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Updated: 6 hours 41 min ago

Managing your Database in a Zombie Apocalypse

Sun, 2014-10-12 07:00
Zombie Server Room

Only two things are really certain: network latency over long distances, and the fact that humanity will soon rapidly degenerate into undead brain-eaters.

When that day comes, when the dead are crowding at your door and the windows are busted out and ripped up rotted arms are clawing at the inside of your home, I know what you’ll be thinking: is my database protected?

Don’t worry, my friends. The Oracle Alchemist has you covered. We just need to zombie-proof your DR plan. Let’s get started.

Getting the Power Back

Hopefully you did the smart thing and figured out how much battery and generator power you’d need to survive multiple years of failing power systems due to zombies. I know I did.

However, if you didn’t get this critical task done you may still have some options. Statistics show that the demand for U.S. gasoline was 8.73 million barrels in 2012. That comes out to 23,917.80821917808219 barrels per day of fuel that’s out there just waiting for you to snatch it up. The problem is going to be getting it. You’ll need to load yourself down with lots of weaponry and strike out in a fuel truck a few times a week, which will definitely take away from your database administration time. It’s a smart idea to enable a lot of automation and monitoring to take care of things while you’re out.

Zombie Gas StationYou’re going to need to fight other groups of surviving IT for fuel. This means you’re going to need friends. The way I see it, you have two choices: SysAdmins and Developers. They’re the two groups you work closest with as a DBA, so they’re the most likely to have your back when the dead walk. Start your planning now. If you want to get the developers on your side, tune some queries for them. Seriously, nothing will convince a developer to slice through the brain base of a walker like adding some key indexes when a query goes south during testing. However, if you think the SysAdmins are more likely to fight off rival gangs of resource hogs on the prowl for food and fuel, you can make them feel good by keeping all your filesystems cleaned up and RAM usage at a minimum.

The Problem with Zombies

Remember, the walking dead are tenacious. You remember before the apocalypse when a bunch of reporting users would all log into the database and run huge ad hoc queries against PROD without thinking about what they were doing? That was nothing. Zombies are the real deal. They will tear through a database faster than a multi-terabyte cartesian product. You can deploy outside the box now increase your chances of having a clone out there somewhere, just in case. If you want that database to survive, you’re going to need standbys. Lots of them.

I’d recommend a hub and spoke configuration. One central production database, at least 5 standby databases. As everybody knows, the chances of a zombie bringing down a database are roughly 89.375%. With 5 standby environments, you can drastically reduce the odds of being left without a standby system. On the plus side, zombies are completely brainless. What this means is that you don’t have to worry about masking or obfuscating your backup data in any way. Even on the off chance one of them kicks off a query (even zombies can figure out SQL Developer), they won’t be able to comprehend your users’ personal data, and with the complete downfall of the dollar it won’t matter if they see any credit information. So rest easy.

When All Else Fails

At some point, the zombies are going to come for you. Sorry, but it’s a statistical fact and there’s not much we can do about that. At that moment, when all hope is lost, you’re really going to need to protect your database because once you become a zombie too there really won’t be anyone left and you won’t be focused on maintaining it anymore; you’ll be focused on acquiring copious amounts of human flesh.

Zombie Server RoomSo make your last stand count. You’re a soon-to-be-undead DBA, act like it! Remember how we tune. Eliminate the wait, punch through the bottlenecks, make efficient use of processing power. Don’t get trapped between a rack and a hard place. If you have to play a game of circle-the-Exadata in order to get away, go for it, but don’t let them corner you. And whatever you do, make sure you keep your badge with you. The last thing you need is to hit a door you can’t get through without the proper credentials. Above all else: remember to kick off a backup before they finally take you. I’d recommend having the script ready and running on the console just in case you have to hit a quick key.

Good luck. You’re going to need it.

The post Managing your Database in a Zombie Apocalypse appeared first on Oracle Alchemist.

Another Great OpenWorld

Fri, 2014-10-10 05:00
Steve at the Delphix Booth

Last week I attended Oracle OpenWorld 2014, and it was an outstanding event filled with great people, awesome sessions, and a few outstanding notable experiences.

Personally I thought the messaging behind the conference itself wasn’t as amazing and upbeat as OpenWorld 2013, but that’s almost to be expected. Last year there was a ton of buzz around the introduction of Oracle 12c, Big Data was a buzzword that people were totally excited and not too horribly burnt out on, and there was barely a cloud in the sky. This year cloud it was cloud all about cloud the Cloud cloud (Spoiler alert: it was the Cloud all along) which just didn’t have that same excitement factor.

