Thursday, February 12, 2009

Point & Click DBAs

Maybe I'm old school.

Maybe I'm just behind the times.

Today's crop of DBA candidates sure know how to point and click their way through Oracle. When I ask them how to tune a SQL statement they'll give me the exact instructions on how to click on some Grid Control adviser or how to get an "explain plan" through TOAD. I guess the new query plan is called "explain plan" now because it's easier to understand.

Recently I asked one candidate, "What if grid control goes away, how do you tune a query?"

"Well, first you start the grid control agent, and..."

"No, no, I mean, if there was no such thing as grid control, how would you tune a query?"


"Um, SQL*Plus?"

Yes, good old SQL*Plus.

I used to believe that GUIs are icing on the cake and as long as you know what was going on under the covers, it was perfectly acceptable to use a GUI.

Maybe I'm just old school.


Gary Myers said...

I agree.
But it isn't just the GUI. The same can happen if they've inherited a bunch of SQL scripts from a previous DBA and are using them blindly.

Next time, ask them whether they are seeing the query plan that the instance actually used, or whether they've just asked the database to generate a plan for that query (and if so, how bind variable peeking might impact the generated plan).

Doug Burns said...

I've been going around doing presentations and courses on Grid/DB Control performance screens. They're great, but if you're utterly dependant on *any* GUI, then you're lost as soon as you work at a site that doesn't use it.

I'm not sure it's GUI tools per se that are the problem, though. I see exactly what Gary described - a bunch of SQL scripts and some process documentation allowing people to do things way beyond their skill levels then - bang! Something comes along they've never seen before and they don't have the fundamental basics to build on to help solve the problem.

I used to think I'm just old, but I'm not - standards have slipped terribly.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the dollars being paid to DBA candidates matched better against the knowledge base requirements there would be less whining about things like this?

Just a thought ...

But of course your company is the exception to the rule and it is just everyone else trying to lowball qualified older candidates right?

PaulM said...

Anonymous has a point, if your recruiting agent or whoever is screening the resumes just looks for anyone over say 30 or has been a DBA since at least 1999-2000 you won't find this problem.

I am not saying younger DBAs won't be exposed to sqlplus. In fact if you do find a younger candidate, who has used sqlplus and grid control that would be much more interesting.

Oh yeh, didn't you know, we are all getting old go to a DBA conference sometime.
Databases are so-so uncool, damn relational (algebra) databases, please abstract away using (insert favorite OO-RDBMS mapper here).

Joel Garry said...

I think there should be a range of skill sets and abilities, and organizations should explicitly recognize this and encourage continuous betterment.

Should you be asking "how to tune a statement without grid control?" or "would you want to figure out how to tune a statement without grid control?" If they go "oh yeah, to do that you..." even better.

That's how you distinguish between chimps and astronauts, to use someone else's analogy.

Diving into 10000 traces isn't always the best way, either.

word: antala
word: guaverr
word: pamecr

Stephen Phillips said...

For me, the GUIs are very helpful because they don't force me to remember syntax. It would be one thing if I did it all the time, but I have to work in many different environments. Remembering SQL Server's syntax and Oracle's syntax after I have just finished a programming project that took a year is quite difficult.

You asked, What if the GUI went away? Well, Google would be my tool of choice. To me, the most important skill is learning to read documentation and learning to search for the information you need. Second to that is learning to document what you find so that you can look it back up when you need it again.

Anonymous said...

Oracle EM Grid control is another great toolset DBAs should take fully advantage of. Eventually they should make console-based tool extinct. Otherwise, Why do you think Oracle has put in a lot of $$$ to continue developing and supporting it? I am sadden to see that Oracle 10g Enterprise manager java console is no longer part of 11g. But I sure they keep it around. You can do the database management work a lot faster in EM than in console. So stop holding on to the old console tool. Or maybe you should consider you old school who resist embracing new technology!

Joel Garry said...

Until you make one little configuration change in EM to get rid of an annoying spurious "your tablespace is full" mail, and start getting ORA-600's every 15 minutes... grrrrrrr.... (hit bug 5727166 in yesterday).

word: anting