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Oracle9i Database

REVIEW DATE: 03.26.02

Product: Oracle9i Database


Price: Per CPU, $40,000 list (additional modules priced
separately)
Company Info: Oracle Corp., 800-672-2531, www.oracle.com

$40,000.00
By Richard V. Dragan

If you have the budget and don't mind the "database is the platform" mentality, go for Oracle9i
Database: It delivers a truly powerful solution. Though it still requires you to do a lot of tuning, the
rich management tools in this release can reduce some of the stress of keeping your enterprise
up and running. It also outperformed all of the other products on our JSP Nile Throughput test,
delivering over 620 pages per second.
Compared with IBM's DB2, you'll pay more for additional modules and you'll risk vendor lock-in,
but Oracle has become something of a standard in itself, with a far larger pool of IT experts than
its competitors. On the downside, it's not as open as DB2, and its lower-priced versions cut out
features that IBM includes.
The Oracle Universal Installer manages the more than 1.5GB of files required for the Enterprise
edition. We used the separate data migration wizard to move our test database from Version 8i to
9i. The installer also creates a sample database, along with settings for common applications
(OLTP, data warehouses, and general-purpose servers).
With the bundled Oracle Management Server, a lone DBA can manage multiple nodes on the
network with the most powerful interface we saw in this roundupOracle Enterprise Manager.
This one-stop interface is highly graphical. Based on Java (as is Sybase ASE's Java Central
utility), it's more responsive and excellently controls multiple database nodes.
The Management Server let us define two dozen database user roles with different access levels,
from DBAs to backup operators. Oracle integrates with LDAP directories via the Oracle Directory
Service, which let us define and easily tweak database schemas by adding columns and indexes.
Oracle developers had an overriding objective for this release: to keep enterprises up and
running. A range of tools, including dozens of wizards and assistants, help make this happen. The
Enterprise Management Console makes those separate features available via toolbars for easy
access. Among the noteworthy tools, the Oracle Change Manager shows you how schema
changes will affect your database without interfering with production systems. We used this
feature to propagate several schema tweaks from a simulated development to a production
database.
To spot problems, managers can define both e-mail and pager alerts for common database
events or threshold conditions, such as running low on table space. You can turn off problem
alerts for defined blocks of time, avoiding needless alerts during scheduled downtime.

Maintaining the health of your servers in Oracle9i gets a big boost, thanks to the Oracle
Performance Manager. This tool gives managers detailed feedback on CPU, disk, and query
performance, as well as plentiful statistics in prepackaged or custom charts. Other SQL
databases offer similar information, but the real-time statistics and activity details make spotting
bottlenecks far simpler. A standout here is the top sessions feature, which clearly indicates
database bandwidth hogs. This feature showed us which of our simulated users were most
active.
Oracle9i's capacity-planning feature lets you track usage patterns and plan for upgrades. We also
liked the Oracle Outline Manager, which lets you leverage SQL optimizations across upgrades.
Oracle databases have a reputation for requiring custom tuning, and mastering this still demands
training and experience. We had to do quite a bit of manual memory and disk-usage tuning for
our tests. While the trend toward more accessible tools is in evidence, tuning is still not as
intuitive as it is in SQL Server.
Two general tools, SQL*Plus and SQL*Plus Worksheet (its Java-based equivalent) let you run
SQL queries against databases. You still can't stop a long-running query, but both tools can
import thousands of records in batch mode. With Oracle9i, administrators can still run their triedand-true scripts and use these tools, but graphical tools now do the same work interactively.
The DBMS also supports PL/SQL and Java, which developers can use to model business objects
that run inside the database server. The Oracle9i Application Server (an additional $20,000 per
CPU) supports Java Web applications including JSPs, servlets, and EJBs modeled using Oracle
Business Components for Java. But you can also run EJBs directly in the database server. This is
just part of what makes Oracle9i a platform rather than just a database.
XML support is available in Oracle XDK. Besides offering access to XML through Java APIs, the
XDK lets you query and insert XML data. We used this feature to import hunreds of order records
to our test e-commerce database. Aside from this, Oracle9i doesn't play well with other vendors:
You cannot export or import a database directly to or from non-Oracle databases.
Despite its proprietary nature, Oracle9i is a welcome upgrade for existing Oracle shops. It's also
the most approachable version yet for Oracle newbies. This powerful, comprehensive solution
now has a friendlier face and graphical tools that simplify common administration tasks. If your
budget allows, the latest release of Oracle's flagship product has a lot to recommend itself.