But it’s still OpenWorld, set in the heart of San Francisco with tens of thousands of buzzing Oracle faithful. And therefore it was still a pretty awesome time.

Jonathan Lewis at the Delphix BoothThis year I went representing Delphix, and man did we represent. The enthusiasm and technical curiosity were evident as our booth filled up for three days straight with folks eager to hear the good news of the data virtualization. I have to say, the DBA in me finds the promise of syncing databases to a software platform that can provision full-size, read/write clones in a couple minutes with no additional disk usage quite alluring. But there was more to the message than the technology behind the platform; there were also a plethora of use cases that captured people’s attention. Faster and more on-time business intelligence and analytics, application and database testing, regulatory compliance, and more. If that wasn’t enough, we also had Jonathan Lewis, Tim Gorman, Kyle Hailey, Ben Prusinski, and yours truly speaking at the booth which was a great bit of fun and drew a lot of folks that wanted to learn more.

On Monday I was honored to be invited back on SiliconAngle’s conference web show theCUBE to talk about copy data, Delphix, the Cloud (that should be fun for people running Cloud to Butt), Oracle’s strategy, and more. They had not one but two booths at OpenWorld this year. The always charismatic and ever savvy Dave Vellante and I had an outstanding chat, which you can see right here!

Another fantastic part of the conference was OakTable World, which is technically not part of OpenWorld…rather, it is a “secret” conference-within-a-conference. Held at the Children’s Museum nestled in the bosom of the Moscone Center (yay visuals), this conference features a lineup of incredibly technical folks talking about incredibly technical things to the wonder and amazement of all. This year was no different, with a great assortment of no-nonsense presentations. On the 2nd day of OakTable World there was also something I liked to call the Attack of the Attacks: #CloneAttack, #RepAttack, and #MonitorAttack. This event featured Delphix, DBVisit, and SolarWinds Confio and allowed people to get the software installed on their own laptops for tinkering, learning, and testing.

Pythian put on a couple exciting events as always, with the Friends of Pythian party on Monday night and the OTN Blogger Meetup on Wednesday. Both events were a blast as always, with a huge assortment of members of the Oracle community and beyond. Honestly, it’s worth going just for the good food and to see Alex Gorbachev stand up on a booth bench and try to hush a crowd of buzzing datafiends.

All in all it was an outstanding OpenWorld and it was great catching up with some amazing and brilliant people. I can’t wait to see you all again next year!

The post Another Great OpenWorld appeared first on Oracle Alchemist.

Openworld 2014

Sat, 2014-09-27 14:30
Oracle OpenWorld

Are you going to Oracle OpenWorld 2014? I am, and I hope to see you there! As you probably know, OpenWorld is a humongous event with tens of thousands of people in attendance and some amazing presentations. Why, I even hear Oracle’s new CTO might be there. I wonder if he has anything to talk about?

This year we’ll have a ton of activity at the Delphix booth. You can check out the speaking schedule, location, and more on Delphix’s website. At the very least you’ll want to register to win a sweet custom carbon fiber bike. I’ll be speaking on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at the booth so please come on by and say hello.

I’ll also be hanging out quite a bit at OakTable World with data technology luminaries Kyle Hailey, Tim Gorman, Ben Prusinski, Adam Bowen, and other Delphix folks to take part and prepare for a very special set of events: the Attacks!

CloneAttackDelphix, DBVisit, and Solarwinds will be teaming up to present #CloneAttack, #RepAttack, and #MonitorAttack respectively, three events aimed at giving you real-world usage of some outstanding products for the Oracle world. Delphix specifically will be providing all participants with a 90-day developer trial of Delphix in all its glory so you can learn and experiment yourself with virtual data platforms. Be sure to check it out.

Lastly, I’m excited to announce that I will once again be appearing on #theCUBE this year. John Furrier and Dave Vellante are incredible hosts who really dig deep into the meat of the new tech and offerings in the IT world, and I’m honored to have been a part of their show last year and to be on again this year. That will be on Monday at 1PM PDT, so tune in if you can.

This promises to be an outstanding OpenWorld. I look forward to seeing you there!

The post Openworld 2014 appeared first on Oracle Alchemist.

