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Archive for September 2011

Oracle Database Appliance – (Baby Exadata?)

Oracle today announced a new database appliance product. It’s called Oracle Database Appliance (ODA). I’m not crazy about the name, but I really like the product. Here’s a picture of the one in Enkitec’s lab:
The project was code named “Comet” – thus the yellow sticky note. 😉

I really like that name better than ODA, so I think I will just stick with Comet.

Enkitec participated in the beta test program for the product and we were very impressed, particularly with the speed at which the product could be deployed and configured. There is a new tool called the “OAK Configurator” that is sort like the Exadata OneCommand for configuring the system. Keep an eye out for Karl Arao‘s upcoming post with screen shots of the tool in action.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people talking about the specs so I won’t get carried away with that. But I will tell you that it’s basically 4 terrabytes of usable storage, 2 node RAC with up to 24 cores and a SSD component that is used for improving redo write speeds (more on that later), all in a 4U chassis. Andy Colvin has already got a really good post on the  hardware components that are included in the Oracle Database Appliance (along with pictures of the bits and bobs inside the chassis).

I should point out that while I have heard people refer to Comet as a “Baby Exadata”, I really don’t view it that way. That’s because it DOES NOT have separate storage and compute tiers. So there is no Exadata Smart Scan / Offloading secret sauce here. It also does not provide the ability to utilize Exadata’s Hybrid Columnar Compression. On the other hand, like Exadata, it is a pre-configured and tested system that can be dropped in a data center and be ready for use almost immediately (it took us only a couple of hours to set it up and create a database). Pretty unbelievable really.

So much like my favorite Bill Clinton quote, whether ODA is a “Baby Exadata” or not, really depends on your definition of the word “is”. It is a hardware platform that is built specifically to run Oracle databases, but it does not embed any of the unique Exadata software components. Nevertheless, it is an extremely capable platform that will appeal to wide variety of companies running Oracle databases.

And best of all, the list price for this puppy is only $50K. I predict this thing is going to sell like hot cakes!

Funny Developer Tricks – Decode

I ran into a really ugly SQL statement last week. It was the most expensive statement running on the system for the last several weeks. On top of the fact that the statement ran for hours, it also had a number of “issues”. The statement had the following characteristics:

  • Several DISTINCT Operators – these tend to show up in statements where developers have left off a join condition
  • ANSI Join Syntax – generally Oracle converts this syntax back to Oracle join syntax under the covers. I realize this is standard SQL syntax, but it still makes me nervous due to previous experience with problems caused by this conversion process.
  • Functions Used in WHERE Clauses (DECODE and NVL in particular) – can disable indexes
  • UNION – forces a sort of the union’ed result sets so that it can eliminate duplicates (which is often not necessary). Depending on how the statement is coded, UNIONs can also sometimes result in multiple accesses of the same objects (i.e. if the developer has used the UNION in the place of a more robust where clause).
  • Numerous != and <> Comparison Operators – Not necessarily a problem but often can be coded in a more efficient manner
  • Several OR’s – OR’s are tricky. I get suspicious when there are numerous other problems in a statement as well.

I’ll refrain from publishing the actual statement to protect the guilty, but one of the most interesting bits of the statement looked something like this:

WHERE a.col1 =  DECODE ('XYZ', '*', a.col1 ,'XYZ')

The processing of the where clause can be roughly translated to the following psuedo code:

if 'XYZ' = '*' then 
  x = a.col1
  x = 'XYZ'
end if

WHERE a.col1 = x

Since the literal ‘XYZ’ will never be equal to the literal ‘*’, the value returned by this DECODE will always be ‘XYZ’. Therefore the statement could have been written much more simply as:

WHERE a.col1 = 'XYZ'

So this is an extremely strange way to write the statement and clouds the intention considerably, but does it hurt performance? Well actually no. The optimizer is smart enough to know that this DECODE will always result in the same literal value and so it appears that Oracle does not run the DECODE statement for each row. Here’s a quick example from a database. (note that I used dplan.sql and fss.sql in this code snippet)

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