Another quarter has gone by and it is time once again to review the antics of the major DBMS vendors. This past quarter was somewhat quieter than recent quarters, but there were still some
interesting announcements and hi-jinks to look back on. Let’s start our review with Oracle.
Last quarter we reported that Oracle changed their OCP DBA certification requirements such that new applicants were required to take a “hands on” class in addition to passing four tests. But
there was a hue and cry from the field because this significantly increased the cost of becoming a certified Oracle DBA — the course cost roughly $2000. In mid-July Oracle backed off of this
requirement, at least for a time.
Oracle relented a bit and posted the following short reprieve on their web site: “In order to allow candidates more time to adapt to the new requirement, Oracle University has extended the Oracle
9i DBA Certified Professional credential course requirement deadline to September 1, 2002.” It was possible for to become a certified Oracle9i DBA by passing the exams before the deadline – that
has now passed. So much for that reprieve. Keep in mind, though, that currently certified DBAs just wishing to upgrade their certification from version 7.3 or later is exempt from the test
Current Oracle certification requirements can be found at http://www.oracle.com/education/certification/index.html?dba9i_ocpcoursereq.html.
The State of California versus Oracle
In another follow-up on news we first reported last quarter Oracle and the State of California have comes to terms about the disputed $95 million contract for Oracle software. The deal was made
initially to consolidate the state’s Oracle software licenses and Oracle claimed that the state would save tens of millions of dollars of the six year life of the deal. But others were critical of
the deal pointing out its excessive valuation and estimating maintenance fees of more than $40 million over the term of the deal.
The whole brouhaha stared in April with an investigation of the deal by the California state auditor. The auditor concluded that the deal was rushed through without competitive bidding. The auditor
further determined that all of the appropriate folks in California state government did not examine the contract before it was finalized.
The net result is that Oracle agreed to cancel the deal in mid-July 2002. But why did all of this make so much news? It seemed like there was an article published per week about this during the end
of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter. Well, the answer is that this was a very high profile example of what many have been accusing Oracle of for years now – namely, complex
and very aggressive pricing policies set up to line the pockets of Oracle at the expense of its customers.
There was also the stink of scandal around this deal. Claims were made that this deal was finalized by Oracle just in time to include it in its financial results for the 2001 fiscal year. And then
shortly thereafter Oracle made a donation to the re-election campaign of California governor Gray Davis. Also, the contract led to the closing of the state’s Information Technology department and
the firing or resignation of several state officials.
The bottom line here, though, is that Oracle did the right thing in the end. They were under no obligation to rescind this contract, yet they treated the customer correctly and allowed them to back
out of the deal. If all software companies treated their customers like this the world would be a better place.
In September, Oracle reported its first quarter fiscal 2003 results and the numbers were not very pretty. But then, the numbers are not very pretty and most technology companies these days.
Oracle’s results came in at $2.027 billion ($0.07 per share) down 10% year over year. These results were in line with most financial analysts’ estimates though.
More troubling is that server and database revenue was down 52% quarter over quarter. On the plus side, services revenue though came in better than expected at $1.464 billion, margins were
impressive with $1.2 billion in cash from operations, and deferred revenue was up. These may be troubling times but Oracle appears to be capable of weathering the storm. Over time revenue will be
driven higher as customers migrate to the Oracle9i database server and the Oracle11i applications.
Microsoft Casts a .NET for Oracle
In late July Microsoft announced integration technology to enable developers to integrate Oracle databases into .NET applications. Known as the .NET Framework Data Provider for Oracle the
technology lets users of ADO.NET to access backend Oracle databases. Previously, only Microsoft’s SQL Server DBMS was capable of such integration into .NET applications.
According to Microsoft, this technology replaces OLE DB and should allow Oracle-based .NET applications to run twice as fast. Microsoft also claims that the product can be used to simplify the
connection of applications that were designed to use SQL Server to instead connect to an Oracle database.
This will get interesting next quarter when Oracle announces its own Data Provider to tackle the same problem. Wouldn’t it have been better if Larry and Bill could have just sat down and decided
to build only one of these things?
SQL Server Security a Concern?
