April is almost over, and you know what that means…
Oracle really, REALLY wants to talk to you about some of their products.
It’s no secret that the end of Oracle’s fiscal year (May 31st) marks a flurry of activity for Oracle sales, and doubtless many of you have met or will be meeting with them soon. These meetings can be highly beneficial for your company particularly if you are on the hunt for new hardware, database licenses, or other software. And if you’re not on the hunt for anything new, well… they can be pretty persuasive. You might be the proud owner of a T5-8 on June 1st.
Before that time comes, there’s a few things you can do to prepare. Ready yourself!
Oracle keeps pretty good records. Before meeting you they will make sure to know exactly what you own, how much you pay for support, and what your company’s public plans might be. They absolutely understand their own licensing model and know a good deal about how it plays into your environment.
So why would you go into a discussion with them about purchases without knowing what it is you’re actually buying?
First, make sure you understand the different license types and how they apply to your servers. Know whether you need Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition. Perhaps you are concerned about missing out on Diagnostics Pack and AWR/ASH. Yet perhaps STATSPACK and Simulated Ash (S-ASH) might work for you instead. Do you need DataGuard? Try DBvisit. Make sure before you take the Enterprise Edition plunge you really need all the features and add-ons it allows.
Don’t get me wrong, those features are many and wondrous. Parallelism, online operations, DataGuard, Tablespace Point In Time Recovery (TSPITR) and more are features worth having… if you want to pay for them.
Get a Grip on Your Licenses
It is equally important to understand your own licenses. The many companies I’ve worked with were a mixed bag. Some paid extraordinarily meticulous attention to their licenses, either entrusting them to an employee in charge of corporate license purchases or to the DBA team. Others had absolutely no idea and no control over their licenses. Developers, DBAs, or even small groups working under non-IT departments would install Oracle on an as-needed basis with no care for the complicated requirements of Oracle. Every few years they’d scramble out of fear of the audit, that oft whispered pain that may rain down on an unruly business.
I’ve never been through an audit so I can’t speak to their supposed rigorousness. But I do know the best thing you can possibly do — both to stay in the good graces of Oracle and to know what you need come bargaining time — is to know where Oracle is being used inside your organization and what features you have installed.
This might include a company-wide internal audit of your installations, asking each group what they have installed and where. A DBA team that is not aware of ‘secret’ Oracle installations is in for quite a bit of pain anyways, as when problems strike you will suddenly become aware of it in the form of a team of people requiring help. It is also recommended that you run scripts on your installations to gather information about installed features from DBA_REGISTRY. Make a spreadsheet, fill it in, and keep it updated. Track the licenses you’ve bought and where they are allocated. And if you are out of compliance, make note of it. The end of Oracle’s fiscal year may be a great time to true up.
Pay Attention to Metrics that Matter
I wrote an article recently about the misunderstanding behind some Oracle metrics called These Aren’t the Metrics You’re Looking For. In it I described five frequently misused metrics as they pertain to Oracle tuning.
But there’s another very very misunderstood metric as most people don’t even know it exists or why it’s important. And that is the only metric that matters when it comes to hardware purchases for database servers: per-core performance.
Why is this important? Because as Kevin Closson points out in his excellent article about the SPARC T5 Processor, performance per core can be correlated to performance per license. If you’re about to shell out your hard earned cash on a fistful of licenses then you need to know exactly what each license buys you. If Oracle’s licenses were based on the amount of disk you used, you would absolutely be sure to make the best use of that disk.
I’m not saying that the other things Oracle will bring up — caches, disks, secret sauce, oh my — are not important. Depending on your bottleneck the juice may be worth the squeeze. But before you buy a server with oodles of CPUs that you must license perhaps you should make sure your application is tuned to make the best use of CPU. Then perhaps you should make sure that server meets your CPU needs.
Do You Even Need Anything New?
Why are you sitting at the table in the first place? Is it because you really need to make some purchases or because you got a call? Or perhaps because someone up above made the request.
There’s been a long standing debate about throwing hardware at a problem. More and more companies these days are throwing hardware at issues… either to avoid expensive and time-consuming tuning and re-architecting or because standard computing can’t do the things they want to do. I’m not going to embark on that particular journey in this post, but I will say that you owe it to yourself and your finances to at least ensure your problems can’t be resolved with some parameter changes, query rewrites, or indexes.
Absolutely most importantly, make sure the hardware you are buying fixes the problem you are having. I’ve seen many companies buy new hardware only to find it didn’t make a single difference in their performance. And there is nothing that will anger a business and frustrate an IT department more. Pay attention to waits and usage, and make sure the bottlenecks you’re encountering are the ones you’re fixing. If your system is disk I/O bound, a new microprocessor probably won’t give you much, if any, relief.
Watch Out for the Eager Want
A principle of sales from my favorite business book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is to “arouse in the other person an eager want.” Remember that Oracle’s “eager want” is already there. They want to sell you products all year round, and definitely right before the end of their fiscal year. When Oracle Sales comes knocking at your door, their job is to arouse that want in you.
You will hear about all sorts of amazing products, from SPARC chips to OVM to Advanced Compression to Real Application Clusters. You don’t have to wear a hat and shades to hide your emotions like a poker competition, but you may at least want to make sure you know what these features do and whether or not you need them. It is good to have a healthy relationship with Oracle. They are a maker of outstanding products, and they absolutely have knowledge of those products that will be beneficial to you. But just like with any sales meeting, make sure you keep your wants in check and mind the pocketbook.
Twas the month before end of fiscal year and all through the net, sales are stirring and getting us in debt. This is absolutely the time to get some outstanding deals from Oracle Corporation (and other companies). Get your ducks in a row and reap the benefits responsibly!