The Passion of the Oracle Database Users, Part 2

I stumbled upon a stupefying post from Sean McCown yesterday, he of the "Database Underground" blog at InfoWorld.com. Sean (a SQL Server user apparently), claims, for example:

Oracle is still living in the old days where
everything is a good ole boys club...You just can't afford to
do business like that anymore. You have to open up your community and
start programs to encourage your best people to help and teach.


and:

If you take any 10 DBAs from each side [meaning, Oracle vs. SQL Server] and ask
them to look up a solution to a problem on their platform, the SQL guys
will find the answer much faster than the Oracle guys will.


and:

So the real difference between these two
platforms is community. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to build a
community and really support it. And Oracle is still doing business the
old way.


I replied immediately, to the effect: Sean, I guess you haven't been paying attention: otn.oracle.com, forums.oracle.com, wiki.oracle.com, blogs.oracle.com, mix.oracle.com - hello?

Happy to say that the community agreed with me, having flooded Sean with similar comments. In a follow-up post, Sean replies:


I got a lot of comments, but even more emails, and the results are
mixed. ....One thing I'm finding out is how
passionate the Oracle people are about their DB.


and:

Well, going from my comment stats I'd say that
there are plenty of people out there who say I'm wrong and who are very
certain that Oracle's community is really on the ball. And there are
those who don't. So what I can gather from this is that maybe Oracle
hasn't done enough to get the word out on all of their resources...
I research things for a living basically. And if
I've had problems finding some of these resources, then I know others
have too.


Which leads me to the point of my post. Do you agree with Sean? Are these resources "hard to find"? And if so, what can we do to address that issue?


Comments:

Sean exemplifies the under-thinking, lowest common denominator, qualities that Microsoft attempts to placate with the SQL Server product.

Posted by Michael O on March 20, 2008 at 09:36 PM PDT #

I would say that Oracle has amazing resources for developers. Better than SQL Server. However, theses resources are remarkably difficult to find, and not easy for the uninitiated to grasp. This is the exact opposite of Microsoft. This probably stems from the fact that Microsoft is mostly a marketing company, whereas Oracle is a software company. However... I'd still argue that its easier to start from ZERO and achieve proficiency with SQL Server because: 1) SQL Server doesn't do as much as Oracle so 'proficiency' is easier to achieve, and 2) its easier for a newbie to locate and grok SQL Server resources compared to Oracle resources This is where the 'passion' of Oracle DBAs works against the success of their product. Such a crowd responds with extreme defensiveness whenever decent constructive criticism is laid at their feet.

Posted by bex on March 20, 2008 at 10:44 PM PDT #

I think that Oracle DBA's have always had a lot of resources in the from of mailing lists and info sites. i would argue that Oracle Metalink has always been a powerful information tool for people with support for for other there has always been some type of knowledge even in the days of oracle 7. Yes Oracle didnt have point and click ability but then Oracle was meant for a more mature audience and a more hardcore audience that had working knowledge of unix and were looking at the long term solution. Today community based resources are much more predominant such as mix and technet but yet technet has been there for a long time . Oracle magazine has been a great resource and IOUG and Oracle world have had far broader reach. With that said i believe that resources have always been available and will be available it is just the line between question and answer is just a bit shorter than it used to.

Posted by Fuad Arshad on March 21, 2008 at 12:08 AM PDT #

I can't really compare since I have ever tried to look up anything on SQL Server (guess I live a sheltered life). However, I have had plenty of issues with Oracle over my years on the job. I'd offer that it is rare that I have problems finding something that at least gives me something to think about or points me in a new direction. I don't think I always find an answer, but I do find plenty of community activity. I would agree that many if not most of the people I meet in the Oracle realm are quite passionate about their work and the "8 things" was evidence of just how passionate people can get when their stream of technical community input is out of order for a little while.

Posted by Dan Norris on March 21, 2008 at 12:39 AM PDT #

Reality: Oracle resources are NOT hard to find even for new comers. With the advent of well indexed search engines like Google; most Oracle resources are a decent keyword away from the top of your search results. But� Epiphany: Oracle products, technical articles and supporting media tend to require a certain degree of submersion by new comers that most are not prepared for. This usually results in confusion, disinterest and lots of questions only a decent Oracle DBA can patiently answer for them. Ora-Doc�s Ad Nauseam for New Comers: The submersion I�m referring to is the frequent navigation, reading and studying of Oralce�s vast compendium of knowledge that is required to shape your installation into the solution your manager promised the client. New Comer: I�ve experienced it first hand when trying to learn 9i in 2002. I just did not know where to start and what were the key differences in Oracle products and features. I ended up taking a six month, Oracle University night class, reading a Tom Kyte book and eventually reading (and comprehending) the 1000 page Oracle Concepts pdf. At the end of that journey I realized I understood more about the features and inner workings of Oracle DB than the average DBA I met. Reality: Oralce�s DB is built from the O/S block up. Oracle products have more configuration parameters per feature than nearly all other products I�ve seen on the market. By simply analyzing Oracle�s products, documents, web sites and GUI�s against other major software providers such as MicroSoft, Apple and Google you might conclude that Oracle is focused on functionality, education/info and lastly aesthetics (user experience). Opinion: Oracle�s documentation/resources takes NO short cuts, makes few screen shots and cross reference their information like no other on the market. For this reason I�ve remained an avid user of this technology because it offers me endless options for use of its technology in conjunction with my clients needs. End: Oracle resources are difficult for new comers to interpret but not hard to find.

