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Oracle and 3rd Party Tools

Published 8 July 2010 4:30 pm

We knew before we started to create Schema Compare for Oracle that we’d need to work hard. It is a different technology and a different market. Also, there is less interest amongst Oracle users for third-party tools.

Less interest in third-party tools? Why? Nobody we asked could explain, so we tried to find out.

We wondered whether it was because the tools Oracle provides are good enough, so we put out a survey to beta Schema Compare users, and asked them. The tone of some of the responses was overwhelming:

“Oracle tools are not as user-friendly as SQL Server tools”

“SQL Server seems more user-friendly”

“SQL Server is a lot less painful and has a lot better tools”

“Give me SQL Server tooling any day”

We got bucket-loads of similar feedback, and these were people who additionally bought our tools even when they used SQL Server.

Was it that Oracle users don’t look for third-party tools because they just don’t need them for their work? Evidently not; Oracle and SQL Server users who want to compare and synchronize their database schemas have the exactly the same problems – they want to migrate schema changes from multiple environments, and the process of manually creating a change script is slow and error-prone.

We were puzzled, but then wondered if Oracle users hadn’t warmed to the idea of third-party tools after their experience of existing ones? Quest’s TOAD environment, for example, is very popular (in our survey, 42% of respondents used it), yet seems to provoke very mixed responses from Oracle users.

Was it due to it being more difficult for Oracle people to buy tools? At the UKOUG conference, we noticed far more managers than developers, and that made us wonder if the process of getting permission to buy tools is more long-drawn-out and painful for Oracle users.

It hasn’t been easy to get familiar with the views of Oracle users, partly due to the relative lack of community resources. Apart from Oracle sites like AskTom and the official forums, there don’t seem to be many thriving user-communities. We’d be interested to know from Simple-Talk’s readers if they know the reason why there is less interest in third-party tools in the Oracle marketplace.



8 Responses to “Oracle and 3rd Party Tools”

  1. syd_oracle says:

    Interested in the comments about the Oracle user-communities.
    I noticed RedGate through StackOverflow and saw the OracleOverflow StackExchange site, and the traffic levels. There’s an Oracle Databases proposal on area51, but it needs more support to get anywhere.

    I don’t think it is necessarily lack of trying. There are some high-profile bloggers (individuals like Jonathan Lewis and Tanel Poder, plus companies like Pythian) and the oracle-l list plus Oracle push things trough OTN and the ACE program, even the wiki. User groups vary a lot too. AUSOUG in NSW was so poor that Alex Gorbachev set up an independent Sydney Oracle Meetup.

    On the tools front, I think one aspect has been that Oracle database have tended to be on *nix platforms, and the DBAs tend towards command line tools. Oracle push web tools for DBAs and, with Apex, for application development. Even their SQL Developer product is Java based.
    So I think some of the reluctance is in embracing Windows tools for Oracle.

    Also, perhaps more Oracle sites are running packaged apps where there’s less scope for tools to plat a role

  2. lyndon says:

    I’m now at a sql server site, but previously I was with a long time Oracle company. We had some purchased tools, primarily SQL Navigator from Quest and ER/Win from CA. ER/Win can do a schema compare and generate change scripts, although that’s a small part of it’s functioality. It also cost $4,500 or so. I suspect the previous comment about command line use is to the point. All the DBA I’ve encountered have libraries of functions (packages in Oracle land) and folders of scripts that they take from job to job and become part of any new server install. I guess the fact that Oracle runs on a variety of platforms windows, various *nix and IBM mainframe would fragment the tools market to some extent.

  3. thensley says:

    In Oracle land, the database manages YOU!

    Oracle DBAs, like Unix administrators, seem to relish the command line, scripts, and complexity. I think it adds to the mystique of it being an “enterprise level system”. After all, if it were as easy as SQL Server, how powerful could it possibly be?

