Tag Archives: Development

Why I picked Postgres over Oracle, part III


This is the final episode of this short series of blog posts on some of my drivers for moving to Postgres from Oracle.
Please do read Part I and Part II of the series if you have not done so. It discussed the topics “History”, “More recently”, “The switch to Postgres”, “Realization”, “Pricing”, “Support” and “Extensibility”.

In summary:

  • Part one focused on “why not Oracle anymore, so much”
  • Part two discussed on the comparison between PostgreSQL and Oracle
  • Part three talks some more on what Postgres then actually is

Community

One of the more important things to be really, really aware of is that Postgres is “not just open source“. Postgres is “community open source“.

Now, why would that be important, you might wonder.

We all know what open source stands for. There are many advantages to an open source system, and in our case, an open open source database.
A number of arguments are in this blog post series. If you take this one step further though, and realize that Postgres is a community open source project, what are  extra advantages?

A community open source project is not limited, in any way, to any one specific group of developers (let’s call them a company). For example, let’s look at MongoDB. This is an open source database, but it is developed by MongoDB inc.
It is, in essence, controlled by MongoDB.

Postgres is developed by the Postgres Developer Community coached by the Postgres Core Team.
This makes Postgres incredibly open, independent and it enables its developers to truly focus on actual business problems that need to be solved. There is no ulterior drive to satisfy commercial goals or meet any non-essential requirements.

Development

A very important discriminator, that only became this clearly and apparent to me, after I dove into Postgres some more, is the development…

The actual development of the database core-software is done by this community, we’ve just identified.

“Well, yes…” you might say, this is what open source stands for. But the impact of this extends well beyond support, as I mentioned in part 2 of this series. The ability to be part of where Postgres goes, to have actual influence on the development, is awesome, especially for a database platform in the current “world in flux”.
Postgres users don’t necessarily have to wait until “some company” decides to put something on the road-map or develop it at their discretion. These company-decisions will mostly be driven by the most viable commercial opportunity, not necessarily the most urgent technical need.

The development of Postgres is more focused on “getting it right”.
One nice example is the Postgres query optimizer. The Postgres community hates bugs. When bugs start to get discussed, it results in many emails within the community, which stand for a lot of reading!
Many bugs are fixed very quickly, so that this email storm stops!
For optimizer bugs therefore, turn-around times (from reporting to having a production-fix) can be as low as 72 hours, so even for mechanisms as complex as a query optimizer.

Invitation

I would like to invite all of you in the Oracle community to take a look at the Postgres query optimizer and share your concerns, worries, bugs or praise with the Postgres community.
If you want to, you can share this with us at the https://www.postgresql.org/list/pgsql-hackers/ email list. We are looking forward to your contributions!

Future

Oracle

I can only speak from what I see. What I see is that Oracle is becoming an on-line services company. I see them moving away from core technology like the database and accompanying functions. Oracle is more an more and moving to highly specialized applications aimed at very big companies.
Chat-bots, social media interactions, integrated services and more, delivered from a tightly integrated but also tightly locked set of Oracle owned and operated data-centers, or rather, the Oracle cloud.

Is this useful? Of course, there will be targeted customers of Oracle who will continue to find this all extremely useful, and it will be, to them.
It this for me? No, not really.

Postgresql

In the beginning, Linux was not something anyone wanted for anything serious. I mean, who wanted to run anything mission critical on anything else than Solaris, HP-UX, VMS, IBM? No-one…
And that was just a few years ago. Imagine!
Today in any old data-center, if you would eliminate the Linux based servers, you would not have much left.
This same thing is now also happening in, what I guess is the second wave of open source. More complex engines are being replaced by open source and the ever present relational database engine is one of those.

Why? Price, extensibility, flexibility, focus, you name it. We have seen it before and we will see it again.

EnterpriseDB

If you permit me just these few words.

I think EnterpriseDB is extremely important for PostgreSQL. We have been fighting on the forefront since the beginning, supporting PostgreSQL’s move to the Enterprise. EnterpriseDB has been and will continue to spend a large amount of our resources to PostgreSQL. We are a PostgreSQL support company. We just have been not very good at patting ourselves on the back…
As a company we are doing extremely well, simply because Postgres is rock solid in all facets and ready to take on the word, even the most daunting tasks – and beyond.
This will continue as Postgres will continue in this second wave of Open Source.

I thank you for your attention.
If you have addition questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Why I picked Postgres over Oracle, part II

Continuing this short series of blog posts on some of my drivers for moving to Postgres from Oracle.
Please do read Part I of the series if you have not done so. It discussed the topics “History”, “More recently” and “The switch to Postgres”.