Posted by Jason Longenecker on March 21, 2008 at 09:25 PM PDT #

Yes, I agree Sean and big example of this is that Metalink access is still limited to guys with CSI . I wish Oracle could open access to metalink for guys. Atul

Posted by Atul Kumar on March 22, 2008 at 12:56 AM PDT #

It's all a completely relative perspective. Sean is a SQL Server DBA so 1) he's most familiar and comfortable with the MS way of thinking and their general structure 2) being a SQL Server user, he's obviously going to be partial to that environment. I'm primarily an Oracle DBA, however because we do have SQL Server in our environment there are times (handful a year) when I need to look something up for SQL Server. Now, I'm not familiar with MS resources for SQL Server because I don't work in that environment daily or even weekly hence I always find it a very daunting task to have to look something up. If it were Oracle, I know exactly where to go and could find the same information in the blink of an eye. For instance, I have no idea what is MS's equivalent of OTN or even tahiti which is probably the most popular portal that I visit (at least daily). At the end of the day I'm simply most efficient with the Oracle tools because I know where they are and it's my staple platform. I'm sure MS has good resources for their DBAs however I have no idea what they are, doesn't mean they don't exist, but many a time I have definitely felt inclined to write a similar article as Sean did but for SQL Server.

Posted by Alan Williams on March 22, 2008 at 09:17 AM PDT #

My experience is that Oracle databases usually serve a larger community, so when one goes down more people scream. SQL Server databases (in my experience) tend toward the smaller scale so the impact of having them down is smaller. A related issue concerns O/S platforms. SQL Server runs on windows platforms which are simply more prone to fail - and user's expect a higher failure rate. Oracle runs on (in addition to windows, where it does quite nicely) unix and linux platforms where reliability is more consistent and users expect more uptime. The point is that oracle DBA's, developers and support people are often looking for answers while the users are expecting rapid response, and SQL server support people have the time to work on recovery without as much pressure simply because the users expect it to be less reliable. The oracle support people have a higher sense of urgency, leading to a little more frustration precisely because uptime and great performance are expected. I would offer a suggestion for otn: a fair number of Oracle DBAs have not acquired skills in the technologies that are featured: java, SOA, web and application server-related technologies, not to mention Ruby, PHP, and other more recent arrivals. Some 2-day java for DBAs, 2-day SOA for DBAs, etc would be welcome.

Posted by Cliff Palmer on March 23, 2008 at 08:35 PM PDT #

i'm working with Oracle and i can say of MS SQL Server same things that Sean McCown says about Oracle. As others have already said the fact is that i know where to search informations about Oracle and i've ALWAYS found what i searched. I don't know where to found informations about SQL Server and i can't find nothing useful. I'm constantly searching informations about REAL differences between Oracle Database and MS SQL Server Database as for example implementation of isolation levels and default locking level. I've not seen between examples the site asktom.oracle.com. The names of Thomas Kyte, Jonathan Lewis, Kevin Closson and others that contriubutes to give answers to Oracle community. Maybe that MS SQL Server is easier to use, but maybe be that's because MS SQL Server is a simpler product that make simpler jobs. Also i think that expectations of SQL Server users are lower than those of Oracle users. I found inconceivale a complex system were solution to a problem is the reboot. Beware that this appens also to Oracle on Windows! An example maybe the fact that for Sean McCown tablespace management in Oracle is complex !!

Posted by Cristian Cudizio on March 24, 2008 at 02:46 PM PDT #

I would say that the exact opposite is true. I worked with Oracle for two years, left to take a job using SQL Server, and am now trying to get a job back with Oracle. While working with Oracle I was able to find as much documentation as I needed to begin to solve any problems/issues I was having. That has not been the case as far as I have experienced for SQL Server.

Posted by Joe Merkel on March 24, 2008 at 06:07 PM PDT #

Oracle has the best documentation available in the Database market. Metalink, Oracle User Groups(OUG), asktom, otn, blogs, forums, google groups on Oracle... many more sites are there to help you on oracle. I do not see any shortage of help / information on Oracle. It deep rooted in Unix strong base, for sure it is not drag and drop stuff and I am happy about that.

Posted by jagadeswar vallabhadas on March 25, 2008 at 02:21 AM PDT #

Hi, I am a newbie and I found informations like OBE and some tutorials that is downloadable and with Flash demos hand by hand is very goood resources for starters, will you offer more this kind of materials? Peter

Posted by Peter on March 25, 2008 at 05:07 AM PDT #

Try and find anything on Oracle Reports. It has to be the most "figure-it-out-yourself" software out there. F1 is the extent of it, and it ain't that great. There is NOTHING on UseNet but a few questions from like 1999, with no answers. There are ZERO books written on it. Anything remotely complex requires a TAR, in which it's found that Oracle messed up implementing the feature. OR is obviously an afterthought "hey we need to offer a report writer!" tool. (Oracle Discoverer is where it's at.) I just wish my company hadn't "cheaped out" and used this half-baked freebie instead of paying for Crystal.

