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Everything You Want To Know About Oracle

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Oracle is one of the most well-known RDBMS platforms. It is preferred throughout the industry due to its speed, efficiency, and reliability. It is primarily used for larger database projects and runs on a variety of computer hardware and operating systems. Over 95 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use Oracle as one of their database systems. It is a high-cost program that runs on many types of hardware, ranging from IBM's huge mainframe computers to mini-computers and even PCs, and is best maintained (kept running well) by trained personnel. Although it runs on even small Windows NT Server systems, the maintenance overhead of Oracle makes it primarily suitable for larger systems that justify the time necessary to administer the database. Oracle also sells numerous business applications, such as its Accounts Payable and Job Costing packages, as add-ons to its database. These additional applications can push the cost of an Oracle solution into very significant dollars. Many database system design and maintenance tools were developed with Oracle in mind. As a result, support for this database in the tools that make a database person's life easier tends to be as good as it gets for any database product.

Why Use Oracle?

If an organization requires a database server that has proven able to handle very large amounts of data and large numbers of simultaneous users, Oracle is definitely a contender. An organization might decide to use Oracle for a database project if it wants to use some of Oracle's pre-written business and financial applications or a third-party's application software, which works well with Oracle. In the case where an organization combines the Oracle database and Oracle applications, the IT department has the convenience of a single source (Oracle) for database server and business application support.



Oracle might also be selected if the organization has standardized on it as a database platform, which is a fairly common occurrence, or if they are required to exchange data with another entity who uses Oracle. Similarly, benchmark tests may reveal that for the anticipated work the database will be doing, Oracle is the fastest choice. (Specific situations in which this is true won't be discussed in this book because benchmark results change from month to month as different database vendors adjust their software to better their competitors' results.) Finally, as previously mentioned, Oracle has been around long enough to be trusted by management as a viable, long-term solution. Often in the IT world, business applications run for decades longer than originally anticipated. Oracle has shown that it keeps up with new computer hardware and operating system platforms, and that as a company, it is in the RDBMS business for the long run.

Job Demand

Job demand for those with Oracle expertise is among the highest for any database, and those who acquire a high level of Oracle proficiency tend to be very well compensated. Entire Web sites, such as www.oracjobs.com, are devoted to matching Oracle professionals with employers. Another site, www.orasearch.com, specializes in job seekers with one or more years of paid Oracle experience. After searching several general career listing sites, results showed more than 1000 entries at each site for each of the following searches: Oracle database administrator, Oracle database designer, and Oracle/Visual Basic programmer.

In recent years, Oracle has experienced success in the e-commerce market, where its ability to handle large transaction volumes is well known. Therefore, Oracle can be found at both large, established corporations as well as smaller startup companies for whom reliable, efficient database access is a business requirement. If you are interested in becoming involved with Oracle's financial applications, job demand is high in that area as well. For example, more than 500 organizations in New England alone run a portion of the Oracle financial suite. Consider that this is only a small subset of the large (and ever increasing) number of organizations using the Oracle database, and you can understand the demand for Oracle skills today and in the future.

Training Options and Resources

Because many Oracle database specialists work in, or in conjunction with, larger business environments that value certifications, Oracle offers a full series of certification programs. Most certification exams, and the training that leads to mastery of the material on the exams, is fairly Oracle specific. Although PL/SQL, Oracle's particular version of SQL-92 (the current standard for the SQL language) is known either as enhanced (because it contains additional functionality beyond that in most SQL implementations) or nonstandard (for the same reason) depending on one's fondness for its unique capabilities, it is still basically SQL. General experience with SQL, gained in any database environment, provides a prospective Oracle database designer or administrator with a good foundation from which to start working with the product.

Courses and Certifications

As each database product was created to meet a particular need, training and certification for a particular product naturally follows.The track for this database carries the title series Oracle Database Administrator and Application Developer. These certifications fill the demand for a popular databases for mid- and large-sized businesses. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that there is a separate certification track for each version level of the Oracle database software, in addition to separate tracks within each version, for administrator and designer specialties. As of this writing, the current version is Oracle8i. For example, to attain Oracle Certified Professional status as an Oracle8i DBA, a candidate must pass five tests: a generic introduction to SQL and PL/SQL and Oracle8i specific exams on architecture and administration, backup and recovery, and performance tuning and network administration. Because you must pass the entire series of tests before gaining an official Oracle certification title, the Oracle certification program is considered relatively demanding. A prospective database designer with some knowledge of database concepts might start by studying for Oracle's SQL and PL/ SQL test because it tests SQL knowledge in a largely vendor neutral fashion. See www.oracle.com for more information.

Online Training

A variety of companies offer online study materials for Oracle certification exams. A sampling of available resources includes:
  • The Database Domain (www.dbdomain.com)-For a per user subscription fee, this site offers access to its Oracle DBA exam preparation courseware as well as introductory level Oracle courses over the Web. It also offers training toward some (but not all) of the Oracle developer exams.

  • DbaSupport.com (www.dbasupport.com/cert)-This site offers free practice guides to Oracle exams in its Oracle Certification Zone section.

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