Realization

In the last months, discussing Postgres with my Oracle peers, playing with the software and the tooling, I actually quite quickly realized Postgres is a lot cooler, at least to me. Not so much of the overly complicated technology, but rather built to be super KISS. The elegance of simplicity and it still gets the job done.
Postgres handles a lot the more complex workloads than many (outsiders) might think. Some pretty serious mission-critical workloads are handled by Postgres today. Well, basically, it has been doing this for many, many years. This obviously is very little known, because who would want to spend good money on marketing  for Open Source Software, right? You just spent your time building the stuff, let somebody else take care of that.
Well… we at EnterpriseDB do just those things, …too!

And, please, make no mistake, Postgres is everywhere, from your fridge and video camera, through TV set-top boxes up to major on-line banking software. Many other places you would not expect a database to (be able to) run. Postgres is installed in places that never get touched again. Because of the stability and the low to no-touch administrative character of Postgres, it is ideally suited for these specific implementations. Structured on some of the oldest design principles around Postgres, it doesn’t have to be easy to create the database engine, as long as it “just works” in the end.
Many years ago, an Oracle sales director also included such an overview in his pitch. All the places Oracle touches everybody’s lives, every day. This is no different for Postgres, it is just not pitched anywhere, by anyone, as much.

I have the fortunate opportunity to work closely together with (for instance) Bruce Momjian (PostgreSQL core team founding member and EnterpriseDB colleague). I also had the opportunity to learn from him some of the core principles on which Postgres was designed and built. This is fundamentally different from many other software projects I know and I feel it truly answers some of the core-requirements of database projects out there today! There is no real overview of these principles, so that’s on my to-do list.

Working with PostgreSQL

Pricing

Postgres is open source… it is true open source. It is even a true community open source project, but more about that later in the next installment.

Open source software is free to use, it does not cost nothing!

But, wait! Open source does not mean for free! How…, why…, what do you mean??

Well… you need support, right!?
The community can and will help you, answer questions, solve some of your problems. But they will not come in to install, configure and run Postgres for you. You will need to select and integrate your specific selection out of the wealth of tools. You basically have a whole bunch of additional tasks to complete to get your Postgres platform sorted out.
Companies like EnterpriseDB can help you mitigate these tasks. This allows you to focus on the things you actually want to achieve, using Postgres

In comparison to traditional database vendors, the overall price of your solution will absolutely significantly reduce when using Postgres as your open source database engine.

Support

A significant difference between Oracle (for instance) and Open Source support services is interchangeability.
In the end, Oracle support can only be given by Oracle. They are the only ones that have access to the software sources and can look up (and hopefully fix) issues. In the support of Postgres, or any true community open source product, different companies can provide support. If you don’t like the company you work with… you switch. This drives these companies to be really good at delivering support! How is that for an eye opener.

Extensibility

One of the superb advantages of Postgres is its native extensibility. I mean, think about it for a moment… having a relational database platform with the strength of Postgres, the strength of Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server for that matter. Postgres gives you more options to integrate a wealth of data sources, data types, custom operators and many more other extensions than you will ever need! The integration into Postgres is so solid, these extensions function like any other function in the core of Postgres.
And, rest assured, chances that you will ever be faced with having to built this yourself are extremely slim. There are 30 to 40 thousand developers working with larger and smaller pieces of code of Postgres. Chances are that if you find yourself challenged, somebody else faced and solved that challenge before you. That solution will then be available for you to take and use, solve your challenge and move on. That is also open source for you.

This capability is what makes Postgres ultimately suited to fit the central role in any polyglot environment, we see being built today.
Maximizing the amount of information from data available in multiple data silos in an organization. This is a challenge we see more and more often today. Integrating traditional  applications as ERP, CRM, with data-warehousing results, again combined with Big-data analysis and event-data-capture aggregates. This generates additional decision-driving information out of the combination of these silos. Postgres, by design, is ultimately suited for this. It saves you for migrating YUGE amounts of data from one store to another, just to make good use of it.
The open source Dogma “Horses for courses” eliminates double investments, large data migrations or transformations, it just enables you to combine and learn from what you already have.

End of part II

A link to part three of this blog post will be placed here shortly.

Why I picked Postgres over Oracle, part I

As with many stories, if you have something to tell, it quickly takes up a lot of space. Therefore this will be a series of blog posts on Postgres and a bit of Oracle. It will be a short series, though…

Let’s begin

History

 I have started with databases quite early on in my career. RMS by Datapoint… was it really a database? Well, at least sort of. It held data in a central storage, but it was a typical serial “database”. Interestingly enough, some of this stuff is maintained up to today (talk about longevity!)
After switching to a more novel system, we adopted DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) VAX, VMS and Micro VAX systems! Arguably still the best operating system around… In any case, it brought us the ability to run, the only valid alternative for a database around, Oracle. With a shining Oracle version 6.2 soon to be replaced by version 7.3.4. Okay, truth be told, at that time I wasn’t really that deep into databases, so much of the significance was added later. My primary focus was on getting the job done, serving the business in making people better. Still working with SQL and analyzing data soon became one of my hobbies.
From administering databases, I did a broad range of things, but always looping back to or staying connected to software and software development using databases.
Really, is there any other way, I mean, building software without using some kind of database?
At a good point in time, we were developing software using the super-trendy client-server concept. It served us well at the time and fitted the dogma of those days. No problems whatsoever. We were running our application on “fairly big boxes” for our customers (eg. single or double core HP D 3000 servers) licensed through 1 or 2 Oracle Database Standard Edition One licenses, and the client software was free anyway…
Some rain must fall
The first disconnect I experienced with licensed software was that time we needed to deploy Oracle Reports Server.
After porting our application successfully to some kind of pre-APEX framework, we needed to continue our printing facilities as before. The conclusion was to use Oracle Reports Server, which we could call to fulfill the exact same functionality as the original client-server printing agent (rwrbe60.exe, I’ll never forget) did. There was only no way we could do this, other than buying licenses for (I though it was) Oracle BI Publisher, something each of our clients had to do. This made printing more expensive than the entire database-setup, almost even the biggest part of the entire TCO of our product, which makes no sense at all.

More recently

This disconnect was the first one. Moving forward I noticed and felt more and more of a disconnect between Oracle and, what I like to call, core technology. Call me what you will, I feel that if you want to bring a database to the market and want to stay on top of your game, your focus needs to be at least seriously fixed on that database.

Instead we saw ever more focus for “non-core” technology. Oracle Fusion, Oracle Applications (okay, Oracle Apps had been there always), and as time progressed, the dilution became ever greater. I grew more and more in the belief that Oracle didn’t want to be that Database Company anymore (which proved to be true in the), but it was tough for me to believe. Here I was, having spent most of my active career focused on this technology, and now it was derailing (as it felt to me).

We saw those final things, with the elimination of Oracle Standard Edition One, basically forcing an entire contingent of their customers either out (too expensive) or up (invest in Oracle Standard Edition Two, and deal with more cost for less functionality). What appeared to be a good thing, ended up leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
And, of course… the Oracle Cloud, I am not even going to discuss that in this blog post, sorry.

The switch to Postgres

For me the switch was in two stages. First, there was this situation that I was looking for something to do… I had completed my challenge and, through a good friend, ran into the kind people of EnterpriseDB. A company I only had little knowledge of doing stuff for PostgreSQL (or Postgres if you like, please, no Postgré or things alike please, find more about the project here), a database I had not so much more knowledge of. But, their challenge was very interesting! Grow and show Postgres and the good things it brings to the market.

Before I knew it, I was studying Postgres and all the things that Postgres brings. Which was easy enough in the end, as the internal workings and structures of Postgres and Oracle do not differ that much. I decided to do a presentation on the differences between Postgres and Oracle in Riga. I was kindly accepted by the committee even when I told them, my original submission had changed!
A very good experience, even today, but with an unaccepted consequence. -> The second part of the switch was Oracle’s decision to cut me out of the Oracle ACE program.

It does free me up, somehow, to help database users across Europe, re-evaluate their Oracle buy-in and lock-in. Look at smarter and (much) more (cost)-effective ways to handle their database workloads. This finalized “the switch”, so to speak.
Meanwhile more and more people are realizing that there actually are valid alternatives to the Oracle database. After the adoption of the Oracle database as the only serious solution back in the early 1990’s, the world has changed, also for serious database applications!

End of Part I

Please follow this link to the second part of this blog post.

Hey JAVA-developer, why don’t you love your database

Why this post?

Partly, this blogpost is a result of a promise to Lukas Eder. Basically my vision adheres quite nicely to the “Thick Database” driven by Bryn Llewellyn and Toon Koppelaars who, understandibly, drive this from an Oracle perspective.
It –more than of course- also nicely fits EnterpriseDB or even vanilla PostgreSQL database landscapes.

There is apparently still so much confusion in the world on the how, why and what of good application development and architecture that I decided to chip in my bit. I think I have a bit of an idea on how this aught to work and I also think it is not a half bad idea, plus a couple of people whom I highly regard, seem to agree with it. So here goes…

Traditionally

Traditionally there is no big love between application developers and their persistence-store. I don’t really know why because I never found the opportunity to do a real inquiry, but I think I have a reasonable understanding.

Basically there is constantly the enormous pressure of delivering new features and functionality. So much even that the basic development work, the more “boring” and “time consuming” things -why pay now, if you can also pay later- get postponed. Things like peer-reviews, (integration) testing, technical design… Basically, more people means more features.
If even these things get too little attention, why would something like an overpriced library-box get more attention? Not to mention these DBA’s you need to pass to even get close(r) to this library-box…

Here are my four reasons why I think
it should deserve a chance!

1. Easier

Plain and simple. It is easier. If you take a structured query language like PL/(pg)SQL, it is basically easy. Founded on the programming language ADA, it is easy to understand and one can quite easily build a number of routines, procedures, packages, functions to let the database chop and glue data and just deliver the results for your application to consume.
It saves you the time of having to (re)write some of this more complex stuff in your application or perhaps even over a several applications.

2. Quicker

As said under the first point: build once, use many times. By creating mechanisms in the database, you get the opportunity to think about the separating data manipulation mechanisms from data representation mechanisms and where you want to put which specific function. Of course, this decision process takes a little extra time in the beginning, but will repay many times over as your projects grows and gains meaningful complexity (is there something like “meaningful complexity”, well, yes…).

Quicker also is in operational response times. Querying a stored procedure will bring agility to your application in a sense that this stored procedure will be much quicker in getting you the answer than if you do this in a distributed (middle-ware) environment. These stored procedures can be accessed through REST-endpoints, giving flexibility and the possibile desired disconnect between the database and the application layer.

3. Cheaper

Powerful, because you are and you remain close to the data. No data transportation overhead, no latency. These kinds of slimming down, mean less requirements to infrastructure and distributed capacities (either hardware or (virtual) “cloud infrastructure”. This slimming down frees up budget which can then be spend on the more meaningful bits and pieces of your application.

4. More consistent

Finally, I think this approach brings more consistency. As you do things near the data it lives on, near the processing power you depend on, you also get single access paths to specific bits of your data, to specific constructs that drive the value of the application you are building. Through this, it does not matter from where you call this service, REST-endpoint, stored procedure, or whatever you call it, you always get the same answer, driving a consistent decision process based on that application.

And if ever something changes, there is also just one place for you to ensure these new requirements are added. Voila, consistency throughout your application landscape, as all that depends on this data-set gets this uniquely updated information.

The magic of working together

There is a lot of misunderstanding between DBA’s and Developers. I have been in both roles at some point and I have seen this happen first hand. One of the things, though, in that force field, I have learned, is the power, the joy and, through this, the magic of working together.
In the end, we all have the same goal, which is furthering our business by being the best at what we do. This means, for a developer, meeting feature request, short development cycles, quick delivery and as much as possible, get it right in one go. For a DBA this means making sure the database stays consistent, performant and available. And, in extension of that, for operations it means that the final product must be easily and quickly deployable to enter into an uneventful and dependable life-cycle.

Bringing together these seemingly conflicting disciplines is fun! By investing a little time in exploring the other disciplines, you will find common drivers, in a sense that everyone want the same thing. By getting over nearly religious initial differences, you will find magic in the combination. You will reach your goals earlier with the bonus that your co-workers will also reach their goals earlier and have a better end result than you dreamt possible.

True JAVA-Champion

Coming from another world, I do not know the requirements for becoming a JAVA-Champion. I imagine it to be not too much different from other recognition programs out there… But…
If you create more features and functions and you are able to run your application with greater concurrency on (way) less platform-power. Thus increasing the RIO on your application, this makes you a true Champion of JAVA and your business!! If you are able to combine this with some magic in your cooperation’s…
Believe me, it is more fun in the end too!

Containerization, do we need container-carriers?

In maritime logistics containers and container carriers are not really new.

Sitting in the plane, the following thoughts occurred to me…

In fact, containers in IT are a concept which is 1-on-1 derived from these physical containers.
We have seen and read many good and informative blog-posts and presentations about this. Obviously there is a lot of confusion about this as well. In my opinion you should be careful to mix and match too intensively. I think containerization and micro services, for instance have a lot less in common that some would lead you to believe.
This though is not what I wanted to discuss.

I would want to argue that one can containerize a stack too deep (or too high, depending on your viewpoint).

A container, typically, is an isolatable element which can be stacked upon another isolatable element. For instance, a Webserver is stacked upon an instance of bash, stacked upon it’s dependencies, creating an container stack which is capable of serving http-requests at port 80 of the up-address inherited from the IP-stack underneath the bash-instance.

Well, logical. Repeatable, but in a sense also complex, complexity by the sheer number of layers that compromise the stack.

Wouldn’t it be an idea to extend this train of thought and also introduce container carriers?

Just like in the analogy with container carriers in maritime logistics, these would be larger founding blocks on which various containers can be stacked.

  1. How would this differ from a setup with a regular VM? You would still have the lightweight, easily transportable qualities of containers.
  2. How would this differ from just stacking containers to create this? It would enable further development of seamless integration of the founding layers of what this container carrier is made up of, improving stability and specialization.

It eliminates the feeling of wheel-reinvention that for me, somehow still remains lingering around software containers. With the ever growing adoption of container technology, as the foundation for cloud-infrastructure, it can for a quick cost-saver.

My thought-train put to paper. Hope it helps someone, somewhere, somewhat…

#Oracle cutting in inspiration and new business?

Over the many years Oracle has been leading the database world, I guess they are now taking something of a wrong turn.
Let me briefly fill you in on my thoughts.

Basically I see two “minor” shifts that are significantly indicative of this:

  1. Oracle Standard Edition 2
  2. Oracle ACE Program

Okay, so you might think I am crazy, but let me try to explain.

Oracle Standard Edition 2

Sometime last year, the long expected, anticipated…, dreaded perhaps even, change to the Oracle database licensing strategy was there.

Oracle Standard Edition (SE) and Oracle Standard Edition One (SE1) licenses were addressed.
There was A LOT of debate on this, I mean, A LOT. Discussions which ran all the way back to HQ, and were driven by passionate people inside and outside of Oracle, inside and outside of the Oracle community… To no avail.

It had been very clear for quite a long time that the SE / SE1 strategy was nothing short of unsustainable inside the Oracle licensing realm. Even though, Oracle SE and SE1 enabled many projects and customers to adopt the phenomenal Oracle technology for their projects. It has some limitations, but with smart thinking and smart planning, a lot of projects could be run with Oracle SE(1). “I am such a good DBA, I can even do it with Oracle Standard Edition!”
Alas, we now have Oracle Standard Edition 2 (SE2) with a new and upgraded price of US 17k (!!) making this solution rather out of the question for many of the projects meant in the above. Please note that SE1 already was a significant investment for some of the projects I have learned to know over the years in regions as the Baltics and Africa.
Yes, of course, I know you can do all of this “In the cloud”. But with the limitation that there are hardly any CSPs (Cloud Service Providers 😉 that enable you to make use of the “cheaper” Oracle license. If you want to leverage your local cloud vendor (mind my word-choice here) it’s BYOL (Bring Your Own License) and, voila, you’re done in for anyway.

Hence, the first significant “shift” in Oracle’s span of attention for new business, creativity and growth…

Oracle ACE Program

More recently there was also a change in the Oracle ACE Program. Which has also led to much debate. But… that bit of the change I am not referring too, I am referring to the bit that does not affect me directly…

Oracle has a small number of very highly appreciated and “industry leading” community advocates called “Oracle ACE Directors”. These people not only have a deep knowledge of everything that is happening in this corner “of the industry”, but are also very passionate about sharing this knowledge. Sharing with Oracle Users, sharing with stakeholders within the Oracle organization, basically, with everyone with a hunger for knowledge around the technology.

For this, these Directors had a few privileges. When the invested their time and their energy in traveling this globe to share, Oracle would support them in some of their travel expenses. This always had the air of “wow, they are paid”. Believe me, it was bare minimal support, just a flying ticket and a hotel-bed to a previously approved conference, when they actually were accepted to do a talk. Nothing shiny, nothing business-classy…

Until now. With the changes to the system, also these modest privileges for the Directors have seized to be.

There was my second significant “shift” in Oracle’s span of attention for new business, creativity and growth…

It has me worried… I should not worry, as it does not affect my day-to-day business… yet.

Albeit we have this cool tech, with PL/SQL, with APEX, with all the features, options and what not, to create solutions that could really better the word (I also firmly believe this).

Oracle is just closing this door, and my toes were still in the doorway, so that hurts.

This was my rant, hope it helps.

#DOAG2016, definitely a crazy week.

#DOAG2016, the largest Oracle Community gathering in Europe. Taking place in Nuremberg, at the Nuremberg Convention Center NCC, one of the more impressive places to hold such a conference, towering 4 stories high, with a big central atrium!!
It is a huge effort to get all of this together!

In this blog-post I want to highlight some of the crazy things I experienced this week… And… I did try to follow my own schedule, but I wasn’t overly successful.

Young talent

One of the things that was somehow quite clear this week, is that we have a lot of young talent out there, eager to learn and share experiences. It is not just the #NextGen “movement” of DOAG, of which Carolin Hagemann made me aware, but just young people on the conference itself.

Discussing “Young PL/SQL” at the unconference session made us all aware that our part of the IT trade is no very sexy and popular with the youngsters. This all despite what was mentioned above. In universities we train SQL, but we don’t train to create real-life business applications, leveraging the power of the one language that keeps SQL close to the data it feasts on, PL/SQL. But, more on that below (Thick Database Paradigm).
To promote PL/SQL, basically two ground requirements were defined:

  1. Create a free ‘PDB as a Service’ for schools;
  2. Inspire teachers to talk about data centric computing

By finding somebody to be regionally or globally owner of this quest, it should be possible to get young professionals as familiar using PL/SQL for creating performant and business-ready applications as they were familiar using Microsoft Excel to do their accounting “back in the days”

ACE program

“There is a disturbance in the force!”

For everybody not acquainted with the Oracle ACE Program by the Oracle Technology Network… You should be!! Please read up, as it is an incredible cool initiative.

The disturbance, you ask?
Well, to retain your “status”, Oracle expects you to do “stuff” and this “stuff” is then evaluated on a yearly basis. Basically the initiative, the disturbance, is to get some transparency in “the stuff”. And, as always, everybody wants change, but few actually are good at “change”. There are rimples and things that change, but in the end; everything will be fine, unless, obviously, when it will not be fine.

Talks

I was honored to (co)host to talks at #DOAG2016:

Bad Boys of Replication – Changing everything…
With Oracle ACED and good friend Björn Rost, about an intense migration project we did some time ago. We were even offered to host our talk in Tokio, the biggest hall at DOAG!

Saving lives at sea at an industrial scale using Oracle Cloud Technology
An insightful (at least I like to think so) talk with my colleague Oliver Limberg. The talk is about the rapid development of a global portal for the maritime logistics branch.

I had a blast, and I hope you did too!

Community spirit

Oracle User Group conferences are about sharing and are about fun. Mr. Martin Widlake wrote a good post about that.

Apart from all the “more formal” things that happened, there were quite a few extracurricular activities, mostly involving an Irish Pub or a restaurant.

This all may sound quite funny and exciting, and, yes, it is alto talk with your co-workers: “Oh, hey, you are going to have fun and party all week!” Of course it is not a drag and a bore, but it has very profound function!
Whenever you run into trouble, these are the exact same people that are not only able, but probably also inclined to help you out, as you would help them out, as friends do among each other. In the end, they, you, your boss and your clients benefit. This is not to be underestimated too much.

The extra, special bit, that DOAG offers are the so called “unconference sessions”.
Not scheduled, no slides, nothing official, just getting together and discussing subjects of interest. Our “Young PL/SQL” was one of these “unconference session”, which turned out to be a great (and valuable) success!

Meeting people

Just to name a few, heroes of long and of yet to come for #DOAG2016:

Dietmar Neugebauer
Frank Dernoncourt
Joel Kallman
Johannes Ahrends
Kamil Stawiarski
Laurent Leturgez
Maja Veselica
Marcel Hofstetter
Piet de Visser
Sabine Heimsath
Stefan Kinnen
Stew Ashton
Uwe Hesse
Zoran Pavlovic
And alle the ones I forget to mention here!!

Thick Database Paradigm

Noting new in IT…

Well, no.

The Thick Database Paradigm (opposed to the “No PL/SQL Paradigm”) is nothing new. We have actually all been doing this since the eighties. Program your business rules, your constraints, everything that makes sure that your data is all that you want it to be, close to that data.
There are so many reasons that speak in favor of this approach that it is nearly overwhelming and deserves at least a book in itself. But, let me make a small attempt to highlighting a few here:

  • spare yourself network bandwidth, by not sending data all over your network to be processed
  • safeguard your data inside the (Oracle) database, so it can be protected by all that has been invented to do so
  • Transact data where it lives and combine and aggregate it there, you will be amazed by the efficiency
  • Remind yourself why you used to think “business logic in middle teer” was a good idea

If you leave possibile religious believes aside, there is no other conclusion possible then that the reinvention of “Thick Database” is the (re)discovery of 2016, right from the time when IT still made sense.

Yes, there are cases where an “Enterprise Service Bus” makes sense, but, as with every technology withing IT, it has a very specific area where it actually adds value or even makes sense. At best, a lot less than all the places where it is used currently!
Not to get carried away in this joyful blog-post, I will leave this topic at this.

The end

I hope to see you at the next Oracle User Group conference, somewhere… Please watch for the asterisk at his page for the conferences that I will attend.

OTN Appreciation Day: PL/SQL

We are posting these blog posts today as part of the OTN Appreciation Day, a celebration for the Oracle Technology Network as suggested by Tim Hall, inspired by Debra Lilley.

The mission was not too hard: write about your favorite bit of Oracle Technology.

As a developer and a core-tech DBA and APEX enthusiast… the choice was easy! PL/SQL (apart from how it is pronounced or even written ;-)!

Why? Easy!

Not just because PL/SQL is easy to learn, for a language that is basically so extremely powerfull! But foremost because it is an easy choice.
If you have a database like the Oracle database and you have your valuable data living inside that database, you want to maximize the potential value of that data. Use and manipulate it quickly, keep it safe, make it available in a sensible way. For that you use PL/SQL.
You create a safe haven for the data, making sure it can only be manipulated in a safe and pre-defined way by exposing data retrieval and manipulation through PL/SQL packages and business logic, creating an API-interface, controlling the access to one of your most valuable assets.

One of the master showmanship features of PL/SQL is Oracle Application Express! Based entirely on PL/SQL, showing how powerful it is to incorporate modern web-technology on top of data-centric, data-driven application development.
With this technology, I see very little need to create utterly complex multi layered (mind you, I explicitly did not say multi tiered!) software stack approach, to create agile and modern applications. Add Edition Based Redifinition, and you have the perfect CI/CD* Agile Rapid Web Application Development environment everybody dreams of! Please, for once accept this simple truth 😉

So, my choice for this celebration: Please embrace PL/SQL and make your world a better place.

Long live the Oracle Technology Network!! Hurray!!

* Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery

#DBADev (Ops), who knows what is going on…

I have been considering writing this article for quite some time now.
APEX Connect 2016 in Germany’s capital Berlin and the DOAG Database days have finally persuaded me to talk more about #DBADev, let me explain why…

Whenever in the stone age…

During my career as DBA, I was always working closely together with Oracle Forms & Reports developers. In retrospect, the cooperation in that time was remarkable.
These Forms & Reports developers had always been used to working on a host-based platform.

For those of you who actually remember Oracle Forms & Reports and wonder…
Was there ever Forms & Reports host based?
Yes there was, but it is creepily long ago!!

Because of the nature of Forms & Reports, there always was a lot of consideration about where to place application code. This especially became true when PL/SQL was introduced and the migration to Oracle Forms & Reports 6.5 came about.
This brought the transition to client/server based computing and introduced physical distance between the database and the “front-end”.
Front-end between quotation marks, as in today’s world we don’t actually know “front-end” anymore in this same qualification. The “Frond-end” was always more elegantly and fittingly described as a “fat-client”, because of the sheer size of the software and utilities that were required on the end-users workstation.

The physical separation and distance between the presentation entity and the data manipulation engine required and inspired a lot of thought and debate on where the bulk of data processing had to be done.
You can imagine the impact of having a specific data manipulation done inside an Oracle Form that lived on a desktop on the other end of the network. Especially when the required data set is large. Having 1,000 records being fetched, where 2 where manipulated and then send back in bulk, repeated 100 times, 4 times a minute on a 10 Mbps network. OK, clear, that needs to be done smarter.
The solution: work with small data sets and do database side manipulation to limit client/server communication. And actually, that worked quite well!!

All good and fine… But how does this tie in to #DBADev? This already sounds so harmonious. And how could APEX Connect 2016 have inspired this article?

Well… Let’s see

Later on, I found that this cooperation appeared to be not so normal.
If you step out of the world of client-server computing and move on to “todays world”, that started more or less in the nineties with web based computing – or cloud-computing “avant la lettre“ or “my stuff on your computer” or however you describe it – you find a world that consists of “strange things”.
I find these things “strange things” because I believe they are suboptimal, and luckily I find myself not alone in this corner.
Suboptimal in a way that data manipulation solutions (lets call them applications for now) should be considered to be database agnostic. This independence dictates that you use the database as just a data store or even more accurately, as a persistency store. Blane Carter 2 minute TechTip

In another scenario these applications are designed and build by developers who are very good at creating intuitive and sharp looking user interfaces. Unfortunately often with a lesser developed understanding of the mechanics involved in dishing up and serving data to this newly established middle tier.

With the continuing professionalization of IT over the past 20 years, we have seen the creation of a wide variety of disciplines. These range from those who think about IT (architects, managers, designers) to those who build IT (programmers, engineers) to those who run IT (system administrators, operators) and the majority of these disciplines today are self-contained groups of professionals and specialists who excel at their own game. Basically that is good as the profession is wide and complex enough to support this.
The problem is that there is no longer anyone who has the whole picture.

Bring it on / together!

apex-logoAPEX Connect 2016, to me personally, was the first time I really saw #DBADev in practice. With the following two examples I want to illustrate my inspiration.

The first talk of this genre was @alexnuijten with his confessions, and subsequent smart tips and best practices in “Structuring an APEX application”.
As a pure database developer like Alex, you are automatically more prone to thinking about “DBA-stuff”. A lot of these best practices, although they are very database centric, like using a view for each application screen, are obviously primarily there to help the developer. And, don’t get me wrong, that is a very good thing! Alex inspires to try and combine the best of both worlds, which helps getting the most out of your application, your database, and therewith frankly, out of your total investment.

The second example was the information-packed presentation by Dietmar Aust @daust_de, called “Oracle APEX Scripting – die Kommandozeile ist Dein Freund“ (the command line is your friend).
Much more than “just about developing”, this presentation bridged gaps in more than one way. Perhaps it is even #DBADevOps if you think about it.

The recent DOAG Database days held a few additional surprises with the presence of @cczarski and @nielsdb. A very will pitched presentation by Bruno Cirone really sparked the growing interest in the topic!!

It is funny how an idea that was initiated some 18 months ago, conceived together with Sabine Heimsath @flederbine has grown and evolved out of natural demand. For me, this is one other aspect of the industry, where APEX is setting new frontiers.
With a growing awareness and more people recognizing the gap, the deficits it is bringing and the benefits cooperation brings, I have good hopes.

APEX is not only the technology that enables you to create web-based apps super quickly, it is also the technology that brings developers and DBA’s truly closer to each other, ensuring a maximum bang for the buck when it comes to utilizing your database infrastructure investments!
I am not saying we are there, but this is definitely a first step in the right direction!

Why GUI sucks…

Of course we all know GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, just as CLI stands for Command Line Interface, right!
Or, rather, a GUI is this nice, flashy screen where you can easily roam with your mouse, comparable to a multiple choice quiz, where the right answer is there for the picking.
A CLI on the other hand is this dark, mysterious blinking cursor… Nothing happens unless you know more or less what you are doing. Comparable to an open questions quiz.

Sparked by a recent Twitter discussion, I decided I should probably write the umpth blog post about this to make my contribution to this lasting dispute.

Disclaimer:
This post discusses GUI in relation to system administration, not necessarily in relation to data-entry or data manipulation applications that are used in front offices all over the world. I guess CLI has no place in a world like that…

bad gui

Why GUI sucks?
I have done my fair share of installing, scripting, ad-hoc fiddling, testing and trying. And, I have found myself in the situation where I worked with younger computer geeks or even in situations where nobody had the time to figure anything out – stuff just had to be made to work.

Probably in the few lines above, we could already have the basics for this discussion!

But, why then does GUI suck?

GIU’s suck because they are limiting, labor (or rather RSI) intense and require you, the operator, to be there, physically clicking away on your computer.

Limiting
They are limiting, or at least most of the time they are, because it is often quite hard to get a visual representation of each and every function of a device / program / system etc. If you consider, for instance, a networking device and then try to imagine having to create a GUI that lets the operator configure and define each and every parameter of a specific VLAN or VPN. And then also bear in mind that the GUI has to stay crisp, clean and intuitive.
For this reason, I have seen many vendors who have created a GUI for basic setup only, relying on the professionals to find their way in the CLI. They GUI can then stay intuitive enough to at least get the basics done.

GUI’s that aim not to be limiting, of which there also are a few out there too, need to sacrifice a lot of the things that a good GUI should stand for:

  • Short click paths (3 clicks from anywhere to get where you want to be)
  • Intuitive (don’t have to guess or read a manual to use a GUI)

So, what you end up with, then, is a maze of riddles, where you can easily spend a good day setting up some new functionality. Somehow I believe this is not what the designers had set out for nor is it a valid solution for most tasks at hand.

Labor intense
I personally find GUI’s often, quite labor intense. Not just for the absence of the ability to automate tasks, though. Especially if there is a lot of specific configuration that needs to be done, you often end up left and right clicking until your hands start hurting.
And, in the end, you always end up with the eerie feeling that you missed out on that one specific setting that would really put the icing on your configuration.

Operator presence
Last, but not least… For a GUI to work, you need to be at your workstation. Period.
Anybody who has ever worked on automated testing of applications that rely on a GUI, knows about the hideous crime of having to script test-cases, either working with hidden button-labels, screen coordinates, etc. Where these scripts fail every other day because a developer moved a window to a better spot or used a new button-label. You end up coding your application just to make it testable.
No, GUI requires operator presence, making it useless for automation or scaling.

good_cliThe bliss of CLI
Okay, middle Ages… or Stone Age…
Nothing really fancy, just a black (or, if you are feeling frivoled, you may choose some nice color) square on your screen with a blinking underscore – most often. And then you say; GUI sucks?

One of the challenges in this hyper fast moving world full of smart phones, tablet PC’s and what have you, loaded with intuitive and fast apps, is to realize that actually “hard core IT” is hard core.
You need to learn your stuff first, know what you do and know about the consequences of choices you make. You will have to learn to be able to walk the walk and to talk the talk. Once you have mastered that, this blinking underscore is no longer a roadblock but a invitation! Just like after mastering a foreign language, you will know what to say and do to open up the potential at your fingertips.

And now, reality
Of course, the above is ranting is just one side of the story.
It is even just one side of the story in hard core IT!

As already stated above, sometimes there is no time to really dive into stuff and get to know the tools you need to get to work for you. I am pretty sure we all have been in a place where we needed to get a project done or some functionality realized, where we just did not have the right devices.

What are your options at such a moment?
Get a hardcore IT specialist who does “talk the talk”?
Probably it will not be cheap and probably it will be a very thorough configuration, but just not exactly as you need it to be… Though still a valid option, even in a number of cases it’s a no-go.
This… is where a good GUI comes in handy.
It will allow you, yourself, to organize that which needs organizing in an orderly fashion. Okay, the GUI will have to be accurate and well thought through, but I that goes for all interfacing, that is also true for the CLI.

Seeing this story unfold… I guess I still think GUI sucks. (sorry!)
But GUI has a place, a very well earned place in a super-fast and highly demanding world. Still I am convinced that if you are working in a highly professional environment, having to do intricate stuff on ever live environments, I would say a good script for a CLI is the only way you can create some assurance that whatever change you need to execute will actually have a predictable result.

And putting in the effort of learning how to use any CLI? Well, I guess that’s why it is called “professional IT”.