January 16, 2010
I occasionally see requests for book suggestions in various Internet forums, blogs, and various other websites. I am typically very careful when preparing to buy a book, since it my money that will be wasted if the book’s contents are worthless. I try to read the reviews for books on Amazon.com, blogs, and various other sites to try to determine if the book’s contents should have been retired with the release of Oracle Database 8.0, whether or not the book’s authors emphasize volume over technical quality, and whether or not people are willing to rely on a particular author’s advice.
I thought that it might be interesting to look at my book library to see if I would be able to offer any advice. My book library at home looks like the following picture (I intentionally or unintentionally left out about 6 to 10 books) – click the picture to see a larger version.
If you closely examine the books, you probably will be able to tell that I need to spend a little more time digging through the books on the right (and the four years of related magazines that have been sitting mostly unread).
Here is my personal book library at work – click the picture to see a larger version.
As I wrote in this OTN thread, a small number of Oracle books marked distinct turning points in my knowledge of Oracle. Additionally, it is necessary to find motivation to continue learning whatever subject falls at your feet. In the OTN thread, I stated the following:
I have been very fortunate to buy and read several very high quality Oracle books which not only correctly state the way something works, but also manage to provide a logical, reasoned explanation for why things happen as they do, when it is appropriate, and when it is not. While not the first book I read on the topic of Oracle, the book “Oracle Performance Tuning 101” by Gaja Vaidyanatha marked the start of logical reasoning in performance tuning exercises for me. A couple years later I learned that Gaja was a member of the Oaktable Network. I read the book “Expert Oracle One on One” by Tom Kyte and was impressed with the test cases presented in the book which help readers understand the logic of why Oracle behaves as it does, and I also enjoyed the performance tuning stories in the book. A couple years later I found Tom Kyte’s “Expert Oracle Database Architecture” book at a book store and bought it without a second thought; some repetition from his previous book, fewer performance tuning stories, but a lot of great, logically reasoned information. A couple years later I learned that Tom was a member of the Oaktable Network. I read the book “Optimizing Oracle Performance” by Cary Millsap, a book that once again marked a distinct turning point in the method I used for performance tuning – the logic made all of the book easy to understand. A couple years later I learned that Cary was a member of the Oaktable Network. I read the book “Cost-Based Oracle Fundamentals” by Jonathan Lewis, a book by its title seemed to be too much of a beginner’s book until I read the review by Tom Kyte. Needless to say, the book also marked a turning point in the way I approach problem solving through logical reasoning, asking and answering the question – “What is Oracle thinking”. Jonathan is a member of the Oaktable Network, a pattern is starting to develop here. At this point I started looking for anything written in book or blog form by members of the Oaktable Network. I found Richard Foote’s blog, which some how managed to make Oracle indexes interesting for me – probably through the use of logic and test cases which allowed me to reproduce what I reading about. I found Jonathan Lewis’ blog, which covers so many interesting topics about Oracle, all of which leverage logical approaches to help understanding. I also found the blogs of Kevin Closson, Greg Rahn, Tanel Poder, and a number of other members of the Oaktable Network. The draw to the performance tuning side of Oracle administration was primarily for a search for the elusive condition known as Compulsive Tuning Disorder, which was coined in the book written by Gaja. There were, of course, many other books which contributed to my knowledge – I reviewed at least 8 of the Oracle related books on the Amazon.com website
The above was written before I set up this blog – there are more book reviews on this blog here: http://hoopercharles.wordpress.com/category/book-review/. In the above pictures you will see all of the books that I referenced in the OTN post, as well as the book that I had the opportunity to co-author with a fairly large number of OakTable Network members (top photo – I have not yet received my printed copy of the book from Amazon, so the picture shows a printed copy of the electronic version from Apress). There are of course a large number of books in my personal library at work – as you can see, I have the opportunity to dig into much more than Oracle Database. I have read most of the books cover to cover, and a very small number of the books have been read cover to cover twice.
My post in the OTN thread continues:
Motivation… it is interesting to read what people write about Oracle. Sometimes what is written directly contradicts what one knows about Oracle. In such cases, it may be a fun exercise to determine if what was written is correct (and why it is logically correct), or why it is wrong (and why it is logically incorrect). Take, for example, the “Top 5 Timed Events” seen in this book …
The text of the book states that the “Top 5 Timed Events” shown indicates a CPU Constrained Database (side note: if a database is a series of files stored physically on a disk, can it ever be CPU constrained?). From the “Top 5 Timed Events”, we see that there were 4,851 waits on the CPU for a total time of 4,042 seconds, and this represented 55.76% of the wait time. Someone reading the book might be left thinking one of:
- “That obviously means that the CPU is overwhelmed!”
- “Wow 4,851 wait events on the CPU, that sure is a lot!”
