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8 Things Every Beginner Oracle DBA Should Know

Author: Patrick Gates | | November 30, 2016

If you have just taken on the responsibilities of a DBA, it’s hard sometimes to know which skillsets are most crucial to your job. The job responsibilities of DBAs are vast and complex and often dip into other areas of IT – so which ones should you hone first?

In this blog post, we’re going to outline the ones we think will be more helpful as you get started on your DBA journey. Although learning on the job is a continuous and never-ending process, there are certain skills and concepts that are critical from the start. As a general rule, we believe it’s a good idea for early-career DBAs to develop a 360-degree view of how your databases interact with various subsystems — OS, network, firewalls, server hardware, and storage systems, to name a few. Our suggestions will be rooted in this concept.

Here’s a checklist of eight job requirements in which a beginner Oracle DBA should build expertise:

Installing and configuring Oracle

Procedures and caveats of installing Oracle across different OS — Linux, Windows Server, Unix, to name a few — can vary considerably. Each platform has its own peculiar and specific requirements. Knowing about Oracle installation procedures is a strong point, but there is no substitute for practical experience. Read, listen, observe, and always be on the lookout for opportunities to get that practical experience.

Basic monitoring and tuning

There are so many diverse issues that can affect the performance of an Oracle database. As a new DBA you should be able to understand the type of bottlenecks that can take place and be able to find solutions. To mention just a few: Use common wait events, check if the right index is being used, and rebuild indexes and tables if necessary to remove fragmentation.

Backing up and recovering databases

One of the top responsibilities of an Oracle DBA is to ensure continuity and availability of the database. As a matter of fact, a number of companies use KPIs based on the mean availability time between failures for evaluating performance of DBAs. There are skills you will need to pick up to ensure database availability. One of these is to be able to confidently use Oracle’s native backup and restore features and other similar third-party tools.

Basic understanding of database security issues

No one expects an Oracle DBA to have in-depth knowledge of all aspects of Oracle database security. If you are new on the job, at the very least you should know the basic security issues. For example, a new DBA should be aware of roles, profiles, user accounts, object and system level privileges, and related concepts. SQL Injection is also an area an entry-level DBA should be familiar with.

Database design

Software development teams often interact with DBAs to preempt faults in database design and to avoid costly modifications in database structure down the line. One of the key concepts that any DBA should be familiar with is DB normalization, at least up to the third normal form. Chances are, you probably know how to normalize a database but in practice, DB normalization can be a double-edged sword. There are specific scenarios in database design where you might want to denormalize a database and promote data redundancy in a controlled manner in the interest of speeding up overall database access.

Good knowledge of DBMS series of packages

A beginner DBA should understand the purpose behind the DBS series of packages that come bundled with Oracle. These packages extend Oracle’s core functionality. Without these packages it would not be possible to use PL/SQL with many standard Oracle features. As a new DBA you need not know each and every package, but you should have a good idea of the utility and functionality that those packages provide.

Command over SQL and PL/SQL

Besides being confident with SQL — a non-procedural language that is used to execute both DDL and DML statements — a beginner DBA should also be confident in the use of PL/SQL. Even though PL/SQL is perceived to be a developer’s skillset, a DBA should be able to use PL/SQL to create jobs or stored procedures or to query underlying system tables. Knowledge of PL/SQL will also enable a DBA to read scripts written by programmers and to fine-tune their queries.

Wizards & GUI vs. command line

Wizards and GUI tools that come bundled with a DBMS are great for increasing productivity and getting quick results. But in a number of scenarios wizards don’t provide the required flexibility or complexity. A good DBA will know how to roll up their sleeves and effectively use the PowerShell command line or write raw SQL for, let’s say, creating a table with one or more indexes.

There are challenges that a rookie Oracle DBA will face on the job, but it could be rewarding as there are immense opportunities in career growth. The key is to keep up the pace in learning new technologies, finding confidence in the use of tools, and adopting best practices.

To learn more please contact Datavail today. With more than 600 database administrators worldwide, Datavail is the largest database services provider in North America. As a reliable provider of 24×7 managed services for applications, BI/Analytics, and databases, Datavail can support your organization, regardless of the build you’ve selected.

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