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Posted Nov 23, 2004

Product Review: Thomson Course Technology's Oracle9i Database Performance Tuning

By Steve Callan

When it comes to IT training, how do you want to spend your hard-earned dollars? There are plenty of options, approaches, and vendors to choose from, so it helps if you have a specific or somewhat focused goal in mind before spending your money. Let's look at some of the choices as they relate to goals just mentioned.


How you get the training or education ranges from individual self-study to vendor specific classroom-based instructor led training. Regardless of your particular or favorite learning style, it certainly helps to have some direction, whether it is in the form of a logical sequence or it is grouped by functional category. Another type of outline is one that supports a certification exam test content checklist.


What is it you want to get out of the training (or class)? Do you want to learn what is practical, that is, is what you learn going to be useful to you in your day-to-day work environment? Or are you looking to learn what it takes to pass an exam? There are trade-offs with each approach. What helps you on your job may have little to do with what is on an exam, and what helps you pass an exam may be totally irrelevant to what your job demands. Generally speaking then, you have to choose between the two because (with few exceptions) the options (from above) tend to support one approach or the other.


This category includes local training providers who provide hands-on training using their own or someone else's material, product specific providers who are THE source of information (Oracle University in our case), publishers of series type books, and companies who provide a combination of both. To clarify the last type -- this means you can attend an ILT course or buy the training product, but in either case, you are using the same course material.

My background

What "qualifies" me to write about this and provide a product review? That's a fair question, so I thought it would be useful to say that my training background runs the gamut of what's out there, and in addition to academic classes, it includes the following:

  • Employer-paid attendance at Oracle University courses
  • An out-of-pocket expenditure of more than $2,000 for hands-on training at a local training provider (part of which was excellent and part of which was totally worthless).
  • Use of structured study material (Sybex, for example) and exam simulators (Self Test Software). These were used for the purposes of learning, and learning what it takes to pass an exam. The Sybex books really are quite useful as reference books at times.
  • Self-directed study using books I buy and documentation Oracle provides. When I say I have a lot of books, believe me, I have a lot of books. I pretty much do not have to take anyone's word about a book because more than likely, I already have it.
  • Use of a "combination" training provider, such as what Thomson Course Technology provides in its Course ILT series (http://www.courseilt.com/) in addition to having used their books in classes (Database Systems and Systems Analysis and Design, to name a couple).

Does the Thomson name sound familiar? If you have taken an OCP exam (or even a Microsoft, Sun, or Cisco exam, for that matter), more than likely you took it at a Prometric test site. That's "Prometric," as in "Thomson Prometric Testing Center." Having established who Thomson is, this leads into what this particular product review is about: Thomson Course Technology's Oracle9i Database Performance Tuning course.

What does this course cover?

Again, this comes back to the goal of what you want to get out of a training class: learn things for your job, or learn things to pass an exam. Here is Thomson's own description of the course:


This course presents techniques for finding performance or configuration problems within the Oracle database and solving those problems. Manual techniques as well as those employing the specialty Packs within Oracle Enterprise Manager are considered. Workshop exercises allow participants the opportunity to examine the internal operation of an Oracle instance, isolate problems, test possible solutions and implement effective remedies.

Does the word "certification" appear anywhere in that description? The course, based on the "official" description, is more of a "help you do your job" course. However, the introductory chapter of the book does discuss the certification exam by mentioning that the "course considers subjects included within the OCP Examination." The test content checklist for the 1Z0-033 exam (Oracle9i performance tuning) has 14 major categories, and the Thomson book explicitly covers more than half of them. Moreover, just for comparison, Sybex's performance tuning book takes a hit on reviews for not covering everything in the test content checklist.

For $180 (the cost of the book), you receive a very straightforward coverage of many performance tuning-related topics. Additionally, each chapter has an accompanying workshop with solutions. The list of topics covered in the book can be seen at http://www.course.com/catalog/product.cfm?category=Databases&subcategory=Oracle&isbn=0-619-28864-7.

There are two topics in the book that you would not typically associate with Oracle9i, and those have to do with manual rollback segments and the UTLBSTAT/UTLESTAT utilities. So why would a training book on Oracle9i cover deprecated or antiquated items? An Instructor Note at the beginning of "Tuning Manual Rollback Segments" discusses why manual rollback segments are covered - and why this section can be skipped, depending on the audience. Even today, there are companies still using versions of Oracle as old as version 7, and plenty of people still use 8i. You may be working for one of them, and you may find yourself in a shop that uses pre-Oracle9i versions in addition to 9i. Overall, the coverage of manual rollback segments is good. The section on statistics utilities, where utlbstat and utlestat are covered, provides a nice summary of the V$ tables used.



































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