Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More fun with Oracle11g

I have been working with the release of Oracle11g for a couple of months now. I have to say I have not been impressed with it. As released there are several major bugs that really limit usability and stability.

Right out of the gate when I upgraded my environment to I had problems. If you utilize the automated memory management features using MEMORY_MAX_SIZE and MEMORY_TARGET, on 64 bit RedHat Linux you are limited to 3 gigabytes of total SGA, that’s right folks, less than you can get on 32 bit! This was easily mitigated by going back to full manual memory management. So much for the much touted AMM improvements in 11g.

My setup for testing is a 4 node luster using Dell servers with 8 CPUs each and 16 gigabytes of memory per server. I am using Infiniband interconnects on the 4 server cluster. Initially I would get ORA-00600 errors and server reboots if we loaded down the system doing a single user 300 GB TPC-H. For the most part I was able to fix that by relinking the Oracle kernel to use the RDS protocol with Infiniband, however, on some large queries using cross instance parallel query and large amounts of partitioning I still cannot complete a full 22 query TPC-H without at least one of the queries throwing an ORA-00600.

The next test was TPC-C using large numbers of users and cross instance parallel query. Following the example of some recent HP TPC-H runs I attempted to use clustered tables. As long as I used single table clusters, everything seemed to go alright, but as soon as I attempted a dual table hash cluster things went pear-shaped and I had to revert to normal tables. This was a known Oracle bug it seems but hasn’t been made publically available in Metalink. It seems I could load one of the tables in the cluster but then when attempting to load the second table in the 11g cluster it would error.

The next bit of testing involved creating a large table (60,000,000 2K rows) then duplicating the table, doing a select that forced temp usage, doing a self-join with large temp usage and creating a large index. Since I had 8 CPUs I initially started with a DOP of 8 increasing it by 8 as I added in each node up to a maximum of 32. Sometimes this would work, other times parallel query servers would die horrible deaths causing the transaction to fail. Now, for a 16 gig server with 8 CPUs I would expect to be able to get well above a DOP of 8 on a single table. In fact, during the load process the last several iterations use a single instance DOP of 64 with no issues. It seems as soon as I add more than 1 or 2 additional nodes, things start to get wonky (a scientific term meaning “wonky”), parallel query slaves commit suicide at an alarming rate and sometimes entire servers reboot. I reduced to 6 DOP and still see the failures on most runs above a server count of 2.

Of course you must realize from talking with support most of the internal testing and support is done on 32 bit machines. Many times support told me that they can’t test large memories or large databases because of this. Come on Oracle, take some of the interest on your billions in profits and upgrade your support servers! Buy some disk drives! Geesh!

Of course most of my work is done on gear that supports over 100,000 IOPS (actually more than this by several factors) and many beta testers may not have the 500 disk drives to allow for 100,000 IOPS or access to SSD technology to get this type of IO load. Maybe these Oracle11g stability issues only show up at high IO rates. However, with many manufacturers now offering SSD technology (SUN, HP, EMC) to go with their standard disk systems and of course, TMS, Violin, FusionIO and several other SSD vendors offering SSD systems that easily top 100,000 IOPS or more, Oracle better get with it and start doing significant testing in high IOPS situations, or at least, make sure and include the partners who have access to this technology in their betas.

I am not sure what happened with the beta testing of this ( release, had I been included I would have quickly showed them these bugs as I believe in testing real world database situations. I don’t know whether to look forward to 11gR2 with anticipation or dread (I was not invited into that beta either), if the beta programs are as detailed as they were for 11gR1 we might be in for a rough ride.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Outsource This!

I just watched President Obama’s speech on the educational reforms that he proposes. As laudable as his proposed fixes are, I mean after all, who isn’t for tougher standards for graduates, more pay for good teachers and accountability at all levels, I feel perhaps he has missed the boat in a key area.

The New York Times recently published an article stating that the college graduate has seen a bigger decline in employment than just about any other sector. Don’t get me wrong, a college graduate still gets better pay and benefits than a non-college graduate, but just getting a degree will not guarantee you the American dream any longer.

The key area that President Obama has neglected is that American college graduates expect to receive wages in excess of $60K per year. Unfortunately foreign graduates who still reside overseas are usually pleased to receive the equivalent of a third of this amount or less, especially in the Asian countries and in Latin America. This means that by outsourcing a company can get 3 times the number of employees and hopefully three times the productivity. This isn’t always the case but that is the logic used to justify sending jobs overseas.

What many companies are finding however is that those budget employees come with their own issues. For example, a programmer who has never experienced a free market economy may not understand all the intricacies of accounting in such a system. Of course I probably needn’t mention the various cultural and language difficulties that are also experienced with outsourcing.

I am afraid that many of the stimulus jobs that seem to be offered from the President’s plans seem to be short term blue collar type jobs that won’t do much to help the college graduate with advanced degrees. If you work outside of the computer industry, for example, for two years as a heavy machinery operator on a construction job, you will find your computer science degree probably isn’t worth much anymore.

Soon the only way to get a job will be to move out of the USA and go to a country where the cost of living is in line with what the companies who outsource are willing to pay employees, but don’t look for benefits!