Teach Your Children Well

Wed, 2014-09-03 06:00
computerroom

Today’s the first day of school in my city, and the plethora of “OMG 1st day of school!” posts of Facebook and my own kids heading back in to slog through another year of fundamentals got me thinking about education. My own kids (12/daughter and 10/son) came home and went swimming since it was about 104 degrees today…the hottest day of the summer, as it were.

minecraft-2__140227213724Anyways, after that activity my son decided to get down to business. And by business I mean: play Minecraft. Some of my friends and family have banned Minecraft during the school week or even as a whole, because of the incredibly addictive nature of the game. I elected instead to make my son play it on the computer instead of the Xbox or iDevice. See, on those systems it’s slightly more mindless (yet still very creative); you just pick the things you want to make and it makes them, and the game is what the game is because it’s on a console. On the computer, you have to memorize the ingredients and patterns necessary to make objects (from making andesite to baking cakes). You can mod the game with a variety of amazing mods out there in the community. You can play on servers that have goals ranging from “kill everyone you see” to “let’s build something incredible together.” I like that. It’s like legos, except with social implications, unlimited blocks of every kind, and electronics lessons all rolled into one.

What’s more, in the last few months my son has learned to install Java, use basic DOS, modify heap parameters, create a .BAT file, and many other cool things. Add that to his foray into the world of cryptocurrency, and he’s growing a set of very valuable skills. My daughter’s no slouch either, she spent a couple years on Ubuntu Linux and actually came to like it quite a bit!

Okay, so enough bragging on my kids. They’re goofballs anyways.

Teach Kids Cool Things

A while back I posted about how I became a DBA while in High School. When I was 18, I offered to help someone at a community college with a presentation to teach college students about programming. I remember them telling me that it was a ridiculous concept, because kids can’t learn those kinds of things anyways. It struck a nerve as you might imagine. Kids can learn highly technical skills if someone is willing to teach them. And with the proliferation of technical gadgets and abilities in the world, they want to learn. You can even start them young…REALLY young.stillashark

There are some great resources out there beyond build-a-world-with-blocks games like Minecraft. There are simple learning sites like phpforkids.com, highly interactive and informative classes like Code Academy, and even specially made storyboarding and design programs like Scratch by MIT.

For books with associated exercises, we have 3D Game Programming for Kids, Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins (Java and Minecraft!), and even Python with Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming.

Babies don’t get a pass from learning! Code Babies has a set of excellent introductions to programming including Web Design, CSS, and HTML. A is NOT for “Aardvark,” it’s for “Anchor Tag”!

There are even online courses like Learn JAVA with Minecraft (my son is doing this one and enjoys it), and summer camps as well, to teach kids online and in person.

Even Oracle has a part to play in the education of youngsters with Oracle Academy. Oracle Academy has resources for all levels of learning, contests, and even a self-study programming environment and course called Greenfoot that teaches Java from zero experience with 2D gaming design. I’ve had the privilege of judging some of their contests in the past and was astounded by the skills these young people had in highly advanced technology.

This is so awesome. I really wish these sorts of things were around when I was a kid. If you have children and want them to learn how to tech, the resources are plentiful and amazing.

The post Teach Your Children Well appeared first on Oracle Alchemist.

The Customer Experience

Wed, 2014-07-23 07:00
The Apple Experience[This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Grow Your Career

I’m going to kick this post off by taking sides in a long-standing feud.

Apple is amazing.

There. Edgy, right? Okay, so maybe you don’t agree with me, but you have to admit that a whole lot of people do. Why is that?

NOT part of the Customer Experience. Image from AppleFanSite.com

Image from AppleFanSite.com

Sure, there’s the snarky few that believe Apple products are successful due to an army of hipsters with thousands in disposable income, growing thick beards and wearing skinny jeans with pipes in mouth and books by Jack Kerouac in hand, sipping lattes while furiously banging away on the chiclet keyboard of their Macbook Pro with the blunt corner of an iPad Air that sports a case made of iPhones. I have to admit, it does make for an amusing thought. And 15 minutes at a Starbucks in SoHo might make you feel like that’s absolutely the case. But it’s not.

If you browse message boards or other sites that compare PCs and Apple products, you’ll frequently see people wondering why someone would buy a $2,000 Macbook when you can have an amazing Windows 8.1 laptop with better specs for a little over half the price. Or why buy an iPad when you can buy a Samsung tablet running the latest Android which provides more freedom to tinker. Or why even mess with Apple products at all when they’re not compatible with Fragfest 5000 FPS of Duty, or whatever games those darn kids are playing these days.

Part of the Customer Experience. Image provided by cnet.com

Image from cnet.com

The answer is, of course, customer experience. Apple has it. When you watch a visually stunning Apple commercial, complete with crying grandpas Facetiming with their newborn great-grandson and classrooms of kids typing on Macbook Airs, you know what to expect. When you make the decision to buy said Macbook Air, you know that you will head to the Apple Store, usually in the posh mall in your town, and that it will be packed to the gills with people buzzing around looking at cases and Beats headphones and 27″ iMacs. You know that whatever you buy will come in a sleek white box, and will be placed into a thick, durable bag with two drawstring cords that you can wear like a backpack.

