CATEGORY: Database Performance & Systems Management

REVIEWER: Nancy Malpass, senior DBA for Interstate Batteries.

BACKGROUND: Founded in Dallas, Texas, in November of 1952, Interstate Batteries is a leader in battery marketing and distribution. The company has 318 wholesale distributors servicing 200,000 retail dealers who provide automotive, commercial, marine/RV, motorcycle, lawn and garden, and specialty batteries throughout most of the U.S. as well as in Canada and select international locations. The company offers more than 11,000 types of batteries for household (from flashlights to camcorders) and business (from pagers to computer backup power) applications. Interstate Batteries employs approximately 900 people and has also been a NASCAR sponsor for the past 11 years.

PLATFORMS: Sun E10K enterprise servers and Sun Solaris O/S.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Interstate Batteries runs Web-based applications including J.D. Edwards and Oracle9i. When the company purchased database licenses for Oracle, they also bought Oracle's tuning and diagnostics pack; however, as the only DBA, I found it challenging to maintain the Oracle management server in addition to other daily responsibilities.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Interstate Batteries participated in Quest Software's database health check program – a no-charge, one-day consulting engagement that identified precisely where bottlenecks were occurring in the database and provided concrete steps to resolution. This proved to be effective immediately and allowed Interstate Batteries to isolate redo-log contention problems without needing to write queries. Since participating in Quest Software's database health check and implementing Quest Central for Oracle, Interstate Batteries has experienced an average time savings of 65 percent for DBA tasks – or nearly $500,000 savings in annual productivity gains. The company has also improved overall system response times and performance by 30 percent, which equates to nearly $1.5 million savings in operational costs.

STRENGTHS: Quest Central for Oracle provides a comprehensive, integrated workbench to manage Interstate Batteries' vital production database and related applications, which include SQL tuning, space management, database analysis, performance diagnostics and database administration. The day after implementation, Interstate Batteries was able to locate the cause of a problem through a graphical view of the latch waits. The problem was then pointed out to the IT team before they were aware of it, and the development team was alerted of the issue within minutes. Additionally, Interstate Batteries recently completed a tuning exercise with J.D. Edwards where STATSPACK and Quest Central for Oracle were used together. Diagnostics were performed, and the best index to add to troubled SQL was determined in less than 10 minutes with Quest Central for Oracle. In addition to tuning SQL, memory was added to the E10K; and the company was able to increase SGA size. Before using Quest Central and completing the tuning iteration, the system's cache ratio was very low, approximately 60 percent. It now averages between 88 and 95 percent.

WEAKNESSES: Additional KPI and associated graphs would help Interstate Batteries report on monthly changes to capacity and performance by producing metrics in a format that could be provided to the CIO. Quest plans to add this to Quest Central for Oracle by the end of 2003.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Because the database health check proved immediately effective, Interstate Batteries instantly saw the potential for large productivity increases. Armed with this evidence – and based on prior positive experience with Quest Software and its Oracle database development product, TOAD – I obtained approval to purchase Quest Central for Oracle.

DELIVERABLES: Quest Central for Oracle provides a single interface and helps identify bottlenecks from both SQL Net and the SGA, resulting in quick identification and resolution of performance issues. This helps ensure peak throughput for optimal performance of databases in a complex environment.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The health check and Quest's local sales team made all the difference in the world. Quest has been very involved with Interstate Batteries, making sure to provide updates on all new product developments. Quest is a very helpful vendor.

DOCUMENTATION: Quest Central for Oracle is very easy to install and manage, and its screens are intuitive.

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