CATEGORY: Data Warehouse Design, Administration & Management

REVIEWER: Dave Goldberg, senior systems analyst and data architect, data management group, IS department for U.S. Cellular Corporation.

BACKGROUND: U.S. Cellular Corporation, the nation's eighth largest wireless service carrier, provides wireless service to approximately 3.9 million customers in 155 markets throughout 26 states. The Chicago-based company operates on a customer satisfaction strategy, meeting customers' needs by providing a comprehensive range of wireless products and services, excellent customer support and a high-quality network. U.S. Cellular is listed and traded as USM on the American Stock Exchange.

PLATFORMS: Oracle8.1.7 and 8.0.6 databases running on IBM Sequent and HP N-Series hardware platforms.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before we started using Precise/Indepth for Oracle, we weren't getting the performance we expected from our data warehouse and didn't know why. It was not clear to us if the problems were CPU, memory or I/O-related. On the recommendation of our peers in the industry, we selected Precise to help us monitor the ongoing performance of our Oracle databases. Once we started using Precise, we also became aware that Precise goes far beyond simple performance monitoring – it enables us to optimize our system. It does an excellent job of identifying the impact of queries, letting us know if resource-consuming statements are causing bottlenecks or if CPU issues exist. In one example, we used Precise to investigate a query problem and we were able to reduce the response time from 45 minutes to two minutes, thereby improving the overall performance of our system. Before we had Precise, we thought that most of our performance problems were related to CPU issues. Precise has enabled us to see that many are, in fact, more I/O related. Without Precise, we might have gone in the wrong direction and added more hardware.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Precise/Indepth for Oracle addresses the critical aspects of database performance management and automates the performance management process. It pinpoints SQL performance and provides the information and recommendations needed to detect, analyze and resolve problems as they occur. Precise/Indepth for Oracle can be used throughout the life cycle of an application from development through deployment and ongoing maintenance and revisions. It looks at system-level resources and targets problem contributors and SQL statements, examines problems in detail and models potential solutions.

STRENGTHS: Precise takes the guesswork out of identifying problem areas. It is easy to use and enables us to view information quickly, monitor the overall number of queries, pinpoint system delays, manage load balancing and identify use of target indexes. Also, with Precise, there is no drag on our system because it contributes very low overhead ­ just one to two percent. The productivity of our DBAs is greatly increased now because it takes significantly less time to identify and fix bottlenecks in our system. We've also been able to save on potential new hardware purchases because Precise showed us that problems were due to I/O waits, not hardware.

WEAKNESSES: Precise/Indepth for Oracle is an excellent product. The only recommendation we would have for improvement would be for Precise to provide more online problem-solving information. In future versions, we'd like the ability to save our performance information from the screen into a file so we could refer to that specific information whenever we want.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Based on our need for the best product to help us identify our data warehouse performance problems, we asked our peers for a recommendation. Precise was the clear choice, so we didn't feel it necessary to evaluate or look at any other products.

DELIVERABLES: Precise does both an excellent job of monitoring our system, as well as delivering all the performance data needed to isolate performance degradation, identify corrective action and fix problems quickly. Precise quickly samples our databases without adding any overhead to the system. We can quickly generate graphical reports about our database resources and target specific components that are causing the major problems. We can model potential solutions and develop alternative solutions. Precise allows us to get much more from our system and our DBAs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Precise/Indepth for Oracle is so easy to use we have not required vendor support. In all our dealings with Precise, they have been extremely helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: Written documentation is very easy to use, and we often rely on it.

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