In late September VNUNet.com reported that a Gartner analyst has expressed concerns about security flaws in the next release of SQL Server, code-named Yukon. Yukon is scheduled for general
availability sometime in 2003.
The coverage, though, was spotty about what, exactly the problems with Yukon would be. This is not surprising since this new version of SQL Server will not see the light of day for some time. You
can read all about the analyst’s concerns using the following link: http://db.ittoolbox.com/news/dispnews.asp?i=81078.
IBM’s DB2, Version 8
Interesting news from Oracle and Microsoft aside, perhaps the biggest news of the quarter was the introduction of the next big release of DB2, namely Version 8. Highlighted by improved automation
and web services support, IBM announced the new version that is planned to be generally available next quarter for Linux, Unix, and Windows platforms. A beta version for these platforms was
released in late July 2002. The mainframe DB2 Version 8 apparently is still a long ways off.
But let’s take a quick look at what is here for DB2 V8 on distributed platforms. IBM is very loudly touting automated management as the biggest new advance in this new version. Much of this
automation is delivered in the Health Monitor and Health Center tools that add a management by exception capability to DB2. This allows you to be alerted to potential system health issues as they
come up. Additional manageability features added to the release include enhancements to the LOAD utility and Load Wizard that make it easier to load data into both single-partition and
multi-partition database environments.
Improvements to the RUNSTATS utility also help to ease management difficulty. With DB2 V8 RUNSTATS will offer the following additional options:
- Collect statistics from a single database partition, or from all database partitions
- Collect additional statistics
- Accept the names of indexes used during statistics creation
- Accept a list of columns on which statistics are to be collected
- Accept distribution statistics limits
- Accept individual column NUM_FREQVALUES and NUM_QUANTILES values
- Improve performance of statistics collection by supporting data sampling
Another new command, AUTOCONFIGURE, is provided with DB2 V8 to automate database management. This command can be used to recommend and optionally apply configuration parameters such as buffer pool
sizes, database configuration, and database manager configuration. AUTOCONFIGURE provides initial tuning for a database, to which additional tuning can be applied. It can also be used with the
CREATE DATABASE command to configure databases as soon as they are created.
DB2 V8 also offers an online Database Analysis and Recovery Tool (DART) that makes it easier to examine and diagnose error conditions. DART, coupled with an improved low overhead trace facility
makes performance monitoring and tuning easier, and more efficient. The online DART tool allows database administrators to verify the integrity of DB2 data on disk without taking the database
Finally, on the management and automation front, DB2 V8 enhances customers’ ability to manage secure access to DB2 data by extending support for Kerberos, the industry-standard authentication
protocol. Previous versions of DB2 provided support for Windows Active Directory and Kerberos protocol to allow customers to implement single sign-on solutions in Windows 2000 and z/OS
environments. V8 extends this support to UNIX and Linux platforms to provide secure single sign-on solution across all supported environments.
As for web enhancements, DB2 V8 offers availability improvements most notably in terms of running utilities while the data remains online for concurrent access. Improvements have been made
facilitating easier online data loading, index creations, and database reorganization. Additionally, many system configuration parameters will be able to be modified dynamically instead of
requiring DB2 to be shut down for the change to take affect.
On the application front, there is a new MERGE SQL statement. The MERGE statement allows users to apply two operations at once to a single table: INSERT new rows and UPDATE existing rows. This
helps to reduce the amount of code required for certain operations because the programmer will not have to check first to see if data exists before doing an UPDATE instead of an INSERT.
Furthermore, DB2 V8 provides a toolkit that enables seamless integration of DB2 application development tasks into popular Integrated Development Environments (IDE) such as WebSphere Studio and
Microsoft Visual Studio. This allows programmers to develop DB2 server logic without leaving the comfort of their favorite IDE.
There are many additional new features and function including more robust XML support, better integration between IMS and DB2, more data federation support, and improved data warehousing support.
But the bottom line is that IBM continues to improve the usability and performance of DB2. And V8 raises the bar for the way in which a modern DBMS should work.
And so ends another Database Report. Be sure to check back with TDAN.com next quarter to keep abreast of the goings on in the DBMS market place.