Monday, March 02, 2009

God and Technology

Many times I have been asked how as a technologist/scientist I can believe in God. It is as if these people believe you cannot be a thinking person and also believe in a higher power. Now, this is not to say I am one of the folks who think every word in the Bible (Old and New Testament) is the gospel truth (no pun intended.) Like I said, I am a thinking Christian, as such I question everything and look for confirmation of those things that can be confirmed. Of course with religion, as in all things in science and lay areas, eventually you reach a point where it is either believe or not believe and I chose to believe.

I prefer to think of myself as more a Jeffersonian Christian rather than a Paulian Christian. It amazes me that many Christians swallow hook-line-and-sinker every word penned by the one Apostle that never actually met Jesus face-to-face. Many scholars feel that Paul was sent on so many missions not because he was good at them but because the other Apostles really couldn’t stand him and hoped that he wouldn’t return. Many believers take Paul’s letters out of context and usually completely incorrectly as their meaning is understood by true bible scholars. In fact many articles of faith were added in after the fact to the regular gospels as can be proved by stylistic differences and from going back to the earliest known translations. The fact is that no matter how current your translation you are still starting from flawed beginnings. Many of the books that “didn’t make the cut” when the first bibles were compiled were destroyed as heresy thus removing them from possible future examination.

With any scientific field of study you reach a certain point and you can go no further, from that point on you have to accept things on theories and faith. Even with the less than whole cloth parts of the Bible’s New Testament removed, what is left is still an amazing history of a real man who lived, and died for his faith and his friends. Is Jesus the Son of God? Yes, but then we all are the sons and daughters of God. Did Jesus die for our sins? Yes. Was he raised from the dead? This is where there is some contention over what was added after the fact and what is whole cloth. But let’s examine this.

Two men: One knows he is the physical Son of God, he knows that no matter what evil painful things happen on Earth he has a place at the right hand of God. Second man, a man, with man’s frailties, and doubts. Now, both give up their Earthly lives for what they believe in, which one required greater faith? Would Jesus be less or more of an inspiration if he was a frail human or the anointed Son of God? Would you believe it was a vote by a group of flawed humans (the Nicene Council) that decided Jesus was a deity and it was actually a very close vote.

Unfortunately the only documents that provide “proof” of Jesus’ deity are in the Bible and using the Bible to prove the Bible is circular logic and therefore flawed. It is like using the Dianetics text to prove L. Ron Hubbard’s qualifications as a deity. Since most Islamic accounts of Jesus are actually taken from the Bible then related texts quoting them are not relevant. While Jesus is mentioned in some historical texts none go into great detail as to his birth, (a virgin was a young maiden, not someone who had never had sex) life (he existed and taught and was hated by Rome), death (he was probably crucified) or resurrection. These accounts of the resurrection were actually added after the original text in the gospels, it was felt that the Mithran belief, having a virgin birth, life and resurrection was a big spur to add these passages. (see: http://www.near-death.com/experiences/origen048.html) Among non-Christian historians, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Tacitus refer to Jesus, as does Josephus (Joseph ben Matthias).

So, do I believe Jesus is my savior? Yes, his teachings show the way to the father as he himself said “There is no way to the father but through me” meaning through his teachings we find the way. Do I believe in the resurrection? That is more complex to answer. Unfortunately the resurrection is one of the parts added after the original text, that makes it suspect in my eyes. The key question is “Would I believe without the resurrection?” The answer is yes, I would, so whether I believe in the resurrection or not is moot. You are free to believe as you wish and I would never dream of pushing my beliefs onto you, after all, we have free will.

Do I believe in the life everlasting? Yes. There is enough anecdotal evidence to show that something of us exists after death, that the spirit left gets rewarded or punished based on a set of criteria created within its own belief structure is not that far of a reach. After all Jesus also said “In my Father’s house are many mansions, I go there now to prepare a place for you.”
So what have I attested to? I believe in God and I believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus died for my sins. I believe Jesus’ teachings show the way to true belief in God. If this diminishes me in some folk’s eyes, so be it. However, it is not for people that I live, I live for God, my family and myself.

Does God reject technology? No, he gave us technology to better ourselves. As with any tool, how we use it determines whether the tool is good or bad. Do modern teachings contradict the Bible? No. If you realize that most of the creation story is metaphor, used to explain something we don’t have full understanding of even today, to ignorant herders. When looked at as metaphor it actually parallels what we know. Look at the theory of vacuum fluctuations and compare it to the story of genesis. As to what timelines are used in the Bible, again, try to explain millions of years to someone who barely understands how to count his herd of sheep.

It is odd that those that insist on a literal interpretation of their favorite passages that damn certain behaviors or exalt other behaviors they profess to believe in themselves but then they tell us other parts are metaphor. Remember that the true test of a prophet is that what he prophesizes comes true. I am afraid many of the added texts in the Bible fail this test as do many of the founders of many splinter religions who used imperfect understanding to make prophesies of specific dates for events such as the “rapture” and the second coming. Of course instead of applying the test to these false prophets and rejecting them, they merely allowed that they were mistaken but that their prophesies would come true eventually.

Limiting God to a simplistic creation story is demeaning to God. That God could put into motion such marvelous mechanisms as those behind vacuum fluctuations and evolution is a testament to his greatness, not a detractor from it. That we cannot understand everything is a testament to God’s greatness . God guides technology, giving us tools to better understand his universe.

Burying our heads in simplistic beliefs because we cannot understand God’s plan as implemented in his universe is an affront to God.