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Intro: Initial Thoughts On Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud Services (Automatic For The People) March 22, 2019

Posted by Richard Foote in 18c, 19c, 19c New Features, Autonomous Data Warehouse, Autonomous Database, Autonomous Transaction Processing, Oracle Indexes.

automatic for the people

I’m currently writing up a few blog pieces on indexing in the Oracle Autonomous Database environments, but I thought I’ll begin by introducing what exactly are Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud Services and some of my initial thoughts, as there’s still some confusion on all this.

Introduced by Uncle Larry at Oracle OpenWorld 2017, Oracle Autonomous Databases are positioned as “self-driving” Cloud- Based database environments, that automatically address many of the tasks usually performed by DBAs such as patching, backups, security and what is of most interest to me, database tuning.

The first of these cloud environments, the Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse Cloud Service  (ADW) was first released in March 2018, with the Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing Cloud Service (ATP) released in August 2018.

So key point number one. These are all Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud Services, there are no actual Autonomous Databases as such. These environments currently consist of the following key components:

  • Oracle Database 18c (and above)
  • Oracle Cloud Environment
  • Oracle Exadata Infrastructure
  • Oracle Policy-Driven Automation

So the Oracle Database alone is not an autonomous database. An Oracle 18c database running on your On-Premises Exadata is still not enough to be an autonomous database platform. It requires all the above components, which is why this is only available on the Oracle Cloud environment (and will likely be soon available on the Oracle Cloud at Customer environment, where all these components can also be replicated).

Now having a database environment is which many of the mundane DBA tasks (such as database provisioning, patching, taking backups, etc.) can be automated can only be a good thing and the Autonomous Database Cloud services delivers on all these. Creating an Autonomous Database environment truly just takes a few minutes and I could easily connect via SQL*PLUS and SQL Developer on my laptop a few minutes later.

However, my key interest here is in database tuning (hey, I’m a database tuning guy) and the capability of the Autonomous Database Cloud Services in being able to self-tune and self-repair itself when database performance issues and inefficiencies are encountered.

So, are we there yet?

So my second key point is that is many ways, we already have a “self-tuning” database with Oracle and have had so for many many years. I’m old enough to remember the Rule-Based Optimizer, when the structure of the SQL was critical to performance. I remember tuning Rollback Segments and manually setting extent sizes to make sure no segment got too close to 121 extents else it couldn’t grow any further. I remember manually setting Freelists, I remember having to write my own jobs to run maintenance tasks and setting tablespaces to be in backup mode etc. etc. etc.

The Oracle Database has evolved over the years, where Oracle DBAs don’t have to worry about these things. If you wish, you can now configure the Oracle database to also automatically adjust memory components, automatically collect necessary schema statistics, automatically create baselines and to tune SQL queries, etc. etc. etc.

All of these Oracle database capabilities are crucial in the new Oracle autonomous database environments, as are new Oracle 18c features and as will be new Oracle 19c features (especially in relation to self-tuning the Autonomous Transaction Processing Cloud Service). The newer autonomous database capabilities are just part of this Oracle database self-tuning evolution, with in the future some new policy-driven based automation thrown into the mix.

So are we indeed there yet with a completely self-tuning database with these new autonomous database services? In a word, no.

Which brings me to my next key point. This is all very very new. All these autonomous database services are effectively at “Edition One” status. This will all take time to eventually evolve to be truly, fully self-tuning database environments. There’ll be some new cool capabilities and features which will assist in some areas but be initially deficient in other areas. But clearly this is the future and clearly in future releases, more and more self-tuning capabilities will be added that will make things easier to both manage and tune Oracle database environments.

Note Oracle Corporation itself (depending on who you talk to) is quite clear that it isn’t there yet, with the web-page on the Autonomous Transaction Processing Cloud services clearly stating that “Workload Optimization* (coming soon)“, but with lots of clues on what’s to come with features such as “Database tunes itself (indexes, memory, partitions, SQL plans, parallelism, optimizer stats) for the incoming workload as data changes over time“.

