Recent Feature Articles

Oct 2021

Committed Database

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Database administrators tend to be pretty conservative about how databases are altered. This is for good reason- that data is mission critical, it's availability is vital, and any change you make threatens that stability and reliability. This conservatism ranges from "we have well defined processes for making changes" all the way to "developers are dangerous toddlers playing with guns and we can't allow them to do anything lest it break our precious database."

"Grumpy" Gus worked with some DBAs that fell much more on the "developers can't be trusted" end of the spectrum. This meant they had big piles of rigorous processes to make sure only the most important, definitely required changes to the database ever got made. The process involved filing several documents, marking an entry on a spreadsheet, emailing a [email protected] inbox, and then waiting. Your request would snake its way through a Database Management Subcommittee, then get kicked over to a Business Need Evaluation Working Group. If the working group agreed that this change met a level of business need, it went back to the subcommittee, which reviewed the findings and if they agreed escalated it to the monthly Database Administration Steering Committee and Database Users Group meeting. Once again, it would get reviewed. If accepted, the DBAs could write a change script, and apply it in the next database maintenance window.

Performance Tuning for Exabyte Queries

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While NoSQL databases have definitely made their mark and have an important role in applications, there's also still a place for RDBMSes. The key advantage of an RDBMS is that, with a well normalized schema, any arbitrary query is possible, and instead of optimizing the query, you optimize the database itself to ensure you hit your performance goals- indexes, statistics, materialized views, etc..

The reality, of course, is wildly different. While the execution plan used by the database shouldn't be dependent upon how we write the query, it frequently is, managing statistics and indexes is surprisingly hard, and when performance problems crop up, without the right monitoring, it can be difficult to track down exactly which query is causing the problem.

Totally Up To Date

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NOAA Central Library Card Catalog 1

The year was 2015. Erik was working for LibCo, a company that offered management software for public libraries. The software managed inventory, customer tracking, fine calculations, and everything else the library needed to keep track of their books. This included, of course, a huge database with all book titles known to the entire library system.