I mean, there are not too many chapters,just created to increase the count. Also the distribution of the content within the chapters has also come up very nice. April starts with telling us(which is very very important) that what we should an should NOT do when we are dealing with Oracle database. There are tons of times, I have seen people making things more serious, more worse just by not stopping at the first step where they went wrong and also, by not asking for help when they really need it! In the first chapter, April brings us these key points! A must thing to tell if you ask me!

The second chapter deals the standards that are related to Oracle database. I have seen many databases made and maintained like a complete mess, where the name of the database is something like SR1 which completely fails to tell us anything meaningful about the database, the tablespace and datafile names coming up like mytbs and mydatafile1.dbf. Now surely they are yours but you don’t need to put that in the names too since someone, who would come from outside won’t be able to understand it all. The same is true for the installation which happen where a DBA would like to happen, some times in a properly maintained way and sometimes, just where ever he likes! Sure enough that Oracle would work but in the longer run, this may become a complete mess to deal with. April, in her second chapter, makes us aware about these key points and also tells us how we can deal with them in a better by making us remind that there is an OFA standard given to the Oracle community long time back, which can help in such of kind of things. Also, she tells us about some tools and some references which would help help us whenever we would get struck anywhere.

Chapter 3 is my favorite chapter since I am completely addicted to know how things work within Oracle database internally. In this chapter, April takes us to some not-so-well-explained domains of Oracle like Oracle block dumps and how to read and use them, explains us the working of the internal parts of Oracle database architecture. In addition to these, she also explains to some new goodies offered by 11g like Automatic Memory Management! Overall, its a very interesting chapter and has become my personal favorite as well!

The next chapter deals with something which is now becoming a hot topic everywhere, Maximum Availability! In this chapter, April explains quite well how MAA architecture works and also its related components like ASM, Flashback , Flashback Logs etc. April also explains to us how we can use Grid Control for the same task. This chapter is the starting point for the next two chapters which deal with the technical stuff related to MAA in a more deeper manner.

Subsequent  chapters 5 and 6, as I said just now, go deeper into the MAA and in these, April shares with us some of the key components of it like Dataguard and Flashback which help a lot to achieve the minimum downtime approach requested by many shops. April covers up almost all what is needed to become highly available. A good description of complex technologies like Dataguard and also, how to do recoveries using both manual and 11g specific automated ways, give a very valuable information. April also explains quite extensively a very important and good tool, RMAN and its various uses, including the details of how to use it to make standby database in a very effective manner.

Since 11g is now the most latest release of Oracle database, there are and would be lots of migrations that would be happening from the pervious versions to 11g. The chapter 7 deals with the same topic and in it, April explains to us various ways to achieve a flawless migration to 11g with different approaches. Using this chapter as a reference and also the database upgrade guide, I believe , one would know everything that he needs to do a successful up gradation to 11g.

The last chapter, is a collection of information of various useful tools that can come very handy when it comes to performance tuning. Staring from ORION, ADDM, ASH , April explains to us Statspack, AWR and also the performance pages of the Enterprise Manager which are very helpful in order to both diagnose and troubleshoot performance related issues. April, in this chapter, not only talks about database related tuning tool but also touches the query tuning as well, explaining various things related to it like SPM , how statistics and optimizer works! Overall, the chapter comes up as a good reference for the performance tuning related material.

In addition to the material written by April based on her insights and experiences with Oracle database, she has also put up in almost every topic, a very extensive listing of Oracle’s My Oracle Support(MOS) document note ids. Its always very difficult to find the right document, especially when you need it the most, so this listing is very useful IMO! Those who are familiar with MOS, must agree to this that its not an easy task to find the right note for the right topic so kudos to April for doing efforts and collecting these documents id’s for us.

As I said before too, a good book is always going to remain useful and this book from April, is one of those few good ones! The book content is rich and also the language chosen is simple, making it a very good read even when it deals with such a complex technology like Oracle database. A good work done by April and a recommended book!

The review, can’t be called complete without me saying thanks to Packt Publishing for two things. One, for giving me an opportunity to get my hands on this book and review it and second, for getting this book out for Oracle community! As much effort it takes to write a good piece of literature, the same goes for getting it furnished and bringing it out for the public and Packt is going a great work in it! Hope we shall see more good Oracle related titles coming from Packt in the future as well!