As DBAs augment their expertise and skills to better prepare to support web-enabled databases and applications, they must adopt new techniques and skills. We have talked about some of those skills in previous eDBA columns. But eDBAs have additional resources at their disposal, too. By virtue of being Internet-connected, an eDBA has access to the vast knowledge and experience of his peers. But to take advantage of these online resources the eDBA has to know that the resources exist, how to gain access to them, and where to find them. This article will discuss several of the Internet resources available to eDBAs.
When discussing the Internet, many folks limit themselves to the World Wide Web. However, there are many components that make up the Internet. One often-overlooked component is the Usenet Newsgroup. Usenet Newsgroups can be a very fertile source of expert information. Usenet, an abbreviation for User Network, is a large collection of discussion groups called newsgroups. Each newsgroup is a collection of articles pertaining to a single, pre-determined topic. Newsgroup names usually reflect their focus. For example, comp.databases.ibm-db2 contains discussions about the DB2 Family of products.
Using News Reader software, any Internet user can access a newsgroup and read the information contained therein. Refer to Figure 1 for an example using the Forte Free Agent news reader to view messages posted to comp.databases.ibm-db2. The Free Agent news reader can be downloaded and used free of charge from the Forte web site at http://www.forteinc.com/. Netscape navigator also provides news reader functionality.
Figure 1. Using a News Reader.
There are many newsgroups that focus discussion on database and database-related issues. The following table shows some of the most pertinent newsgroups of interest to the eDBA.
Table 1. Database-Related Usenet Newsgroups of Interest to eDBAs.
||Information on client/server technology
||Information on research in data compression techniques
||Discussion of data modeling and data administration issues
||Issues regarding databases and data management
||Information on IBM's DB2 Family of products
||Information on the Informix DBMS
||Information on Microsoft’s SQL Server DBMS
||Information on object-oriented database systems
||Information on data warehouse online analytical processing
||Information on the Oracle market
||Information on the Oracle RDBMS
||Information regarding add-on tools for Oracle
||Miscellaneous Oracle discussions
||Information on the Sybase Adaptive Server RDBMS
||Discussions on database technology and theory
||General computer science education
||General computer-related discussions
||UNIX administration discussions
||Question and answer forum for UNIX novices
||Information pertaining to the CICS transaction server
||Database administration special interest group
||Information pertaining to DB2
||IBM mainframe newsgroup
Of course, thousands of other newsgroups exist. You can use your news reader software to investigate the newsgroups available to you and to gauge the quality of the discussions conducted therein.
Another useful Internet resource for eDBAs is the mailing list. Mailing Lists are a sort of community bulletin board. You can think of mailing lists as somewhat equivalent to a mass mailing. But mailing lists are not spam because users must specifically request to participate before they will receive any mail. This is known as “opting in.”
There are more than 40,000 mailing lists available on the Internet, and they operate using a list server. A list server is a program that automates the mailing list subscription requests and messages. The two most common list servers are Listserv and Majordomo. Listserv is also a common synonym for mailing list, but it is actually the name of a particular list server program.
Simply by subscribing to a mailing list, information will be sent directly to your e-mail in-box. After subscribing to a mailing list, e-mails will begin to arrive in your in-box from the remote computer called the list server. The information that you will receive varies – from news releases, to announcements, to questions, to answers. This information is very similar to the information contained in a news group forum, except that it comes directly to you via e-mail. Users can also respond to mailing list messages very easily enabling communication with every subscribed user. Responses are sent back to the list server as e-mail, and the list server sends the response out to all other members of the mailing list.
To subscribe to a mailing list, simply send an e-mail to the appropriate subscription address requesting a subscription. There are several useful web sites that catalog and document the available Internet mailing lists. Some useful sites include:
Of course, none of these sites track every single mailing list available to you. Vendors, consultants, web portals, and user groups also support mailing lists of various types. The only way to be sure you know about all the useful mailing lists out there is to become an actively engaged member of the on-line community. The following list provides details on a few popular database-related mailing lists for eDBAs:
Web Sites and Portals
Of course, the web is also a very rich and fertile source of database and DBA related information. But tracking things down on the web can sometimes be difficult – especially if you do not know where to look. Several good sources of DBMS information on the web can be found by reviewing the web sites of DBMS vendors, DBA tool vendors, magazine sites and consultant sites. For example, check out the following:
These types of sites are very useful for obtaining up-to-date information about DBMS releases and version, management tool offerings, and the like, but sometimes the information on these types of sites is very biased. For information that is more likely to be unbiased you should investigate the many useful web portals and web magazines that focus on DBMS technology.
Of course, this web site, http://www.dbazine.com, is a constant source of useful information about database administration and data warehouse management issues and solutions. There are several other quite useful database-related sites that are worth investigating including:
The bottom line is that eDBAs are not alone in the Internet-connected world. It is true that the eDBA is expected to perform more complex administrative tasks in less time and with minimal outages. But fortunately the eDBA has a wealth of help and support that is just a mouse click away. As an eDBA you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not take advantage of the Internet resources at your disposal.