- “Wow wait events on the CPU, I didn’t know that was possible?”
- “Hey, something is wrong with this ‘Top 5 Timed Events’ output as Oracle never reports the number of waits on CPU.”
- “Something is really wrong with this ‘Top 5 Timed Events’ output as we do not know the number of CPUs in the server (what if there are 32 CPUs), the time range of the statics, and why the average time for a single block read is more than a second!”
Another page from the same book shows this command:alter system set optimizer_index_cost_adj=20 scope = pfile;
Someone reading the book might be left thinking one of:
- That looks like an easy to implement solution.
- I thought that it was only possible to alter parameters in the spfile with an ALTER SYSTEM command, neat.
- That command will never execute, and should return an “ORA-00922: missing or invalid option” error.
- Why would the author suggest a value of 20 for OPTIMIZER_INDEX_COST_ADJ and not 1, 5, 10, 12, 50, or 100? Are there any side effects? Why isn’t the author recommending the use of system (CPU) statistics to correct the cost of full table scans?
I suggest that you try reading an old Oracle book, such as “Practical Oracle 8i”, and see if you are able to pick out anything that is:
- Obviously wrong, and was never correct.
- Obviously wrong since Oracle 10.1.0.1 (or some other release version), but was 100% correct at the time the book was written.
- Obviously correct now, just as it was when the book was originally written.
- Grossly over applying a fix that worked in a finite set of conditions (possibly due to false correlation) to situations with nearly infinite scope.
Someone posted a comment on this blog asking for a sequenced list of book recommendations for learning Oracle Database. I suggested that the list of books might be a bit different depending on whether the person had an interest in general DBA work or performance tuning (or development, or …). The suggestions that I provided to the comment follow:
- A solid foundation of Oracle specific SQL is needed. I enjoyed reading “Mastering Oracle SQL and SQL*Plus“, and I believe that book provides a solid foundation. That book appears to be in the process of being updated, and might even include page numbers this time (http://www.apress.com/book/view/9781430271970). I am currently reading “Oracle SQL Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach” (http://www.apress.com/book/view/1430225092), probably about 30 pages into the book now – and I believe that I have already found a small handful of minor errors/issues with the book that would make it difficult to use as a starting point.
- A solid foundation of understanding Oracle’s behavior is needed. I believe that Tom Kyte’s “Expert Oracle Database Architecture: 9i and 10g Programming Techniques and Solutions” book (http://www.apress.com/book/view/9781590595305) is one of the best sources. I understand that Tom Kyte also re-wrote the Oracle 184.108.40.206 “Concepts Guide” (http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E11882_01/server.112/e10713/toc.htm), so that might be a decent substitute for his book.
- If you are planning to do general DBA work, probably the next book should be on the topic of RMAN. The books in the Oracle documentation library are good, and you will find two reviews of other RMAN books on this blog.
- Next, I would suggest reading a book that provides a solid foundation of the Oracle wait interface. “Oracle Wait Interface: A Practical Guide to Performance Diagnostics & Tuning” seems to be the best source of that information, but it would be nice to see an update of the book that covers more recent releases of Oracle.
- Next, the “Oracle Performance Tuning Guide” from the Oracle documentation library.
- Next, I suggest the book “Troubleshooting Oracle Performance” – the book is great for not only introducing people to various approaches for troubleshooting problems, but also provides foundation knowledge that is needed in order to understand why an approach worked.
- Next, I suggest digging deeper into troubleshooting with 10046 trace files – Cary Millsap’s “Optimizing Oracle Performance” is the best source for this information.
- Next, I suggest digging deeper into troubleshooting with 10053 trace files – Jonathan Lewis’ “Cost-Based Oracle Fundamentals” is the best source for this information.
+ If queueing theory, introduced in “Optimizing Oracle Performance“, is of interest, take a look at “Forecasting Oracle Performance”
+ If Statspack/AWR report reading, introduced in the “Performance Tuning Guide” is of interest, see the excellent series of articles on Jonathan Lewis’ blog.
+ If you want your jaw to drop, take a look at Tanel Poder’s blog. I also recommend reading all of the blog entries on Jonathan Lewis’ blog and Richard Foote’s blog.
+ I have now read most of the chapters in the “Expert Oracle Practices: Oracle Database Administration from the Oak Table” book. The book contains theory, tuning philosophy, tuning/troubleshooting logic, test cases, and up to date information that cannot be found in any other book. It is my opinion that this book belongs in the “Quick suggestions” list above. Disclaimer: Just estimating here, for every 17 copies of this book that are sold, I think that I will have enough royalty money to buy a soda drink from the vending machine (my recommendation has nothing to do with how thirsty I am right now :-) ). It is my belief that the motivation for all of the authors of this book was simply to help readers improve their skills well beyond the basics.