At Stride Rite Corp., Ray LeFebvre, database manager, finds that managing 50 Oracle database systems with a small staff is easier once a third party's graphical-management tools are sitting on top of his Oracle 8i and 9i systems.
Oracle builds numerous management utilities into its database for administrators. But for the last five years, LeFebvre has relied on Quest Software Inc.'s Quest Central and other Quest tools to bring ease of use to the Oracle command line. Stride Rite was a beta tester of the latest Quest Central release 5.5, issued Sept. 19, and now uses it in production.
The $5,900-per-server tool has added capability for analyzing the performance of regular SQL queries or Oracle's PL/SQL queries and identifying problem areas. Quest 5.5 can automatically rewrite SQL queries to optimize them for performance. It also scans source code in the database in the form of triggers and stored procedures, looking for potential bottlenecks.
"We use it a lot to determine performance issues, to pinpoint what's going on inside the database," says LeFebvre, who has a staff of three database administrators. It's possible to do many performance checks without the tool but it means writing your own SQL, PL/SQL, or Oracle database command syntax.
If something goes haywire with a change in the database, Quest has the option of clicking on a symbol to go back to an earlier, unchanged version. It also tells you who made the change that caused things to go wrong, Lefebvre says. "You're not mired down in Oracle syntax," or writing scripts that test for what went wrong, he says.
Transactions in Oracle drive the order-management system at Stride Rite, as customer-service agents visit retailers and place orders for them. "It's critical to us. We couldn't make Oracle work around the clock, seven days a week, without it [Quest Central]. Our order-management system is our lifeblood," LeFebvre says.
Oracle offers some management assistance, in addition to the command-line interface, through tools like its Oracle Enterprise Manager. "It's free, up to a point," LeFebvre says. Once you depend on it, you'll start buying enhancements, he says.
Log Miner is an Oracle utility for pulling information on database activity out of Oracle database log files. An additional Quest tool, Toad for Oracle, makes Log Miner easier to use by "putting a user interface around it. We can restore lost data without having to go to backup tapes," through a few clicks of the mouse, LeFebvre says.
By being able to spot performance problems before they show up in production, LeFebvre says Stride Rite IT has "become a more proactive shop, instead of just being reactive."