Oracle7 Server for Windows NT has been around for more than two years. In August, Oracle released version 7.3.2.2, and it includes improvements that make this popular OnLine Transaction Processing (OLTP) database server a strong contender in the NT database market. For NT managers and database administrators (DBAs), Release 7.3.2.2 offers important new functions, such as built-in symmetric (update-anywhere) replication and the Oracle Enterprise Manager 1.2 database administration tool.

As an OLTP server, Oracle7 Server for NT is made for systems that process a high volume of entered transactions (in contrast to client/server, data warehousing, and decision-support applications all of which focus on retrieving data). Example OLTP applications include order processing, airline reservations, stock exchange, and retail cash register and inventory systems that typically run on mainframe or UNIX platforms.

Oracle7 Server for NT is available for both NT 3.51 and 4.0 in two versions: Oracle7 Enterprise Server for NT, a full-featured database server, and Oracle7 Workgroup Server for NT, a subset of Enterprise Server's features. Both versions include Oracle Enterprise Manager for administering your databases, a symmetrical replication manager that uses the flexible update-anywhere model to distribute data, Oracle WebServer for hosting your Web site, and Oracle's procedural-language version of SQL (PL/SQL) for creating everything from stored procedures to custom applications. The main differences between the two versions, as you see in Table 1, are that Enterprise Server includes upward scaleability and more options than Workgroup Server. The other difference is that Oracle doesn't publish prices for Enterprise Server, presumably because the company bundles most high-end enterprise sales with several components such as training and consulting services.

Click-and-Go Installation
I installed a late beta version of Oracle7 Enterprise Server Release 7.3.2.2 under NT 3.51 (Oracle's Enterprise Server for NT 4.0 wasn't ready at press time) on a 100MHz Intel Pentium with 16MB of memory, although Oracle recommends at least 32MB. Oracle also recommends at least 200MB of disk space for a full install. (I had a previous version of Oracle that I removed before installing the new version, although the installation routine can upgrade an existing version.) I was curious to see whether I could install Oracle7 on a 16MB system. Obviously, I was not worried about performance--especially because I was running beta code. The Enterprise Server CD-ROM contains more than 7000 files, including:

  • Oracle7 Enterprise Server for Windows NT 7.3.2.2
  • Oracle7 WebServer 1.0
  • Oracle Enterprise Manager 1.2 and associated utilities
  • PL/SQL 2.3 for procedural programming
  • Oracle Call Interface (OCI) 7.3
  • SQL*Module (C, ADA) 1.1
  • SQL*Net 2.3, including SQL*Net clients for Windows 3.1, Windows NT, and Windows 95
  • 54MB of Oracle (Acrobat PDF format) documentation
  • Oracle7 Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) driver (but not Java Database Connectivity)
  • Oracle Objects for Object Linking and Embedding (OLE--not ActiveX)

Despite the product's complexity, installing the software is basically click and go. Oracle makes the necessary Registry entries that autostart Oracle Server, so after Oracle finishes installing the files, you only have to reboot NT to get Oracle Server up and running. Installation is easy, whether you're installing Oracle for the first time or the tenth time. The installer asks you which components to install. A typical installation takes between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, depending on factors such as the speed of your CD-ROM drive and how many components you install.

After you install Oracle7 Server for NT (including Oracle Enterprise Manager) and reboot NT, the program creates two program groups: Oracle for Windows NT and Oracle Enterprise Manager. Screen 1 shows the Enterprise Manager, which groups all Oracle database administration utilities under one umbrella.

Log On Through Service Manager
You can check whether Oracle Server for NT is running by logging on through NT's Server Manager 2.3 (which users of previous versions of Oracle will recognize as a visual version of SQL* DBA). Enter the command CONNECT SCOTT/TIGER, and issue a SQL command such as SELECT * FROM EMP to check whether you can access the database.

