Oracle Scratchpad

January 17, 2007


Filed under: Philosophy,Troubleshooting — Jonathan Lewis @ 9:26 pm GMT Jan 17,2007

A quotation from Leslie Lamport (of “Lamport SCN” fame) in “Specifying Systems” (ISBN 0-321-14306-X):

The hardest part of writing a specification is choosing the proper abstraction. I can teach you about TLA+, so expressing an abstract view of a system as a TLA+ specification becomes a straightforward task. But I don’t know how to teach you about abstraction. A good engineer knows how to abstract the essence of a system and suppress the unimportant details when specifying and designing it. The art of abstraction is learned only through experience.

With a little mangling this is a sentiment that seems to be appropriate to the skill of trouble-shooting.

I can tell you all sorts of things about the way Oracle works and describe various ways of making best use of the database engine but (apart from the trivial cases – like missing indexes, or massively undersized memory, or silly numbers of disks) I can’t tell you how to look at a set of  symptoms and extract the essence of the problem. I can’t tell you how to suppress the unimportant details and expose the root cause of the most important issue; it’s a skill that gets honed with experience.

Fortunately, unlike the analyst or designer,  you don’t have to wait for the experience to come to you. You can construct examples that generate interesting symptoms then start playing them off against each other to see how problems interfere with each other and how symptoms overlap but can still be differentiated.

[The Philosophy Category]


  1. IDEA!

    What about a set of bad configured DB to play with? :)

    Something like honeynet ( but for Oracle.

    Any one?

    Comment by Antonio — January 18, 2007 @ 7:37 am GMT Jan 18,2007 | Reply

  2. Another way to learn abstraction is to learn Mathematics. It’s all about abstract things, even when using elementary math. Good mathematicians usually make good Computer Scientists (and I think good SQL tuning professionals, e.g. Cary Millsap)

    Comment by Ghassan Salem — January 18, 2007 @ 8:36 am GMT Jan 18,2007 | Reply

  3. Still accurate nowadays…
    Happy new year :)

    Comment by basy15 — January 11, 2012 @ 5:04 pm GMT Jan 11,2012 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Comments and related questions are welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by

%d bloggers like this: