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Product Review: SoftTree's DB Tools for Oracle
 

Introduction - what is it you want to do

From a casual observer's point of view, SoftTree's DB Tolls for Oracle might appear to be a smorgasbord, miscellany, or mixed bag of database tools. But in fact SoftTree's DB Tools for Oracle offers a wide variety of well integrated database administrator focused applications to get work done.

Many tools on the market today, DB Tools included, are geared towards predictive analysis, trend watching, or finding resource consumption anomalies. But few give DBAs the tools to help solve or fix those problems. DB Tools is one of those products that goes a step further and provides such features as wizards, alerts, editors, debuggers, and hooks into monitoring that help a DBA implement solutions and actively change those objects, parameters, configurations, etc. that are causing performance problems.

DBAs are bombarded every day from databases spread across corporate infrastructures - needing to support multiple groups with distinct business initiatives. Not only do tasks focus on standard database administration but taking action on business processes as well. Thinking a single administrative toolset could solve varied database environments with differing business needs is nearly a pipe dream. For this reason DBAs often develop a large repertoire of varied scripts and procedures or control a large arsenal of administrative tools.

 

Pick Your Oracle Version

Looking at the various Premier, Error Correction, and Extended support dates for Oracle versions, one can only conclude that every Oracle customer is on version 11g by now. After all, even premier support for Oracle 10gR2 will be ending in 2 years (extended by the grace of Oracle). Without passing judgment on Oracle, not every Oracle database is able or ready to handle an upgrade to the latest and greatest version. Many customers are still using Oracle version 9i, 8i, and even 7.3.4. Thankfully many database tool vendors realize this and support at least versions back to 8i. Some vendors even support back to 7.3.4 and SoftTree is no different.

Supporting a wide version range of Oracle versions (7 to 11g), DB Tools can easily provide a consistent look and feel for all your database administrative tasks regardless if you have a varied assortment of Oracle versions spread through your organization or are planning to upgrade soon.

And, if there is another version of Oracle to come out, which is bound to happen, you can rest fairly comfortably that SoftTree will be supporting that version too - cutting down on the costs of multiple toolsets, providing security in administering a version that is right for your business, and not being forced to a new version when not ready.

Now to be completely honest, when reading through the manuals, I often found myself stating things like "hey, that won't work" or "that isn't how you do things" before I realized again that DB Tools is not a single version product. Remembering that these procedures where the only way of doing things back in version 7.3.4 or 8i I soon was thankful that someone (DB Tools for Oracle) remembered so I didn't have to.

 

 

 

Pick Your Tool

DB Tools is categorized under 20+ "expert" applications and utilities (high-level application list below) that offer DBAs a wide variety of reporting, monitoring, alerting, tuning, and management options for administering Oracle databases. I personally can not think of a single database tool that has as many pointed solutions. DB Tools is designed and focused on providing DBAs with real tools that help them get work don't. Monitoring databases is fine but when performance problems strike a DBA needs to quickly accomplish tasks; DB Tools does just that. Without diving into too much detail, a nice handful of these applications integrate with each other and provide a robust monitoring solution.

  • DB Monitor Expert
  • DB Difference Expert
  • DB Tuning Expert
  • DB Index Expert
  • DB Space Expert
  • DB Consumer Expert
  • DB Security Expert
  • DB Audit Expert
  • DB Patch Expert
  • DB Copy Expert
  • DB Log Expert
  • DB Benchmark Expert
  • DB Trends Expert
  • DB Alert Expert
  • DB Job Expert
  • DB Application Expert
  • DB Zip/Unzip Expert
  • Java Editor
  • SQL Editor and
  • Debugger
  • SQL Profiler
  • File Loader
  • LOB Viewer and Loader
  • Test Data Generator

Abundance of standardize reports

- Any DBA that has been around since Oracle version 7 is familiar with many of the standard SQL-based reports we use to run in SQL*Plus. Rollback & Redo Hits and Misses, CPU & Memory Usage, Sorts, Waits, File I/O, SQL Area, Object Cache, Buffer Cache, Sorts, Waits, Tablespace, Datafile, Snapshots, Links, Users, SGA, Parameter, and the list goes on and on. All of these reports are vital to any version of Oracle but are brought to life in DB Tools through a GUI interface.

