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The University of Minnesota Maximizes Database and Application Performance through LECCO DB Expert

Published
  • July 01 2003, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Patrick Dierking, OIT, Quality Assurance for the University of Minnesota.

BACKGROUND: The University of Minnesota is one of the most comprehensive universities in the United States and ranks among the most prestigious. More than 15 University programs rank among the top 10 nationally. The University of Minnesota serves more than 60,000 students and offers degrees in more than 370 fields of study.

PLATFORMS: Web servers: eight BEA WebLogic running on four IBM eServer xSeries 345,Dual Intel Xeon /2.4GHz, Windows Advanced Server 2000. Application servers: two Sun ES4800 12 CPU, one Sun V880 8 CPU. Database server: Oracle9i running on Sun ES10000 64 CPU.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Performance of our PeopleSoft and homegrown Web-based applications is crucial for the University of Minnesota; we often experience performance degradation that needs to be addressed quickly. In the past, we found ourselves in a difficult situation because most of our IT staff doesn't possess the in-depth background or experience necessary for manual performance tuning. We previously would experience between five and ten serious performance bottlenecks per month. For selected applications, we would have to take users off the three-tier and change to a two-tier architecture. Using LECCO DB Expert, we no longer experience performance issues.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: LECCO DB Expert's modules allow us to find and fix performance issues. Typically, when any batch-oriented software is under maintenance (SQR, COBOL, etc.), the SQL Scanner is used to profile the software. Anything that is flagged as being offensive SQL is run through the optimizer to seek an alternative execution plan. The Syntactical SQL Optimizer generates every alternative SQL statement for us and finds the fastest one. Online applications are typically profiled only if something is apparently slow using SQL Inspector with the application running either serially or under load. Problematic SQL is thus identified and optimized quickly. Index Expert enables us to identify indexes that generate unique execution plans. We use this if we require a quick fix or still need to improve performance after optimizing the SQL. Plan Version Tracker makes it easy to perform impact analyses without physically creating these indexes. It flags SQL statements that will be affected when we create the indexes so we can see what is going to happen before it actually happens. Likewise, we can use Plan Version Tracker to preempt performance changes when adjusting database parameters. This provides performance certainty to us for database environment changes.

STRENGTHS: Without a doubt, the Syntactical SQL Optimizer is the feature that sets LECCOTECH far ahead of the competition; it has the ability to find a better solution in minutes ­ a process that used to take me an entire day. This technology guarantees the best possible SQL for our database. Index Expert extends this AI-based technology to generating virtual indexes to improve performance. Plan Version Tracker is a unique tool that allows us to conduct extensive performance impact analyses.

WEAKNESSES: The user interface can be difficult to navigate if you are unfamiliar with it. The tools are listed on a menu or via icons; text- based tabs would make it easier to find specific modules.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Key staff members met to define the criteria for a solution that would address the severe performance issues we were experiencing. In the past, bottlenecks would wait weeks or months until an expert resource could fix them. This was costly and caused a significant backlog. The solution had to address all our criteria; only LECCOTECH was able to meet our requirements to find and fix our performance issues.

DELIVERABLES: After running a poorly performing batch program through LECCO DB Expert, it immediately flagged two SQL statements that were the source of the problem. It turns out that a PeopleSoft patch had dropped a vital index. LECCO DB Expert pinpoints and fixes such problems in minutes and provides us reports that contain the optimized SQL statements and index alternatives.

VENDOR SUPPORT: During pre- sales, LECCOTECH lived up to their marketing promises; this is rare with technology solutions. After deploying the solution, our enhancement request was included in the product in the next patch less than three months later. LECCOTECH's responsiveness has been great; any questions we've had have been answered the same day.

DOCUMENTATION: We were given an extensive manual that is very easy to understand. Answers can be easily found. We could easily run LECCO DB Expert based on the documentation alone. The learning curve has been very light.

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