Friday, May 31, 2002

Taking Linda's Spot. The boxed set of Oracle books that Linda discussed in her last entry are a bargain for someone who is immersed in a training program. However, who really has the time to wade through thousands of pages and a stack of CD ROMs? (Unless you're facing a certification exam). What if you merely want to gain basic Oracle skills and are overwhelmed by the six inch thick books out there? A refreshingly slender book is So You Want to Be an Oracle DBA?. First, you need to know that this book is based on version 9i and is focused on the UNIX environment. If you're using Oracle 8i and have no immediate plans to upgrade you will find that the previous edition to be more suitable.

The ideal audience for this book is the new Oracle DBA or UNIX system administrators who have either inherited DBA responsibilities or who want to gain cross-functional skills. Experienced DBAs will find much of this book too basic, and may complain that it doesn't cover the full range of database administration topics.

In my opinion the relatively narrow scope of this book is one of its strengths. Instead of overwhelming the new DBA with hundreds of pages it sticks to the essentials. Another point in its favor is that the author doesn't attempt to go into gory details about how things work (information that you can get from other books as your comfort level and self-confidence improve), but remains focused on what you need to do in order to effectively manage and support an Oracle 9i instance.

While I liked the Getting Started and Some DBA tasks (Sections I and II) that start this book, I especially liked Section III, which covers tuning. This is the essence of what a DBA does, and the basics are well covered. This section also gives some excellent scripts that the new DBA will find invaluable. Section IV, is somewhat useful, but Section V is another favorite because it shows how to begin building your own set of tools, which is the hallmark of an experienced DBA. The scripts that are provided in this section are the foundation of database administration, and will spark ideas for additional and more specific scripts. The value is that you can learn much from what is provided.

Each topic in this book is given a brief 2-3 pages, which makes it somewhat terse. In many cases you'll have to go to other books for deeper explanations, but at least you'll be quickly functional.

If I had to choose a single book with which to get started this would be it. Of course you'll outgrow this as your skills and experience evolve, but it will get you started and does so using good practices and workable techniques.

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