SCOTT with his TIGER password is just one of many predefined accounts and privileges. SCOTT is a standard user account with basic connect privileges (logon names and passwords are not case sensitive) for the Oracle starter database, which includes the sample employee (EMP) table. Other predefined user accounts include:

  • internal, an account that lets a user manually start up and shut down the database
  • system/manager, the standard account for DBAs
  • demo/demo, the same as scott/tiger
  • sys/change_on_install, the most powerful account with all roles (connect, resource, exp_full_database, imp_full_database, and dba) and privileges granted

Click Instance Manager
Another way to verify that Oracle Server is running is to click the NT Instance Manager icon in the Oracle for NT program group or to select the Services icon from NT's Control Panel. You should have at least three Oracle services running: OracleServiceORCL, OracleStartORCL, and OracleTNS Listener. OracleServiceORCL starts the Oracle service engine, while OracleStartORCL creates an instance that starts the database. OracleTNSListener is the mechanism the database uses to listen for incoming connections: A client can't connect to a remote server unless the listener is running. You can use Network Manager to configure the listener, which is part of SQL*Net, for various protocols. At install time, Network Manager can configure the listener to automatically pull information from the OS and detect any installed protocols. The listener stores this information in the listener.ora file. (You may also have to click the SQL Net Easy Installation icon in the Oracle for NT group to generate the required tnsnames.ora file, a SQL*Net configuration file that enables a client to connect to a remote server.)

Enterprise Manager
If you're new to Oracle and want a quick view of Oracle's inner workings, log on to the Oracle Enterprise Manager (a set of Oracle database tables that the logon screen refers to as the repository) as sysman with the password sysman. sysman is a special, high-privilege account that Oracle provides with the standard starter and replication starter databases. This account is primarily for Oracle Enterprise Manager, which requires certain tables. Instead of requiring someone with DBA privileges to run a SQL script to create these tables, Oracle lets you sign on as sysman. If you prefer not to use the sysman/sysman account, the documentation provides step-by-step instructions for setting up the required tables yourself. Whether or not you use sysman, Oracle recommends that you immediately change all default account passwords for security reasons.

Leave the Services field blank and accept the default local connection. You will see the Oracle Enterprise Manager console, as in Screen 2.

The Oracle Enterprise Manager console is your starting point for performing many Oracle Server for NT administrative functions, such as creating databases and tables or managing user accounts. By default, the console displays four frames, but you can easily configure the console display to show fewer frames. Oracle redesigned the console in Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2: It's easier to navigate and better organized than in earlier releases.

In Screen 2, the upper left pane is the Navigator, which lets you explore the Databases, Groups, Names, Servers, Nodes, and Parallel Servers folders in a familiar hierarchical outline format. In the Databases folder, you can use a local connection such as beq-local.world or tcp-loopback.world to explore Oracle's sample default database. The Job Scheduling and Event Management panes list jobs and events--if any--associated with the selected database. The Map pane depicts a distributed network.

Although Oracle Enterprise Manager provides excellent online Help, Oracle Server for NT (and the overall Oracle7 product) is complex. Because of the product's complexity, consider taking one or more classes offered by Oracle Education, a division of Oracle.

Overall Performance
Applications running on Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2 can take advantage of the program's parallel architecture. You can distribute tasks among up to four processors in Oracle Workgroup Server running on symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) systems. (Oracle Enterprise Server's scaleability is less constrained--it's currently limited by NT's support for up to eight processors.)

Oracle7 already supports parallelization across multiple machines (e.g., in a clustered environment), so expect to see Oracle add cluster support to Oracle Server for NT after Microsoft and the major server vendors settle on the Wolfpack clustering API that NT will use. Oracle also offers Oracle7 Parallel Server, which supports parallelization across multiple machines. Parallel Server isn't available for NT yet, but Oracle expects to release an NT version by early 1997, which coincides with Microsoft's announced schedule for Wolfpack support. Oracle Server is also scaleable and portable across more than 80 platforms and operating systems.

Oracle7 Server for Windows NT
Oracle * 415-506-7000 or 800-672-2531
Web: www.oracle.com/NT
Price: Contact Oracle directly for pricing information; Contact Info for Oracle Education; Oracle Education * 415-506-0945 or 800-633-0575; For More Information; For more on clustering with Wolfpack, see Mark Smith, "Closing In on Clusters," August 1996.

Features
Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2 includes symmetrical replication, a database administrator (Oracle Enterprise Manager 1.2), and a procedural-language version of SQL (PL/SQL 2.3). In keeping with the trend toward online services, Oracle also provides a basic Web server (Oracle WebServer 1.0) for serving your database information over the Internet. Let's look at each feature.

