DBAs differ on Oracle's automation efforts

Oracle Database 10g Release 2 promises to deliver new and enhanced automated management features. But some DBAs fear those features will only create more work in the end.

The highly anticipated Oracle Database 10g release 2 comes out this summer and promises to address the DBA skills gap by delivering more automated features than any previous version. But some database management professionals think those very features will create an even greater amount of work in the end.

The new and the improved

Oracle is promising several enhancements and new features with Database 10g release 2. Here are some highlights:

  • Automatic Storage Management (ASM) includes multiple disk operations and a non-ASM database migration utility

  • Enhancements to data provisioning and Oracle Streams designed to make it easier to archive, move, and copy large data sets

  • New Fast-Start Failover for automatic fail over to standby databases

  • Integrated data encryption and key management in the database

  • Automated statistics collection directly from memory designed to eliminate the need to execute SQL queries

  • New administrative reports include automatic database workload repository comparison

Source: Oracle Corp.

"Every time we see a new tool come out, we end up having to figure out how to fix the tool," said Ron LaShaw, a DBA with Wachovia Bank in Burlington, N.C. "It will just create new work for the DBA."

LaShaw was among a roomful of other DBAs who got a chance to learn all about Database 10g release 2 during a presentation at the recent International Oracle Users' Group conference in Orlando. But not everyone expressed skepticism over Oracle's automation efforts.

"I'm actually excited about this for about the first time I've ever been excited about a new release of a database," said Blake Wilson, a DBA with SRI International, a research and development company in Menlo Park, Calif.

One thing that those interviewed did agree on is that more automated features won't necessarily lead to fewer jobs for DBAs.

"If you're a DBA worth half his weight in salt, then you ought to evolve along with the industry and become more robust in your skill set," Wilson said. "And, to tell you the truth, there will never be elimination of the DBA. There is just stuff that DBAs do that can't be done by people who don't have our skill set."

The first version of Oracle Database 10g debuted in January of last year and was billed by Oracle as a 'self-healing' database that is designed for grid computing. Oracle says that 10g release 2 will continue the focus on automation and grid computing by enhancing automatic server and disk load balancing and other features.

Release 2 will offer features geared toward developers as well. Application development enhancements include Xquery for queries and mapping of XML results inside the database. And HTML DB has been enhanced with the goal of making it easier for IT pros to deploy Web-based applications.

"I'm kind of in a flux trying to decide if HTML DB is the way to go, or Oracle Portal, in developing user interfaces for our clients," said Brad Nance, a developer with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. "Right now I don't know enough to really make a decision."

Despite some misgivings, everyone interviewed at the conference is eagerly anticipating at least one new feature, including the skeptical LaShaw.

"I understand [release 2] has more XML features than 9i. I look forward to that," he said. "Our group believes that XML is where the direction is headed."

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