The Oracle Platform Administrator

In DBA, Exadata, Oracle database on March 1, 2013 at 10:31

Question: what do the following two pairs have in common:
– Oracle database and non-Oracle hardware/software
– Rowan Atkinson and Audrey Hepburn?

Rowan Hepburn 2

My answer: they are both good but don’t fit very well into the same picture.

Creating a back-end database system based on multiple vendors’ components make less and less sense nowadays. Consider the following:


Which one would you go after, left or right? To make it more clear, choose between Exadata and IBM POWER7 with AIX OS on top of EMC being monitoring with BMC Patrol and backed up with HP Data Protector integration?

I have witnessed from my experience that hardware and software components from multiple vendors are complex to support. No one supplier is usually accountable at a system level.

In a consolidated database environment, a complete test of a major change often must include synchronous testing the multiple workloads in order to catch situations where a change in one area might cause an issue in another. Patching for example one component breaks sometimes another one.


With Exadata, Oracle provides a single point of support for the Oracle Exadata Database Machine both for hardware and software. Support problems are resolved much faster than where multiple vendors are involved and can be reported and managed by the DBA. But is the Exadata DBA still just a DBA?

Kevin Closson used the term Oracle Platform Administrator (OPA) in a response to an article from Martin Bach about the meaning of Exadata experience.

Let me quote Kevin:

“It’s nearing the point where an Oracle DBA cannot do everything that is expected. The acronym no longer really fits. Database Administrator? What does that have to do with cellsrv? DBA? What does that have to do with clusters (at the platform level [you mention fencing]), etc, etc, etc.

It’s nearing time that there should be two roles:

1) The Oracle Platform Administrator (OPA)
2) The Oracle Database Administrator

The DBA tends to the *contents* of the database and applications’ needs for data from the database, tuning, etc. The OPA deals with all the activity that was once the domain of the System Admin and Storage Admin and, moreover, the OPA deals with the crushing load of maintaining Oracle software (patching).

I can’t see it any other way. Oracle has moved their technology stack in a direction that essentially warrants this split in responsibilities. Think of any other RDBMS product where the DBA is expected to be a platform administrator as well. I’m not saying good or bad on that matter, but it is high time to consider the split.”

Uwe Hesse has just written an excellent blog post entitled “How Exadata will impact your IT Organization”. The difference between the Exadata Database Administration (EDBA) and the Oracle Platform Administrator (OPA) is probably close to zero. I see it more like that the EDBA is just a DBA managining also Exadata, while OPA is more of a general admin having excellent DBA skills. Semantics!

Obviously, additional training for the DBAs is needed but by no means the 285 days of new DBA training for existing Oracle DBA suggested by Allen Licitra and Mark Shainman. I wonder how that number was calculated and if we are talking calendar or workdays 🙂

I would highly recommend Enkitec’s Course on Oracle Exadata Administration!

Arup Nanda suggests that the role should have the following skillsets:


I would furthermore split the Database Administrator part as follows:


I do not know where the meetings and conf. calls fit in.

But as Andrew Carnegie said: “Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket!” And who else to that on the Oracle side but the Oracle Platform Administrator.

  1. Hmmm… So to reduce complexity, we should go Exadata “because it’s all in one”.
    And because it’s complex (helloo, wasn’t it “all in one”?) it then requires two roles to manage?
    Colour me cynical but isn’t that just a rehash of good old sysadmin and database admin?
    What exactly is different? The names?
    I prefer to call a spade a spade. I’ll stick to Power over EMC and where I don’t know how to do something, simply ask the storage administrators to do their bit.
    It’s only been around for yonks and is fully debugged. While the two new Oracle roles require new training, new learning, new debugging and ramping up.
    Me? I prefer delivered, stable systems. As opposed to fitting camels through eyes of needles and reinventing wheels. And guess what, no matter how many have tried to deride it, it keeps being by far the preferred solution. Sure, it doesn’t do wonders for flogging engineered systems. But then again: I am NOT an Oracle employee and I couldn’t care less about their sales.

  2. Hi Julian,
    thank you for referring to my posting! During my Exadata course last week in Sofia, the attendees mentioned you, especially how much they liked your performance at a previous event. Apparently, you have set a bottle of vodka as a price if someone was able to answer your questions!

    Well I could answer the one they remembered and asked me then for fun: ‘What table you can insert and commit into without changing it?’ Got it with the first guess, although I didn’t know.

    So it was a bit hard for me to follow in your footsteps, but they liked the Exadata course as well 🙂

    Kind regards

  3. Exadata is highly overpriced. These days companies ate switching to cloud and cheaper solutions. Are all oracle gurus listening?

  4. Hi Julian DONCHEFF,
    I’m SENIOR DBA oracle and Oracle Trainer in Oracle France.
    I like very much when you inspire us with a good question that bring us to debate.
    I read frequently your blog. And your article is well-presented, well-explained and interesting
    Thank you very much

  5. “No one supplier is usually accountable at a system level” – this, to me, is the core of the issue at hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: