Oracle on Windows
January 29, 2004
Microsoft takes a beating at times from frustrated users of its own products and from users of third party products hosted on Windows. When it comes to using Oracle on Windows, it seems that a frequently appearing solution to problems is to reboot the PC. In reality, rebooting is necessary at times, especially after installing a security update, service pack or application. And of course, rebooting is required after receiving the ignominious Blue Screen of Death. Another fact of reality is that Windows has become an increasingly more stable operating system. Yet another, and more germane fact to readers of this article, is that Windows is becoming more and more popular as a choice for hosting the underlying operating system for an Oracle database.
So why should you learn about or use Oracle on Windows? One reason already mentioned has to do with Windows supplying the underlying operating system. If you change jobs often enough or develop enough applications, sooner or later, you're dealing with Oracle on Windows. Another reason, more personal or self-interest in nature, has to do with the fact that Oracle is easy to install on Windows, and more likely than not, you have a PC at home you can use to learn and practice essential (or not) database administration skills. You can also learn about other Oracle products and how they interact with the RDBMS. For example, one of the Windows-related installation and administration guides describes numerous Oracle products, and even includes the schema user/owner and the default password. Now that I know what Oracle Wallet Manager is, I am still scratching my head over why that was installed with Forms & Reports 6i.
Another reason? Many DBAs--inexperienced and experienced alike--have passed the requisite exams to become an Oracle Certified Professional. Using Oracle8i and 9i as reference points, one must pass four, five or six exams to earn the OCP designation for 8i and/or 9i. Here is a little secret about earning another certification, one that will actually help you administer Oracle on Windows: it only takes one test to become a Microsoft Certified Professional (the MCP designation). Which test would be the most beneficial with respect to Oracle database administration? That would be the 70-210 exam on "Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional" (or its counterparts for Windows XP and 2003). For the time and expense (which is much, much lower than an instructor-led course at Oracle University) spent learning what it takes to pass the one exam, not only do you earn another (or perhaps your first) professional certification, you actually learn something useful about using Oracle on Windows.
Reading through the Oracle9i database administrator's and database installation guides, you will come across acronyms and terms such as NTFS, MMC, service, threads, registry, full control, ORADIM and snap-in. If you are a UNIX-only kind of DBA wondering about what happened to permissions, environment variables and background processes, don't worry, because for the most part, all of those familiar UNIX components have a counterpart in the Windows realm.
Many of the topics covered in the 70-210 exam are directly related to the tasks you should, can and need to perform as a DBA. A significant portion of the exam deals with NTFS (new technology file system) permissions. The UNIX counterpart to NTFS is the owner-group-others (ugo) read-write-execute (rwx) permissions used on the UFS (UNIX file system). Therefore, if you are comfortable with the concept of modifying permissions on UNIX files and directories to grant/restrict access, understanding how NTFS permissions (and shares) work on Windows becomes a fairly straightforward task.
UNIX has the ability to "share out" a directory for remote users. Remote users can mount the remote file system (mount remote_host:location_on_remote_host location_on_local_machine) and have access to a remote directory. Windows offers the same capability via the Sharing tab on a_folder_name Properties window. What does that mean to the Windows-based Oracle DBA? One meaning is that datafiles can be located on remote disks and accessed via a network (perhaps not an ideal situation due to network limitations, but feasible nonetheless).
Most UNIX-based systems offer various command line and GUI-driven tools to monitor system performance and collect metrics about certain events. Microsoft provides a configurable tool called MMC (Microsoft Management Console). What is especially neat about MMC is your ability to add on and customize the tools (snap-ins) which appear in the console. If you've never seen the Computer Management console, a pre-configured arrangement of snap-ins for, well, you guessed it--computer management, all you need to do is follow Start>Programs>Administrative Tools>Computer Management. For performance related items, follow the same path, but select Performance on the menu to see a pre-configured set of monitoring tools and displays.
Oracle provides several snap-ins which you can use to monitor database activity--around ten categories in all--covering metrics such as physical reads per gets%, redo log space requests, and the frequency of recursive calls (for dynamic space management). Where to find these snap-ins? Look in C:\Program Files\Oracle\MMC Snap-Ins. How to use them? That is a two-step process. The first is to learn how the basic Windows performance snap-ins work in terms of setup, display, reporting and alerts. That is a learning objective on the 70-210 exam. The second step is to install the Oracle snap-ins and start using them. Oracle's Performance Monitor snap-ins gives you the ability to monitor performance, generate reports and receive alerts on common Oracle database-related performance and tuning metrics. Who needs OEM?
Yet another feature in the Oracle on Windows world is the ability for you to configure response files so you can perform silent (non-interactive) installations of Oracle products. Response files for silent installations of Oracle are not new to either operating system. However, your understanding of administering Windows, or at least appreciating what your Windows administrator does, is increased by learning about the response files that Windows can use for silent/unattended installations of the Windows operating system. A Windows administrator has to learn where to find the template response files. As an Oracle DBA on Windows, and knowing something about Windows administration, it would not surprise you to learn that the template response files for Oracle are also found on the installation CDs (in the Response directory of Disk1 for 188.8.131.52, to be more precise).
Topics covered in future articles in this series will include going into the specifics of installing and using the Oracle snap-ins, some tips, tricks and advice about using the registry, and highlighting other Windows 2000 MCP skills and knowledge that can make your job of administering an Oracle database on Windows easier to perform. If you have not taken a look (because of previous problems and bugs) at Oracle on Windows in a while, you owe it to yourself to give Windows another look-see because the new-and-improved Windows is rich with features.