It will be at least a year before Bruce Copping's company is ready to plan an upgrade to Oracle Database 10g Release 2.
Copping, who identifies himself as a DBA, but whose "silly HR title" is senior computer scientist, works for IT contracting giant Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) in St. Paul's Church, Va. -- and he's a little irked with how quickly updates to Oracle's flagship product seem to come out these days.
"What infuriates me is that they do push these things so fast and they know that our [internal] customers…[are] not ready to move on," said Copping, who stopped to chat on his way into Sun CEO Scott McNealy's keynote address at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco last week. "I just think that they're going to the bigger releases way too soon."
Unveiled this past June, the first major update to the year-and-a-half-old Database 10g offers, among other things, increased automation of formerly manual tasks like storage management, new analytical features and enhanced XML-related capabilities.
Copping, whose company is running Database 8i, was among several DBAs interviewed at OpenWorld who said that while they're looking forward to the new features of 10g R2, it will be quite a long time before they're able to plan for migration.
Upgrade plans still aren't on the radar screen at CSC, Copping said, because his staff of roughly 200 DBAs is concerned with more important issues. For example, he said, the DBAs who serve the financial departments of CSC need to keep their focus on supporting the data that their internal customers use to create reports for company honchos.
"If they're busy worrying about every month's closing and stuff like that, there's no time to plan out big migrations," he said.
Despite those misgivings, Copping is anxiously waiting for the day his company is ready to upgrade and he can finally take advantage of some of the new features 10g has to offer. Specifically, with 10g "you can do some great performance analysis for the optimizer to get better statistics that are dated to the optimizer," he said.
As for Oracle's upgrade schedule, Copping said that while he doesn't like it, he thinks he understands the reason for it. "I realize a lot of it is marketing-driven," he admitted. "The 'marketeers' want to give it a new letter and all this silly stuff."
Others not as concerned
Oracle's upgrade schedule isn't a problem for Dave Comeau, senior DBA with Dofasco Inc., Canada's largest steel company. His organization prefers to take the conservative approach, regardless of how frequently Oracle releases new versions.
Dofasco, which boasts about 6,000 desktops and just five DBAs, is currently running Oracle Database 9.2 and plans to migrate to 10g next year.
"We always wait for the Release 2 stuff to come out because it's a bit more stable, a bit more solid," Comeau said. "Let everybody else feel the pain."
Comeau has read a lot about the new features of 10g Release 2 and says he's especially interested in its new and improved backup and recovery and self-management features, as well as the "drilled down" functionality of the Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM) console.
"It's great," Comeau said of the OEM console. "I have it on my dev system, and I'm trying to get it into production, but there's a lot of resistance from the powers that be. We'll get there eventually."
Bob Lindemulder, a DBA with Capital Health in Edmonton, Alberta, said his company is running 9i and has just started to examine 10g Release 2.
Lindemulder says he'll be psyched to try out 10g's automated storage features because currently, Capital Health's DBAs have to manage storage files themselves. He says it's a tedious process that involves manually spreading out data across table spaces that contain hundreds of files.
"The hot spots of the data files are always going to be on the files that you add at the end," Lindemulder explained. "The automatic storage manager will spread it out for you, basically striping on its own so that access will be spread out across all the discs."
…and another thing!
The rise of task automation in 10g and other database management systems (DBMS) has led some to wonder if the role of the DBA will one day go away, but CSC's Copping believes that notion is just a bunch of hooey.
The idea doesn't make sense, Copping said, because each new version of Oracle's DBMS contains so many new features -- and commands -- to learn.
"It actually gets more complex every time," he said. "The idea that all this could all be done without staff is absurd."