Tag Archives: administration

tnsnames.ora, keeping your connections under control

There are a lot of ancient things that prove to be still valuable today.
Recently I came across something, which I thought I could or should share here.
Your tnsnames.ora file, centrally managed in a distributed environment.

This solution applies whether you are working with the Oracle Instant Client or with the full blown setup of the client software.

Imagine you have an environment with a reasonably big bunch of PC’s. Wether you are running Linux or Windows, or if you are running some Terminal Server Forrest, where deploying, packaging and launching applications cost an arm and a leg. To keep consistency across the environment, shortcuts are not an option.
I have seen the most exotic solutions, distributing a tnsnames.ora file. Pushing versions of tnsnames.ora out to workstations, have login-procedures check and copy files… Basically every trick in the book will, at one time, get you in the situation where you have a client, connecting to a database, containing something other than the end user expects… With the appropriate consequences…
It is my firm believe that the best way still is not to distribute the file.

The coolest thing (therefore) would be to have something (obviously extremely simple), containing all your database connection aliases.
Of course you can than add each and any every facility to maintain and update this file. Be it version control or automatic deployment. Basically this one copy of your file is the source of all truth, which of course adds some importance to the file itself.

(Re)introducing the tnsnames-parameter ifile=

With this parameter you can define an instance or form of tnsnames.ora file, and store it anywhere you can reach from the endpoint, where your Oracle client is installed.

the most simple version of using ifile = here would be:
ifile = <mount_point>/path/central-file.ora

you can multiplex your tnsnames.ora:
ifile = <mount_point_1>/path/central1.oraifile = <mount_point_2>/path/central2.ora

You can nest tnsnames.ora as needed:
ifile = <mount_point>/path/general-file.ora
In general-file.ora:
ifile = <group-specific_mount_point>/path/specific.ora

These options give you a very good set of opportunities to organize your redirection-setup the way you need it.
To me, having this centralized tnsnames-setup, brings advantages in connection troubleshooting as there are no occurances of file-discrepancies.
ifile = works and you get connected… or it doesn’t, no chance of missing that last update.

Hope this helps…

dbms_redefinition houskeeping

dbms_redefinition actually is a nifty, but powerful little toolkit that let’s you change table-definitions without actually locking the table in such a manner that it would prevent regular operations from being interrupted.

You can read loads about it in the Oracle documentation or in the wealthy library by Mr. Tim Hall.

housekeepingOne thing I noticed, and which I want to share here has lots to do with the house keeping that is automatically done by dbms_redefinition. Actually it talks about some of the bits it didn’t brush up after itself.

dbms_redefinition works using triggers and materialized views to help switch from your current active production table, via a so-called interim table, back to your shiny new, redefined production table. You can follow this beautifully by querying the dba_segments view along the way.
For this it obviously creates this materialized view and the other required components and it removes them after you finish your redefinition-trip. After all that is done, you can just remove your interim table and be done with it.

At least, that is what happened in most of the cases and is what you would expect!

Though, in some cases… it proved impossible to drop the interim table. To me this was somewhat scary… did the redefinition not finish, or did it not finish correctly?

What happened?

There was this table that I redefined. It had referential integrity constraints (aka. foreign key constraints) pointing towards it. Of course dbms_redefinition neatly created version of these to the interim table to be sure nothing went wrong.build-in-flight

When finishing redefinition (with dbms_redefinition.finish_redef_table) most of the interim bits and pieces are cleared away and you just have to drop your interim table manually (okay, we can discuss if this actually would / could / should be automated, but let’s leave that).

But… when you are then manually dropping this interim table (in a busy production system, I tend to want to be careful and just issue ‘drop table int_<tablename>‘. That does not work. dbms_redefinition “forgets” to remove these referential integrity constraints in the other tables (which are neatly names tmp$$_<constraintname>).
This than means either issue ‘drop table int_<tablename> cascade constraints‘, which is more then the basic ‘drop table‘ or find these constraints and remove them manually first:

select 'alter table '||owner||'.'||table_name||' drop constraint '||constraint_name||';'
from dba_constraints dc
where constraint_type='R'
and r_constraint_name in
select constraint_name
from all_constraints
where table_name = 'INT_<tablename>'
alter table <schema>.<foreign table> drop constraint TMP$$_<constraint name>;

I guess, personally, I would like dbms_redefinition to do this for me…

It’s smart enough! it created them!

Just a quick and additional note, setting ddl_lock_timeout to 30 or 60 for your session can actually help and prevent a lot of non-sense on a busy system.

Hope this helps someone sometime 😉