The DBA Sybase web site at www.dba-sybase.com is one of a small number of independent sites that offer advice and resources to Sybase DBAs. This site has a refreshing approach for DBAs looking for help – it offers "case studies" from the perspective of a DBA solving everyday problems in his daily job.
The Case Study
The case studies are short, with a common format. The author specifies the platform and software version and then provides a "background story", which is a description of the problem encountered. The "solution" provides a write-up of how to solve the problem, supplemented where appropriate with SQL scripts, how-to documents, and references to other web sites of interest.
Case studies give an immediacy and relevance to problem-solving that may not be present in a general article on topics of interest to the DBA.
Part of the fun of the case studies for experienced DBAs is that you are presented first with the Background Story. Naturally, an experienced DBA will already be making assumptions and thinking "yeah, just change the interfaces file" or whatever else comes to mind first. The actual solution may be surprising.
Novice DBAs will benefit from looking over the shoulder at a DBA in action. I myself have often called over my junior staff to watch as I deal with a production problem, while I talk out loud to explain the steps I'm taking. These case studies offer a similar learning experience for DBAs who are working in a smaller environment.
Scripts and How-To Documents
A useful aspect of the case studies is that they also make SQL scripts available for download that were used by the DBA to solve a particular problem.
Apart from SQL scripts, the case study on uninstalling Sybase from a Windows server provides a Word document as a step-by-step guide. You may wonder what value this gives when it should be documented in the Product Manuals. As the author says, his document "is made from Sybase ASE manual with some steps which are not described in it". For newer DBAs, these kinds of tips represent the "missing manual" and are very welcome.
My favourite case study concerns the old chestnut on which storage configuration is better for performance – raw devices or file systems. The consensus for Unix used to be raw devices but recent reports suggest that the newer file systems shouldn't be ruled out of hand.
The standard advice is to run performance-testing on a live application first on one configuration and then on another. But how many DBAs have actually done so, given the pressures of budget and project management? Well, Vojislav Depalov (the site owner) did exactly that. He switched from file to raw device while running tests in a controlled environment. His conclusions are of course specific to his own environment, but the write-up provides useful pointers to DBAs who want to do something similar.
Other Case Studies
At the time of writing this article, there are 18 case studies on the site. They cover a wide range of problem-solving: ASE not starting, optimizing indexes, locking levels, changing database names etc.
Some cases may seem simple to the more experienced DBA, such as listing all tables in the database. Other cases concern advanced performance tuning, fixing suspect indexes and cross-platform migration. I agree with the author on the benefits of using sybmigrate for migration – see the article on cross-platform migration using sybmigrate by a colleague on the Salmon Training website.
The DBA-Sybase site is a useful resource for novice and experienced DBAs. It has an unusual format of providing advice and tips, but one that I personally found enjoyable to browse through.
DBA Sybase also offers consultancy for database administration and development. If you're stuck on one of the issues written-up in a case study, it could be well worth retaining the site owner to resolve the problem!