Justify Oracle third-party tools with performance and cost benefits

Ignore Oracle third-party tools at your own risk and expense, according to contributor Frank Ohlhorst.

A carpenter knows it takes more than just a hammer to build a house, and the same can be said about developing an Oracle database, where having the right tools is the keys to success. Oracle offers a vast array of tools and gadgets to build databases, but many database administrators (DBAs) are turning to Oracle third-party tools for added performance and ease of use.

It is with Oracle third-party tools that DBAs and IT managers will be able to solve complex problems and overcome the challenges presented by advanced databases. Nevertheless, finding budget dollars for third-party tools and convincing those holding the purse strings that investing in third-party tools is money well spent are some of the biggest hindrances to adoption.

Reasons for adopting Oracle third-party tools

There are various reasons for using Oracle third-party tools. One of the first is that included tools do not always offer a specific capability that is needed to complete an Oracle project. A case in point would be a critical capability, such as business continuity and data backup. Several third-party tools exist that feature real-time data replication, heterogeneous database support and failover monitoring. Although Oracle offers some of those capabilities as add-on purchases, they tend to be expensive and complex to deploy, which could lead to an extended development cycle at best, or failure to protect the data at worst.

Another reason may be for database tuning. Tuning tools normally included with Oracle requires significant manual coding, static analysis and an advanced understanding of SQL commands. In other words, Oracle's own tools are anything but a quick way to solve a performance problem. Oracle third-party tools, on the other hand, incorporate visualization technologies that allow administrators to observe what is happening in the database in real time. They can also capture events, monitor commands and measure transactions, all the while comparing that information against network performance and utilization. Much of it is automated, which can quickly lead an administrator to find and cure a performance bottleneck.

Typical Oracle third-party tool features

In the quest for enhanced productivity and a quicker deployment cycle, no one can argue against the value of rapid application development tools and integrated development environments (IDEs). Those technologies are the key to maximizing the value of SQL code and the applications that use it. Oracle does offer some rapid application development capabilities, as well as an IDE that proves to be faster than coding by hand. However, by today's standards, those included tools prove to be quite rudimentary and lack advanced debugging and simulation capabilities. Developers using Oracle's native tools are finding themselves having to spend an inordinate amount of time coding SQL statements by hand and manually debugging that code line by line.

This is arguably where third-party tools can offer the most bang for the buck. IDEs offered by industry leaders, such as Embarcadero, Quest Software and others, incorporate the latest technologies with automation to eliminate manual steps that are normally involved with developing software. Those tools also include additional features that ease administration, optimize code, track changes, incorporate project management and offer an interpreter-like environment to test out user interfaces and other elements that make up a complex database application.

Visual design tools can help coders to create more attractive input screens, reports and help systems, which ultimately improve the look and feel of the application. That, in turn, leads to improved usage, user productivity and a reduction in help desk calls.

Some third-party tools are available in suite format, which incorporates features such as software development governance, database administration and policy-based compliance enforcement, which are becoming more common elements in the world of application development. Reducing the ancillary burdens on developers and administrators ultimately leads to productivity improvements. Those improvements can be measured using standard business financial formulas to attribute a value and help demonstrate the return on investment when budgeting for a third-party tool. As those third-party tools are leveraged more and more, the total cost of ownership starts to drop significantly, further solidifying the budgetary argument that third-party tools are a must to increase value and reduce costs.

With this in mind, it's not really a question of if, but when to invest in Oracle third-party tools. Database administrators, application developers and IT staffers can all quickly see the value that a third-party tool offers. However, the big challenge is demonstrating that value to those who make the purchasing decisions. With well-defined metrics and an understanding of how to measure value, most any administrator or developer should be able to quickly build a business case for a third-party tool.

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