Posted by Glenn on March 25, 2008 at 08:30 AM PDT #

I don't know and really don't care if Microsoft provides better resources for the SQL Server user community or not, but Sean probably doesn't know what to look for which is why he finds it hard. You could have the best GPS device in the world but it's useless if you don't know where you want to go!! I have NEVER found it hard to find answers to any Oracle related question (I have only been using it for close to 20 years), so I guess experience plays a part. Metalink, Forums, Blogs, technet, SIGs are all fantastic resources. I totally disagree with Sean.

Posted by Sunder Iyer on March 25, 2008 at 11:13 PM PDT #

Sean's very much off target. It's the result of unfamiliarity with Oracle and the communities of Oracle customers (between which there's more variation than Sean posits between MSSQL and Oracle. I've worked with both MSSQL and Oracle for quite a while, and it's pretty clear that on balance Oracle has much more extensive and detailed documentation...in general. Microsoft's isn't bad at all, but MSSQL is a less extensive and less functionally rich product suite. Certainly there are areas where Oracle's documentation is really lacking. But these are niches, or legacy areas. Microsoft has far less terrain, and less diverse terrain to map. In core RDBMS, I have to give Oracle 'pride of place' as having the best documentation, and the most extensive resources, available. That said, it's far less likely one will find 'everything' on 'everything' for all things Oracle one encounters than one will for Microsoft. The range and variety is too great to permit that.

Posted by Patrick Smith on March 26, 2008 at 04:46 AM PDT #

The Oracle Database is well documented and there is heaps of information available for Developers and DBA's on the web. But one must be willing to read and understand as the Oracle DB is complex. I am using Oracle and its tools for 18 years and i am still learning new things.

Posted by Herman Kall on March 31, 2008 at 03:00 AM PDT #

Speaking as the FAQ author from the old pre-web comp.databases.oracle days, I'll note there was a healthy Oracle community before MS acquired Sybase code. However, I'd also contrast "healthy" developers with "unhealthy" (pulling-their-hair-out because MS is always weird) community. Oracle's predictable and stable behaviour means things "just work and keep working" so there's less urgency with almost any query (I wrote an Oracle app back in 1987 still chugging along in 2008, running contract management for a road construction authority with no maintenance apart from version upgrades - averaging a couple of days a year - that something Microsoft will probably NEVER beat with their products).

Posted by Dave Bath on March 31, 2008 at 03:38 PM PDT #

What a muppet - it couldn't be easier to research this stuff. And this guy does research for a living ? I guess he must be pretty hungry and homeless by now.

Posted by ady on March 31, 2008 at 04:00 PM PDT #

Is there some truth in what Sean says - of course there is. Finding the right stuff can be hard, it doesn't help that there is sooo much documentation even in just the official manuals (and the manuals don't come with a working search function always). There is undoubtedly a terminology problem as well given that the vendors a) refer to the same thing with different names. b) use the same name (database to take the prime example) to refer to different things. That said I can't believe that some who "researches things for a living basically" couldn't go to the vendor's home page and click the "community" link right there. (unless that's new since the article). Niall Litchfield

Posted by Niall Litchfield on March 31, 2008 at 05:55 PM PDT #

I thought R&D was just there to appease the stomach of meetings.

Posted by Ghazala Khan on April 07, 2008 at 09:29 AM PDT #

I agree with Sean to certain extent because I do not know how good/bad is MS SQL server is but I can comment on how Oracle should improve since I am always scratching my hair out when faced with an issue. Oracle has lot of communities but do I get the correct information? Is the information effective in resolving my issue? Is there a fix or a workaround? Most of the time, either there is no information or it is not applicable to the OS+Oracle version that I am using or it fails to resolve my issue or it is a workaround. The source of information has to be authentic. If I use a piece of information, I must know if it supported by Oracle or not. The Metalink searches are totally useless ever since Oracle moved it to the new interface. Maybe Oracle should use Google APIs to do searches on Metalink. The blogs run by Oracle employees should be categorized as either technical, providing real technical information or solutions or promotional, those which just tell me about new products or upcoming events. Documenation on OTN: Since when is 10gr2 a prvious release? It is good to promote a newer version but Oracle must be sensitive to the fact that there are a lot of users who are still using 9i and 10g. Oracle support: I will not even say anything. That should express my sentiments. As I said earlier that I have no experience with MS SQL server. However, we are a MS shop as far as middle tier and application development goes. Sometimes there are issues and attending the conference calls and reading MS analysts's notes, I find that MS technical support has far better understanding of inner workings of their products than Oracle. Yes, Oracle needs to be more customer focussed. Oracle should try to help customers do business the way customers want it and not the way Oracle wants it.

Posted by Arun Gupta on April 10, 2008 at 07:29 PM PDT #

I must say the best product of oracle for me is Metalink. There is no other software provider providing better service than oracle!

Posted by peter schlaeger on April 13, 2008 at 09:10 PM PDT #

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