Symmetric Replication
Oracle7 Enterprise Server for NT Release 7.3.2.2 is one of two major database servers that ship with symmetric replication built in (Microsoft's SQL Server 6.5 is the other). Replication is important for two reasons: It's great for distributing and for exchanging data. For example, mobile workers can benefit from replication, and you can use it to create failover or standby databases. Although Oracle eschews the term symmetric in favor of the less intimidating term advanced, symmetric replication (sometimes called bidirectional, update-anywhere, or peer-to-peer replication) lets you keep databases (or subsets thereof) in synch--either out from a central site to mobile workers or in to a central database from the mobile workers. Unidirectional replication (also called master/slave or snapshot replication), in contrast, doesn't permit replication from remote sites. Figure 1 shows a model for the types of fault-tolerant databases you can create with replication.

If you don't need symmetric replication, you can consider Oracle7 Workgroup Server for NT. This version supports only the simpler unidirectional replication model.

Oracle Enterprise Manager 1.2
Oracle Enterprise Manager 1.2 greatly improves on the database administration features in earlier Oracle Server for NT releases. Oracle7's point-and-click graphical interface and Oracle Enterprise Manager's central console make old command-line workhorse utilities such as SQL*DBA much more accessible.

Enterprise Manager 1.2's features include

  • database tools and utilities such as Instance Manager, Schema Manager, Security Manager, Storage Manager, Backup Manager, and SQL Worksheet
  • a command-line DOS interface, Server Manager, for entering database administration commands directly
  • a repository (a set of tables) in a database for each administrator; this repository contains information related to tasks the administrator performs
  • a Discovery Cache for fast inspection of recent traffic
  • a Data Manager (a new, improved SQL*Loader) that lets you transfer data in and out of an Oracle database
  • a Software Manager that lets you distribute, install, and uninstall software packages on servers and clients throughout a network

You can add optional functions to Enterprise Manager with Oracle's Performance Pack, which provides performance monitoring. A lock manager gives DBAs a graphical and hierarchical view of user and application locks associated with the active database. Oracle Trace lets programmers of third-party products write to the Oracle Trace API. And Oracle Expert, a rules-based expert system, generates configuration and tuning recommendations according to Oracle7 Server for NT performance data.

PL/SQL 2.3
PL/SQL, Oracle's procedural-language version of SQL, lets Oracle developers create stored procedures and triggers that are important in creating partitioned client/server or Internet and intranet server-centric applications. For PL/SQL programmers, Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2 includes new features, such as support for server-side file I/O and the ability to retrieve multirow sets from stored procedures.

Oracle's $3995 Developer/2000 and Designer/2000 tools are graphical development tools that generate PL/SQL. New Oracle users will want to explore these products and the relationship between them.

Oracle WebServer 1.0
Oracle includes a Web server, WebServer 1.0, in Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2, but it's limited to generating HTML via the Common Gateway Interface (CGI). WebServer 1.0 offers you basic Web serving, but if you want more, check out Oracle's WebServer 3.0, which, according to Oracle, will include an improved Web Request Broker. The Oracle Web Request Broker, a proprietary API that first appeared in WebServer 2.0, is Oracle's CGI alternative that can conduct persistent database transactions. (WebServer 3.0 is expected in late 1996 or early 1997.)

The upgrade from WebServer 1.0 to WebServer 2.0 isn't free. A license for unlimited access over the Internet costs $5900 per processor for the Oracle7 Workgroup Server (Oracle Enterprise Server costs more, but Oracle will not disclose the price).

A Buffet of Features
Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2 offers some other noteworthy features, such as

  • support for multithreaded client applications from Oracle Call Interface (OCI) and Oracle precompilers
  • faster EXPORT DIRECT that bypasses SQL (a notorious bottleneck when you are first populating a database)
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) support that lets you use third-party system and network management products to monitor Oracle7 databases
  • support for partition views (a partition view lets you divide a large table into multiple smaller tables for various data-management operations)
  • bitmapped indexes, which offer improved performance over traditional indexing methods such as B-trees (for more information about bitmapped indexes, see the sidebar, "B-Trees and Bitmapped Indexes," page 86)

A smorgasbord of new features in Oracle7 Server for NT 7.3.2.2 makes Oracle a strong relational database management system for NT. Long a player in the data-retrieval application market, NT is finally becoming a platform for mission-critical OLTP systems, such as Oracle Server for NT.