Project Raptor - Oracle's New Tool for DBAs and Developers
February 8, 2006
It may be possible that raptors once feasted on toads, and if that were the case, it would be safe to assume that Oracle hopes its new Raptor product will do the same to the Toads of today. The features and functions – all for free – that ship with Raptor will likely give Quest Software's Toad product a run for its money. Oracle has been lacking a sophisticated tool like Raptor since, well, forever. The absence of such a tool has been filled by other vendors, Quest Software chief among them. Raptor has a long way to go before it achieves any sort of market parity with Toad. How many people use Toad? Quest Software states, "Toad for Oracle is the de-facto standard for database developers and administrators with a worldwide interactive community of 500,000 users."
Raptor versus Toad ($$)
Oracle Corporation states that Raptor is 100% free to use, no licensing issues, nada. At some point in the future, there may be a fee to enable add-ons or some enhanced functionality. Toad, on the other hand, is free (up to a point) and has some usage restrictions. The restrictions or limitations are posted on the freeware version's Web site:
The TOAD Freeware version may be used for a maximum of five (5) users within Licensee's organization and expires each sixty (60) days, after which you will need to download and install the product again. For more than five (5) users within an organization, you will need to purchase licenses of Commerical [sic] TOAD. This license does not entitle Licensee to receive from Quest hard-copy documentation, technical support, telelphone [sic] assistance, or enhancements or updates to the Product.
Commercial Toad ranges from $870 to just over $4900 per seat license, depending upon the version. At the bottom end of the scale, six seats of Toad will cost over $5000, while the same six Raptor seats will cost nothing. At the rates Quest charges, perhaps some of the proceeds can go to a proofreader for their Web site. Support for Raptor is available at Oracle Technology Network, but being free, the support is not the same you would get via MetaLink.
For relatively small Oracle shops (less than five DBAs and developers combined), the user community acceptance of Raptor is going to be based on one factor: is Raptor so much better than Toad, that it makes it worthwhile to abandon the "de-facto standard?" Had Oracle Corporation been quicker to realize (or if recognized, able to do something about it) its glaring lack of a user-friendly administration/development tool, it wouldn't be in the position it is today: expending untold thousands, if not millions, of dollars with a virtually guaranteed return on investment of exactly zero percent. In other words, is Raptor too little too late?
The Usual Stuff
Licensing: Oracle still (as of Jan 2006) has its standard licensing "scroll down and click I Accept" verbiage, but little to none of that applies. Oracle Corporation has acknowledged that the licensing information needs to be updated with respect to Raptor. JDeveloper's download page, as an example, reflects an updated license agreement.
Support: Project Raptor discussion forum (at the bottom of the database forums list). It is worthwhile browsing some of the previous discussions. Some of the recommendations requested/suggested by users are being implemented in the first official release. Then again, there are some which are not.
Documentation and training material: At the main Project Raptor page. This page also contains a ready-to-view PowerPoint presentation, which may be of use if you are the one trying to sell your company on using Raptor.
Installation and configuration: Simple and quick. Takes around 30 seconds to uncompress and is immediately ready to run. Installs in a folder named "raptor," and setting a connection to a database requires nothing more than entering information in a few fields.
Test Driving Raptor
After establishing a database connection, a list of objects appears in the left pane.
The "Other Users" is especially handy as it expands to present a tree of objects like that shown above. Click the Countries table in the expanded HR schema, and table information is quickly displayed.
Want the DDL for HR's countries table? Just click the SQL tab.
Exploring is also conducted under the Reports tab. Raptor quickly generates reports on topics such as non-default initialization parameters, NLS settings, and banner information. Without knowing SQL syntax, beginners can explore more areas without being bogged down in error laden SQL queries. On the other hand, the only way to become proficient at writing queries is to practice doing exactly just that.
Overall, having the GUI interface or view into underlying code on familiar schema objects (e.g., the new sample schema) is instructive in that you can see code written by developers at Oracle. The example below shows a simple use of the "new" reference in a trigger.
What else can Raptor do for new users (at least as of the publication date of this article in February, 2006)? Let's create a user named raptor and grant him the connect privilege. In a SQL*Plus session, what happens when raptor tries to select something from a data dictionary table or view ("select any dictionary" is not in effect)?
Same user now logging in to the same database via Raptor – can the user named raptor see things that perhaps he shouldn't? Most definitely! Like all of the other users in the database, for one. That's not good.
Despite having many of the same features that SQL Server already has built-in (as another comparison of what Raptor could or should be similar to), Oracle still has much work to do in terms of making Raptor a highly sought after product. Although Raptor is still in the testing phase, there are many bugs remaining to be fixed. For example, a user preference to not store or save passwords for connections seems to be ignored. Under Tools > Preferences > Database Connections, uncheck the "Save Passwords" checkbox. Exit Raptor and re-start it. You are still logged in as the previous user.
After re-starting Raptor, double-click the name of your database connection and note that the password field still has information in it.
To overcome the market share of what Quest Software claims it has with the Toad user community, Raptor, even though it is free, is going to need a significant number of positive word of mouth recommendations from whomever is interested enough to try it out in the first place. There are many users (based on comments in the OTN discussion forum) who seem willing to give Raptor a chance. Keep in mind that what you see today is still a beta version (and it is not too late to put in your two cents worth). The true test of Raptor will take place when it is officially released later in 2006. Significant problems then, despite the obviously apparent hard work that has gone into developing this tool, may make Oracle re-think its decision to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Perhaps it will bear out the idea that Oracle Corporation should have acquired Quest Software (and Toad, plus the versions of Toad for other RDBMSs). As a DBA, what would you like to see (or not) in Raptor?