 

My Favorite Tools

Customization

- Ok, my first favorite tool isn't really a tool per say but the ability to customize various features of DB Tools. Custom graphs, monitors, reports, thresholds, alerts, and background statistics collection will open a plethora of possibilities - liberating a DBA from caned solutions and enabling him/her to dynamically administer databases in a way that makes sense for their environment. Just enter some valid SQL and add a threshold and then optionally generate an alert to be notified or kick off a fixit job to remedy the situation. The options are endless from fixing database issues or internal monitoring of business specific data.

 

DB Trends Expert

I'm personally a trending fanatic when it comes to database administration. Finding what has changed and how it's changed is the key to unlocking and understanding the mysteries of database performance problems that just creep up on you. Table, index, cluster, schema, tablespace, file, and database trends are all standard with DB Tools and of course there is the ability to add a customized trend and add abilities to automate problem detection and resolution through the custom graphs. Additionally data captured by DB Trends can easily be integrated with DB Monitor Expert, DB Tuning Expert, and DB Space Expert for robust proactive database monitoring, capacity planning, or detecting an assortment of database problems before they occur.

 

DB Difference Expert

- While DB Trends Expert lets a DBA grasp the changes that are occurring in database performance, DB Difference Expert helps a DBA understand the changes that have been occurring at an object level as well as compare databases, schemas, and objects residing in the same or different databases. Through the use of a central repository users can compare databases, schemas or objects or can track object and database changes over a period of time -  providing a supper detection method to help pinpoint those changes  that might have caused performance issues

 

DB Tuning Expert

Every DBA needs a place to start. Whether you're a junior, intermediate, or seasoned DBA, DB Tuning Expert can help point you in the right direction. Within a few mouse clicks, users can run robust database performance and organization diagnostic tests - analyzing parameters, configurations, schema objects, SQL statements, and database trends (integrated with DB Trends Expert) to produce a comprehensive report on the existing performance problems and recommendations to solve them.

 

 

Wizards, Editors, and Debuggers

When DBAs don't know how to do something, wizards provide a virtal link to acomplishing tasks quickly and efficiently. Aside from installation, connection, and configuration wizards to setup and implement various features of DB Tools, DB Tools also provides wizards that step the user through using various features of DB Tools as well as intelligent wizards to help DBA with common database tasks such as reorganizing or defragging tablespaces, rebuilding tablespaces, and moving objects to name a few.

When wizards or tools are unavailable for DBAs to complete a task, DBAs must resort to SQL or PL/SQL coding. This is often under extreme stress and pressure - limiting the effectiveness of even the best DBA. Having editors and debuggers within a suite of tools, especially with DB Tools allowing so much customization, helps DBAs create, format, check execution paths, debug, save, execute, and trace code to build more efficient solutions. The DB Tools Editor and Debugger also has a comprehensive object navigator allows user to traverse a tree structure to investigate schema objects as well as database structures to enable users to quickly generate DDL or DML, reverse engineer object definitions, retrieve data, or check object dependencies.

 

Conclusion

DB Tools, with its wide variety of applications will keep junior as well as seasoned DBAs happy for a long time. While DB Tools has a large repertoire of functionality built in, for me, the customizability is the bait that would allow me to develop new monitors, reports, graphs, alerts, etc. and to fine tune monitoring for my specific environment. While this review only touched the surface of some of the features within DB Tools, there are plenty more useful features such as generating test data, running benchmarks, copying, loading, compressing, viewing, and patching various pieces of an Oracle database. It seems the feature list continues to grow every time I open up the product - definitely worth more investigation.

 

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