  4. kewlhand says:

    It seems relatively straightforward. Your own Oracle guru, Jonathan Lewis states it here:,-part-1/

    “Real Oracle DBAs don’t use GUIs!”

    For most Oracle DBA’s I know, the combination of ERWin, Grep and SQL*Plus with perhaps TOAD thrown in for good measure are all they know or want to know.

  5. saran says:

    I think it is all in the mindset. My first intro to Oracle was on Sco-Unix Oracle 6.5. Later I worked on Oracle 10 for a project on Linux. I had also done some Oracle installs on Windows & Solaris.

    Most of the DBA’s do not want to ask for tools as Oracle already is expensive. Since most Oracle DBA’s came from command line OS’s they also spread the command line. And the Oracle DBA’s want to show off their power my maintaining packages and not allowing common man to know them.

    ALso when Oracle landed up with different additions of packages, they are now sold as beasts on Java platform and very few have good understanding of the entire package, so no body is sure what to change directly and whether it is appropriate on those beasts. The DBA’s do not want any more complication as already they got a lot.

  6. MrDee says:

    Build a tool that anyone can use and ANYONE will use it.
    Who want to be just anyone? Not Oracle developers / DBA.

    comparing oracle DBA salary
    with MS SQL DBA salary
    You can see a clear pay bias toward Oracle. Oracle is hard to use – you have to be a well trained guru to do it well. Who would want to dilute that power base? Once you are in the citadel you do not open the doors.
    This is similar to other systems that started from a UNIX bottom up / CLI style of operation. They may be fast, but that is because they do not ‘waste’ CPU on being user friendly. That is why they are sooo hard to set up and maintain – and the DBA’s like it that way.

  7. BuggyFunBunny says:

    MrDee is half right, in that the best locker database extant, DB2 for Linux/Unix/Windows came from the character terminal world, but is now fully integrated into GUI (if you want) and is an order of magnitude easier to setup and manage than Oracle. Been there, done that. For reasons known only to Armonk, IBM treats this version as a red haired step child. Go to your favorite bookstore (physical or virtual) and look for DB2 oriented material. One or two. Oracle, SQL Server, MySql, PostgreSQL — scads. My conclusion is that IBM looks at it as a mainframe/mini (their other two versions) product.

    As difficult as Oracle can be, O’Reilly has built a business on documenting the software. And if you parse the covers of these texts, you’ll see that they are more than willing to bite the hand that feeds them.

  8. Louis Somers says:

    It’s funny, but reading these comments brings me to the conclusion that an Oracle DBA actually becomes the “Oracle” for the company they work for. It’s all in the name and it is supposed to remain nice and mystic.

    Even though I’m more a GUI clicker, I know the feeling and have similar emotions. I also have tools that are installed on every machine I have to work on for longer than a week. For example QTTabBar (sourceforge), which enables me to fire up Reflector from the File-Explerer and automatically open the DLL that was selected using a keystroke. (It has options to insert the selected filenames into the commandline). Another favorite is SlickRun which can fire up several apps at once for a specific task. These simple productivity boosters make me feel like an “Oracle”, especially when someone’s looking over my shoulder and asks “How did you do that?”.

    It might also have to do with the feeling I sometimes have when new products make a hard task so much easier. Remember how C# made multithreading far too easy with the lock() statements. It’s just not fair! In my day I had to figure out how to utilize the windows API using Semaphores and Mutexes… Remember the days when creating a drop-shadow involved duplicating a layer, greyscale, darken, blur, reduce opacity, change offset and bring the original layer to front… then all of a sudden all those paint programs got an integrated drop-shadow function so that anyone could drop shadows. Sometimes it feels like such improvements derive one of hard earned skills.

    An old Oracle might say “they enable newbies to do stuff while they actually don’t know what they really are doing”. But actually the new software has become the new automated “Oracle”, leaving us old Oracles nothing else but to learn new skills in order to remain our Oracle status.

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