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Q&A: Toad for Oracle 10 focuses on developer, DBA productivity

Toad for Oracle product manager John Pocknell discusses what Oracle DBAs and developers can expect in the new Toad for Oracle 10.

Earlier this month, Quest Software, Inc. revealed the latest version of Toad for Oracle, its Oracle-based tool that provides both DBAs and developers a comprehensive set of solutions for better managing their databases and applications.

According to John Pocknell, Toad for Oracle product manager, the features in the Toad for Oracle 10 release are focused around the concept of productivity, which includes flexibility, usability, education, automation and collaboration. Quest used customer-based research to develop Toad 10, taking into account feedback from users on what features would help them better perform their jobs, Pocknell said. Assistant Site Editor Shayna Garlick sat down with Pocknell at Oracle OpenWorld 2009 to discuss the new Toad release, including what users can expect in terms of enhanced features, new capabilities, future releases and more. Listen to the full-length podcast to learn how to get the most out of Toad for Oracle 10. What are the top 3 features of Toad for Oracle 10?

John Pocknell: We have a number of features in Toad 10 which are enhancements of existing features, both for developers and DBAs, so it's a pretty packed list. But to pick the top 3 for developers and DBAs, both of whom need to understand the database environment quite well, we're providing an enhanced graphical interface called the ER diagram, which lets developers in particular, understand the environment they're working in and reduce the chances of making coding errors.

For more on Toad for Oracle
Read about the first sneak peak of Toad for Oracle 10
Learn what users had to say about previous versions of Toad
The second one is the way in which you can speed up the tasks you do on a regular basis when you're using Toad. That's particularly attractive for DBAs, who often have to multitask anyway. I just spoke to a DBA today who had 250 databases. They were interested in something that would help them run scripts simultaneously against multiple databases, because it's really laborious. This is the feature with automation designer and script manager. Both of those are designed to save a lot of time because DBAs in particular waste about 15% of their time, typically, just doing routine tasks.

The other feature I would pick would be an integration point between our Toad database monitor and another product that's part of our DBA suite called Spotlight on Oracle. Spotlight on Oracle is a real-time, diagnostics monitoring tool. It enables DBAs to visually see the database environment, identify a problem that's happening, click on it, and find the root cause of the problem and then carry on with the system back up to normal again. The integration point basically allows DBAs to more intelligently use Spotlight by having Toad generate an alert when the problem's happening. As that problem happens, they have the ability to launch Spotlight on the fly, and then find the root cause of the problem, rather than trying to use spotlight as a monitoring tool, which it's not really designed to be. What feedback did you receive from Toad 10 beta users?

Pocknell: The ER diagram was the one that probably had the most feedback because of its visual impact and it was the first feature that was available in the Toad 10 beta; therefore, there was a lot more opportunity for people to try it out. Unicode has had a lot of interest as well, particularly from our European and Asian counterparts. Are there any features that you feel like Toad for Oracle is still missing? When can we expect to see these features?

Pocknell:We're going to address 11g Release 2 and assess the needs of that market. We're going to be supporting 11g R2 in our patch release later this year because Toad was committed to GA after Oracle had made their Release 2 available. With a tool that's already packed with lots of features, I think the challenge for us is to have the customer base use more of what's in the product. And that brings me to other features that we find in Toad -- our users can actually use the content that's available in Toad World and other places in [the Toad tool itself], in context with what they're doing. I'm really hoping that's going to allow people to use much more of the product, because I think the ability to use more of an application is almost like a new feature. All of a sudden people are discovering things that were already there that provide value. How does Toad for Oracle 10 compare with SQL Developer?

Pocknell: SQL Developer is obviously a free tool, so it's very attractive to people, specifically developers. Our approach at Quest is to provide a tool for Oracle which serves the needs of many different personas. In that group I would include DBAs, developers, analysts and managers. That's the big difference, the fact that Toad can be used by different personas. The other thing is the fact that Toad has been in the marketplace for well over 10 years and has tons of content. SQL Developer is a very good tool, but people compare the two sometimes as though they are the same. They really need to look under the covers. They're conceptually the same, but I would position SQL Developer more in a narrow band, where Toad is more of a wider band and appeals to a wider range of people. Are there any other new features that you think are important to note?

Pocknell: Yes, another one that we added in Toad 10 was an enhancement to the Database Health Check. The Database Health Check is interesting for DBAs because they're managing multiple databases. They're challenged by problems around database performance, database configuration, database security vulnerabilities and things of that nature. It's very difficult for them to pin those down, especially database vulnerability -- that's a big challenge for DBAs in small to medium sized businesses. So having the ability to have a 122 point health check which can be configured independently of each database, scheduled to run automatically, is going to save them a huge amount of time. How do Toad's Development Suite and DBA Suite specifically cater to those groups?

Pocknell: From a development suite standpoint, what we wanted to offer was an integrated set of tools which extend the capabilities of Toad into other areas which are important for developers. Some of those key areas that are often missed in development processes include testing code, performance scalability and making sure that the critical code in the application is scalable when it goes into production.

The DBA team has a different set of challenges. The DBAs have multi-skill sets, so you have junior DBAs, senior DBAs, and they need to be able to do database administration very quickly and simply. The Toad DBA Suite enables them to handle performance management, performance SQL forms issues, and also address and minimize the impact of change management. We offer database workload replay testing, which allows you to capture a workload from your test environment and replay it to simulate production activity. But also do "what if" analysis. For example you can say, if the workload on my production system increases by 25 percent over the next 5 years, will my server cope with that additional load? Our workload replay testing offers the potential to do artificial scalability testing at the same time.

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