BACKGROUND: Oracle-Home.Com is an Internet resource center specializing in Oracle database information such as books, resources, news and software reviews. Through online databases visitors can seek out Oracle-related books, read reviews on Oracle related software and visit other Oracle-related Web sites through a search engine.

PLATFORMS: We ran Compuware's DBPartner on a Windows NT client against a local database and a remote database on a UNIX system, both Oracle8.0.5.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Oracle-Home.Com set out to see if DBPartner from Compuware Corporation could help programmers improve the overall quality of the programs being developed. DBPartner not only does just that, but can also be used to identify performance problems in third-party applications.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DBPartner enables the developer to approach a tuning problem in different ways. One way is to type in any SQL statement and let the Tuning Wizard analyze it. Another way is to actually intercept SQL statements sent from an application to the Oracle database. These can be self-written or third-party applications which are causing performance problems. This ability not only makes DBPartner useful for developers, but also for database administrators. DBPartner can poll the database over a given period to look for ill-behaving SQL by watching various system resources. With the help of DBPartner, you can point out performance problems in those programs and fix them. It is also possible to let DBPartner look for code in the database or filing system which contains a certain SQL statement. This is very useful when you have identified a poorly written SQL statement and suspect that there are more programs containing this piece of code. DBPartner can invoke Xpediter/SQL, another Compuware product, to debug server side PL/SQL code. The best feature of DBPartner, from the technology point of view, is the Evolve-a-SQL feature. This feature uses genetic algorithms (similar to those used in chess programs which are very much suited for finding solutions in situations with many alternatives) to actually find an optimal SQL statement by an evolutionary process. It actually does thousands of permutations in a matter of seconds.

STRENGTHS: Compuware's DBPartner has enormous potential and, in my opinion, really helps improve the quality and performance of custom-developed applications. It is like having a pair of x- ray eyes looking right through the application exposing possible problem areas. DBPartner enables you to see exactly what's happening, and the Tuning Expert points out possible problems. The ability to test various statements and store them in the repository for future reference or study is encouraging people to enhance the quality of their work. It is easy to see the implications of different approaches of solving a SQL problem. You can do all these things in a fraction of the time it would normally take.

WEAKNESSES: However smart the Evolve-a-SQL feature is, this release of DBPartner (version 1.0) only tries to optimize a combination of hints because setting hints doesn't run the risk of producing slightly different SQLs. In a future release, Compuware plans to integrate the other optimization mechanisms, i.e., rules of thumb, with the Evolve- a-SQL. This will enable DBPartner to produce just one, new, optimized version of a given SQL.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Oracle-Home.com seeks software tools that help improve the quality and performance of custom-developed applications. Compuware's DBPartner provides the unique ability to tune and debug SQL and PL/SQL in the context of an Oracle application. This puts tuning into the hands of developers for the first time. DBPartner's functionality is also useful to database administrators who can monitor third-party applications as they make calls to a database.

DELIVERABLES: DBPartner reports its findings in SQL statements or applications it analyzed in both text or graphical form. The results of the tuning process can be either printed or saved in the repository for future reference.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Compuware provides very professional telephone and online technical support. Users of Compuware products can also subscribe to e-magazines which provide technical tips.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided with the package is easy to understand and gives the user a enough information to use all the features of DBPartner.

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