Most DBAs say their organizations typically postpone the deployment of new Oracle database management systems at least until the second release comes out, to avoid first-release bugs. And when they finally do deploy the systems, DBAs say it often takes a bit longer for them to get accustomed to -- and start seeing the full benefits of -- new database features and functionality.
"You can turn on a new feature, but even if you take the new-features course or upgrade your certification, some of the best parts of that feature may not become obvious until you're really, really familiar with it and you really get some use out of it," said Brian Fedorko, a senior DBA with Viper Engineering, a firm that does contract work for Lockheed Martin.
Sometimes DBAs are reluctant to turn on new database features out of the box for fear they might break something. Other times, they turn something on, decide they don't like it and turn it back off again. That's exactly what happened to Charles Schultz after his team tried to use Oracle Database 10g's Automatic Memory Management (AMM) feature.
Schultz, a senior DBA with the University of Illinois, said the AMM feature wreaked havoc within the System Global Area, a "big heap of memory" that is allocated by an Oracle instance and shared among Oracle processes.
"Different memory components were being resized at very rapid paces -- two or three per second or something like that -- and that causes a slowdown in and of itself even without your database having any other cause for slowing down," Schultz explained.
Then there are the times when features work as advertised, and DBAs quickly start to realize their benefits. For Schultz, that was the case with Oracle 10g's Automatic Workload Repository (AWR) features.
ADDM helps users identify problematic SQL statements, while AWR collects database performance statistics for analysis and tuning, shows the time spent in the database and saves session information, according to Oracle's Web site.
"[ADDM and AWR] come in really handy, especially if you're using Oracle Enterprise Manager," Schultz said. "They can really help you drill down, find out where your problems are at and then, sometimes, [they give] you helpful hints on how to fix them. Other times they kind of leave you hanging, but at least they can get you started in the right direction."
Schultz added that it took about four to five months before his team began realizing the full potential of ADDM and AWR.
"It's such a double-edged sword," Schultz said of database innovations, "because once you foray into something that's brand-new, you're obviously going to hit some bad spots and you're going to hit some bugs. But then there's also the other side where you're on the leading edge of resolving those bugs. You can learn so much."
What makes a good database innovation?
Shultz's experience with ADDM has given him a taste for anything that can help improve the efficiency of SQL statements. That's why he says he's particularly looking forward to Oracle 11g's new SQL Performance Analyzer, which essentially lets users see exactly how individual SQL statements affect the database.
Meanwhile, Fedorko says he'd be interested in any new feature that produces a solid return on investment without slowing down the system.
"If you take a look at the new capabilities offered by Oracle 11g, the ones that are going to be the most popular with DBAs are usually going to be the ones that have little to no impact on performance yet impact the bottom line of the business," he said.
Those features will likely include Oracle 11g's new encryption and automatic data compression capabilities, which dramatically reduce the amount of space needed to store information and save money in the process, Fedorko said.
"When you can save money on disk space, when you can save money on backup tapes, when you can keep yourself from a potentially litigious situation -- those are things that you get a return on investment for," he said. "It's like getting something for virtually nothing."