The Thrill Of Solving The Puzzle

Posted on 6-Sep-2016 by Craig Shallahamer,

It is a strange group of people who get a thrill out of solving Oracle performance problems. Solving puzzles and finding an edge to use to my advantage... that's me. Somehow I've been able to make a living doing just that.

What drove me to this madness and why do I still do it? That is what this post is about.

When I started working for Oracle as a developer in their consulting organization, it took about two years before I discovered there is an infinite supply of very interesting puzzles surrounding performance and no shortage of opportunities to get paid for solving them.

Pretty soon I learned that, like many things in life, perception is a really big deal. What is good performance anyway? Is it just having a database that is "fast enough”? That could mean just about anything. If you can figure out what "fast enough" means for each customer and enjoy getting there... Wow! What a great career.

An "Out Of The Box” Solution

I was so into solving problems that I even suggested the best solution was to move a printer to the other side of the warehouse. Why? My group had already tuned the heck out of the query and the process. Then someone on my team noticed that once the user submitted the "slow" report, they stood at the printer for two minutes and then walked two minutes to the other side of the warehouse. So... why not have the report print out where the user will arrive in two minutes and magically find the report already printed and waiting for them! Perception matters.

Fast-forward ten years when I realized that most performance problems are misconceptions or lack of knowledge of fundamental concepts. Like a 5% faster CPU can improve throughput by 20%. Or, that unused OS capacity is usually wasted OS capacity. And my favorite is when I was expected to defend why Oracle was a resource hog, but instead praised Oracle for using all possible computing capacity for the benefit of the users.

Because I Love It

But don't be fooled into thinking that working with Oracle DBAs is a big money job. Perhaps for others that is true, but it hasn't always been that way for me. I'm certainly not complaining, but I have moved twice to reduce my living expenses. Answering emails, helping people with their conference abstract submissions and helping them see why a particular performance solution makes sense is something you don't always get paid for.

But on the flip side, you would be amazed at the wonderful heart-felt emails I have received from hard-core Oracle DBAs that can stare any poker player down.

All this problem solving, finding an edge, and helping DBAs has morphed me and OraPub into a company that I can honestly say is all about helping Oracle DBAs find real solutions to real problems. I actually believe that, and it is one of the reasons I still get up in the morning hoping there will be another puzzle to solve and a DBA who needs my help.

All the best in your Oracle performance work!


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Craig Shallahamer is a long time Oracle DBA who specializes in predictive analytics, machine learning and Oracle performance tuning. Craig is a performance researcher and blogger, consultant, author of two books, an enthusiastic conference speaker a passionate teacher and an Oracle ACE Director. More about Craig Shallahamer...

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me directly at craig at

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