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Developing Your DBA Skills Further Thanks to Experience with Multiple RDBMS


Any DBA who really understands databases and SQL standards can make out with other RDBMSs quite well, and if they have not tried yet, I recommend it for the reasons I shall discuss below.

Specialists maintain, with reason, that you cannot be a Master/Mistress of multiple database management systems.  Fine, if you have decided that for your future, that there is not the possibility of being proficient in another system, then you have closed up your options before even trying perhaps(?).

Just in the same way as knowing multiple languages can help you know your own language better, I believe the same goes for database management systems.  This competition between vendors of varying DBMSs allows for great features to be passed from one database engine to the other and benefits us, the DBAs, greatly. The benefits of taking the deep step into another RDBMS can further enlighten your approach to resolving problems or creating unique solutions that embrace a resolution no matter what source they come from.  


After several months working back with Ellison's baby (trained on Oracle 8 in 1998), Oracle 11g and its solid architecture are impressive.  I especially appreciate the recovery approach Oracle takes, explicitly the redo/unlog log files: relying on the SCN (system change number, defined during a checkpoint) for bombproof recovery. The real issue with learning multiple backup systems running on MSSQL is that you could lose your backup recovery chain (unable to match LSN numbers) with mixed Tape/Disk backups, whereas with Oracle’s use of the SCN, this is not an issue.  The hardest part initially, was learning a whole new set of Acronyms related to Oracle's architecture for example: SMON, PMON, DBWn, RECO, ARCn et al.

Oracle Developer 2.1 is a pretty cool management tool also with easy result set export to XLS/CSV/etc., although I prefer SQL 2008's Management Studio. But also not to be ignored, is the excellent web-based Enterprise Manager from Oracle, which can take a bit of getting used to – with respect to finding your way around – but is very rich once you are familiar with how to take advantage of it.

Seasoned Oracle DBAs I enjoy working with have mentioned the lack of spooling in Oracle's developer (UPDATE, actualy spool does work fine in O.Dev 2.1), and after going back to using SQL+ for a while they have a very good point.  Oracle Developer and SSMS always have the code / results split up (unless in SQL DMO?), which doesn't always make it easy to associate the error with the section of code you are working on (unless you click on the error in SSMS report pane that is).  Setting the Spool on and off after working on production provides pretty bomber evidence for auditing operations on your production databases, or results during testing and development.


In a future post I will discuss some fun I have had with MySQL – and unfortunate tendency I have found also, that MySQL developers (who have worked very hard to build their system, and are naturally defensive) will ask the DBA for help in desperation, and as soon as the access is sorted, it only takes a short time before the real fixes become obvious and the developers’ knee-jerk reaction becomes to circle around their team in defence instead of accepting DBA intervention (we are there to help (!), and ultimately improve the bottom line for the company, or success of the respective project).  Anyway, that is par for the course often enough for DBAs, as mentioned to an extreme in my last post.  

 Do not be afraid to cross the bridge to the other side, or the other Database Management System.


PS enjoying a little work with PostgreSQL also recently, converting a schema to SQL Server and Oracle.

Really enjoying the tool SQuirrel SQL Universal SQL Client Version 3.1


Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Pingback from  SQL Server Central «  ???????????????????????????????????????

Posted by Hugo Shebbeare on 26 February 2010

Okay, I shall just leave that comment there I guess.  

The anonymous question mark person seems to have an issue?

Posted by Michael Clement on 27 February 2010

I agree with you assessment and have found it quite helpful thank you.

Posted by pjam on 1 March 2010

 I do think too many people don't ever learn the foundations and become stuck just knowing Oracle or SQL Server or Teradata or MySQL, etc.  They aren't really database people but rather a Oracle DBA or Pl/SQL or T-SQL developer and so on.  It's better to learn the basics, the foundations of databases and database theory, then move on to learning the different tools and software.  You might only be an expert say in SQL Server but pick up enough knowledge in Oracle that you could survive.  

However after saying all that, the biggest issue in todays economy and market is it's good to learn a lot but people sometimes look down on somebody who 'is a jack of all trades' or they question your knowledge and experience.  Great if you get a chance to prove them wrong, not so great if you're looking for a job and your resume gets ignored.

The other problem is there just isn't enough time in the day anymore.  If you work 50+ hours a week and are on call and then need to keep up to date with all the lastest and greatest just for what you do, when will you have the time to keep up to date with another product?   Yeah if you're single or a bad parent, there is plenty of time, but for a lot of people, spending 100 hours a week just to keep up to date with something you might never lose, becomes pointless at some point when you realize, you did waste a lot of time learning useless things.   If you became certified in Oracle  in 2002 but been a SQL Server guy ever since, that knowledge is pointless now.   And if you spent a lot of time learning and playing around instead of spending time with your kids and family,  you start to realize life shouldn't really be about learning useless things you'll never utilize.

Posted by Hugo Shebbeare on 2 March 2010

Very good points pjam3web:

Having multiple RDBMS on the CV/Resumé allows for a bigger catch for opportunity (i.e. more meat on the CV).  The spill-over from one system to the next, thankfully following SQL standards, allows the JATrades to a certain extent, to benefit from this.

If have the opportunity you get in on a new job, trip up a little, but still manage to improve the systems speed or reliability, then you're okay and can scrape through and progress over time. But like you mentioned it is subjective vis à vis the potential stakeholder/manager/client you want to impress.  There are those who take a monotheistic approach and rule out your opportunity before you even have the chance to prove it. This is not cool, but not uncommon.

As DBAs we have to learn to save time with the use of automation, nobody is going to give training time to you for just doing your job. And sure, in your last paragraph it is all about priorities and making the decision to invest in what is going to give the long term DBA knowledge required to excel.

Thank you for bringing up these points.

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