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

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.

Options

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.

Approaches

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.

Vendors

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:

Description

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.

Memory

Disk

V$DB_OBJECT_CACHE

V$BACKUP

V$LIBRARY_CACHE

V$DATAFILE

V$SYSSTAT

V$FILESTAT

V$SGASTAT

V$LOG

V$LOG_HISTORY

Instance/Database

V$BACKUP

Contention

V$DATABASE

V$LOCK

V$INSTANCE

V$ROLLNAME

V$OPTION

V$ROLLSTAT

V$PARAMETER

V$WAITSTAT

V$PQ_SYSSTAT

V$LATCH

V$PROCESS

V$SESSTAT

User/Session

V$WAITSTAT

V$LOCK

V$OPEN_CURSOR

V$PROCESS

V$SESSION

V$SESSTAT

V$TRANSACTION

Steve Callan
Steve Callan
Steve is an Oracle DBA (OCP 8i and 9i)/developer working in Denver. His Oracle experience also includes Forms and Reports, Oracle9iAS and Oracle9iDS.

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