When you get it home and open the box, it’s like looking at a Tesla Model S. Your new laptop, situated inside a silky plastic bed and covered in durable plastic with little tabs to peel it off. The sleek black cardboard wrapped around a cable wound so perfectly that there’s not a single millimeter of space between the coils, nor a plug out of place. The laptop itself will be unibody, no gaps for fans or jiggly CD-ROM trays or harsh textures.

All of which is to say, Apple provides an amazing customer experience. Are their products expensive, sometimes ridiculously so? Of course. But people aren’t just buying into the product, they’re buying into the “Apple life.” And why not? I’d rather pay for experiences than products any day. I may be able to get another laptop with better specs than my Macbook Pro Retina, but there will always be something missing. Not the same Customer Experience.Maybe the screen resolution isn’t quite so good, maybe the battery doesn’t last as long, or maybe it’s something as simple as the power cord coming wrapped in wire bag ties with a brick the size of my head stuffed unceremoniously into a plastic bag. The experience just isn’t there, and I feel like I’ve bought something that’s not as magnificent as the money I put into it, features and specs be damned.

Customer experience isn’t just a buzz phrase, and it doesn’t just apply to how you deal with angry customers or how you talk to them while making a sale. It also doesn’t mean giving your customer everything they want. Customer experience is the journey from start to finish. It’s providing a predictable, customer-centric, and enjoyable experience for a customer that is entrusting their hard-earned cash in your product. And it applies to every business, not just retail computer sellers and coffee shops. What’s more, it applies to anyone in a service-oriented job.

Customer Experience for IT Professionals

In a previous post I mentioned how important it is to know your client. Even if your position is Sub-DBA In Charge of Dropping Indexes That Start With The Letter Z, you still have a customer (Sub-DBA In Charge Of Dropping Indexes That Start With The Letters N-Z, of course). Not just your boss, but the business that is counting on you to do your job in order to make a profit. And you may provide an exceptional level of service. Perhaps you spend countless hours whittling away at explain plans until a five page Cognos query is as pure as the driven snow and runs in the millisecond range. But it’s not just what you do, but how you do it that is important.

I want you to try something. And if you already do this, good on you. Next time you get a phone call request from someone at your work, or have a phone meeting, or someone sends you a chat asking you to do something, I want you to send a brief email back (we call this an “ack” in technical terms) that acknowledges their request, re-lists what they need in your own words (and preferably with bullets), and lists any additional requirements or caveats. Also let them know how long it will take. Make sure you don’t underestimate, it’s better to quote too much time and get it to them early. Once you’ve finished the work, write a recap email. “As we discussed,” you might say, “I have created the five hundred gazillion tables you need and renamed the table PBRDNY13 to PBRDNY13X.” Adding, of course, “Please let me know if you have any other requests.”

If the task you did involves a new connection, provide them the details (maybe even in the form of a TNSNAMES). If there are unanswered questions, spell them out. If you have an idea that could make the whole process easier next time, run it by them. Provide that level of experience on at least one task you accomplish for your customer if you do not already, and let me know if it had any impact that you can tell. Now do it consistently.

The Apple ExperienceFrom what I’ve seen, this is what separates the “workers” from the “rockstars.” It’s not the ability to fix problems faster than a speeding bullet (though that helps, as a service that sells itself), but the ability to properly communicate the process and give people a good expectation that they can count on.

There’s a lot more to it than that, I know. And some of you may say that you lack the time to have this level of care for every request that comes your way. Perhaps you’re right, or perhaps you’re suffering from IT Stockholm Syndrome. Either way, just give it a shot. I bet it will make a difference, at least most of the time.

Conclusion

Recently, I became the Director of Customer Education and Experience at Delphix, a job that I am deeply honored to have. Delphix is absolutely a product that arouses within customers an eager want, it solves complex business problems, has an amazing delivery infrastructure in the Professional Services team, and provides top notch support thereafter. A solid recipe for Customer Experience if there ever was one. But it’s not just about the taste of the meal, it’s about presentation as well. And so it is my goal to continuously build an industrialized, scalable, repeatable, and enjoyable experience for those who decide to invest their dollar on what I believe to be an amazing product. Simply put, I want to impart on them the same enthusiasm and confidence in our product that I have.

I hope you have the chance to do the same for your product, whatever it may be.

The post The Customer Experience appeared first on Oracle Alchemist.