Do many of these upcoming features sound familiar? If you’re not sure, check out the Oracle Database 19c New Features manual.

Which brings me to my final key point here. Even if you’re not particularly interested in the Cloud, if you view managing On-Premises environments as being your foreseeable future, some the best things that has happened to you in relation to the Oracle Database comes courtesy to you as a result of Oracle’s strategic direction with the cloud. Many of the best new features introduced in the past few Oracle Database releases, especially in relation to the CBO and much of the online stuff such moving tables and partitions online, moving data files online, converting tables to be partitioned online, converting partitioned tables differently online, merging/splitting partitions online, etc. etc. are clearly going to be critical in a self-managing/tuning database. As a DBA of an On-Premises database environment, you can also take advantage of these new capabilities.

It will enable Oracle in its autonomous environments for example to automatically convert that table to be partitioned in this specific manner to improve overall performance, all behind the scenes, without anyone necessarily knowing it’s done so.

Is it there yet? No. Is it coming? You bet.

That said, some newer Oracle Database 19c features that will clearly be critical to a self-tuning autonomous databases moving forward such as Real-Time Statistics, SQL Quarantine and Automatic Indexing will only be available in the Oracle Cloud and Exadata platforms. So take note…

Which brings me to indexing.

When the first Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse cloud service was announced in March 2018, one of the key “features” of the new autonomous platform was that indexing was disabled (as were other traditional Data Warehouse database capabilities such as Partitioning, Materialized Views, etc.). But how can you effectively “tune” a database when you take away some of the key tuning capabilities? The short answer is that you can’t, unless the database has somewhat simplistic data workloads and data structures.

Remember, this was “Version One” with the first autonomous database environment and the initial strategy was to make the Oracle database not smarter, but dumber. Simplify it such that DBAs can’t easily “break” things and by simply making the Exadata platform do all the heavy lifting with regards to database tuning. A more simplified environment makes things a little easier to “self-tune” as there are fewer moving parts to worry about.

For more simplistic Data Warehouse environments, this might all be adequate. For those of you who follow my blog and my previous discussions on indexing on Exadata, dropping all indexes on Exadata, even on Data Warehouse environments was generally a bad idea. So providing an Oracle database platform, even an autonomous one running on an Exadata platform, where all indexing was effectively disabled, was always going to have performance shortfalls in some scenarios. Try running ad-hoc queries on the supplied SSB LINEORDER table for example. Smart Scans, Storage Indexes, HCC, Result Caches, etc. will only take you so far.

So as I said, Oracle evolves and improves and now allows database indexes to be created in the Autonomous Data Warehouse cloud service.

Which will be the focus on upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned.


1. Noons - March 22, 2019

If only they stopped talking about “autonomous” this and that and started looking at QA of what they release (onprem or not is immaterial!)…
The number of egregious bugs I’ve found in 12.2 in the last year is scary! And how long it took to get them fixed tells me clearly no one is using their latest nonsense anymore!
Any surprises we’re moving off Oracle?

Liked by 1 person

Richard Foote - March 23, 2019

Hi Noons

I think after various issues with earlier versions of 12c, the latest releases (18c and 19c which are all part of the 12. family) have had a heavy emphasis on stability and addressing such bugs and less so on the shiny new features.

Indeed, you can’t really have an autonomous database environment if the underlining database software is not in itself highly stable…


2. KT - March 24, 2019

…and Oracle never addresses the problem if poorly written PL/SQL and poorly architected applications. In my organization, there are numerous applications that receive “ORA-00060 – deadlock detected” errors as well as SQL with cartesian joins. The application developers refuse to fix the problem – blaming the problems on the database – and management stands behind the development team. How can an autonomous database fix this?


Richard Foote - March 27, 2019


Not sure what Oracle can do at the database layer if PL/SQL or the application is poorly written. This is why Oracle states that “Application Tuning” is an important DBA task in an Autonomous Database environment.

So no, an autonomous database won’t fix this, or world hunger…


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