Tuesday, February 7, 2012

There's a New Blogger In Town: James Morrow's The DBA Life

OK, technically, you cannot call James Morrow a new blogger. He set up his blog some time ago. But he did not blog. What a bad boy! The good news is, now he's properly motivated and has started blogging with great guns and plenty of enthusiasm. So take a look:

Hot topics from James, just off the press this week, include:

Spreadsheet Risk (and why ad-hoc reporting tools make me twitchy)

Adventures in SQL*Net encryption (E-Business Suite edition)

Certification on Oracle (RedHat) Enterprise Linux 6?

Changes are coming to My Oracle Support

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More on Includes File from my friend James

My friend James, who has a very big brain, often tells me additional tidbits about things that I have blogged about. So here again, he has added some additional insight; I hope he won't mind my quoting him:

I've used this for quite some time... particularly useful when you have a concurrent request or a form that performs poorly... you can search using "includes file" in order to figure out if there is simply a newer version of that report/form.  Based on the results, you could then (potentially) deduce that maybe there might have been a performance fix that would solve your problem.

Oh my gosh, what an excellent point. James' idea is actually a nicer way of looking for new performance improvements than what I would have done, basically trolling around on My Oracle Support using keywords and such to see if a performance improvement was mentioned for a particularly troublesome report.

Thank you James!

"The keyboard? How quaint."

I was just over on youtube reviewing that famous Star Trek outtake where Scotty approaches a 20th century computer and tries to get it to respond to his voice. "Computer? Commmputer?" Bones hands Scotty the mouse, and Scotty proceeds to speak into it as if it is a microphone: "Hello Computer..." The computer's owner suggests that Scotty "Just use the keyboard." "The keyboard? How quaint."

I am always reminded of this part of the movie when I get lost on My Oracle Support, trying to find something, and wishing the interface went beyond intuitive and over into psychic. If google can notice that I'm interested in buying a new couch and then spend the next couple of weeks tossing ads at me for furniture dealers, then how far are we from My Oracle Support noticing that I am bobbing around trying to remember how to find something and proactively reminding me how to get there?

Oh, well, in the meantime, I must resort to blogging details about how I managed to do something once so that when I need to again I can search my blog. Today's post will cover Trolling for Patches, and the Ever So Interesting "Includes File".

On MOS, Click on Patches & Updates

Click on Patching Quick Links, and since I am using Release 12.1.3, click on Recommended R12 Patches:

Now, as far as I can tell, it is very important that you click on Advanced Search in this next screen. I tried just muddling around in this screen, and it didn't get me what I was looking for. I changed the Maintenance Release from the default of 12.1.1 to 12.1.3, and I clicked on the flashlight and entered AZ in the screen that popped up, and then I clicked on Select in the popup screen, and it didn't do what I expected. It didn't carry back the AZ selection into the Product or Product Family, so it didn't cut the list down to just AZ patches. I am not sure, but I think that if you haven't clicked on Advanced Search, this is perhaps defaulting to Simple Search, but I am not sure why it would let me click on the Product or Product Family flashlight, choose something, and then not carry it back.

For this example, I wanted to find any patches for AZ, because I am having trouble with iSetup. You can see the fields I filled in.

It is moments like these that make me feel pretty dumb. If I were my 11 year old son, I'd be banging on my desk right now, shouting "Why? Why can't I make it work???"

That said, remember what I said a little earlier, Click on Advanced Search.

It pulled up a better screen, and that screen let me click on a pile of flashlights to limit what I was searching for, which pulled up popup screens that carried back the way I expected them to. And when I clicked on the Go button, it pulled up a nice pile of patches:

Now, I've shown you all this, which solved my problem by giving me a list of AZ patches that I should look at to see if I am missing any that might solve my problem with iSetup, but in the end, that's not the reason I pulled up all this information. Take a look at what I circled above in red: Includes File. That's the thing that I want to remember how to get to. It's terrific to use this screen to get a list of available patches, but the Includes File option is the one that I always forget. Let's say you find a note on My Oracle Support that says that a particular version of a file is needed to solve a problem. Enter it here in the Includes File box, and you can limit the results of your query to just those patches that have that file. That feature is the one I always forget how to use, and so, for posterity, I have recorded it here.

Here's Oracle's definition of Includes File:

This search option is valid only for Applications products. This parameter is not considered while querying for Server or Tools products patches.

This search parameter is used to limit down the search results to only those patches that contain a specific file, or a specific version of a specific file. To use this parameter, the exact, case sensitive, file-name must be known. No wildcards are allowed.

The search can be further limited by setting the file version. No wildcards are allowed for the version field. The search will match all file versions greater than or equal to the selected version.

If you try out Includes File, take heed to what Oracle says above - you have to know exactly what you're looking for, and it doesn't allow wildcards to figure it out.

The end.


Friday, January 27, 2012

A Bevy of Ways to Learn About the E-Business Suite: I've Tried Them All and Got Something Out of All of Them

I've had a little free time lately, so I've used it well and have been filling my head with interesting things I didn't know before. How's that for good? I'm rather proud of myself. So I thought I'd share some of the places I've been and the things I've learned; all about the E-Business Suite, mind you. This may take more than one blog entry, as my edification has been that good.

Communities > My Oracle Support Community: When I hit a problem with the E-Business Suite, I have a tried and true routine that I follow. Recently I was working on a Release 12 Upgrade Readiness Assessment and visiting a client DBA, and I noticed he does the same thing as me - so it must be good! Basically, I hit an issue and troll My Oracle Support first. If I find a direct hit I dance a happy jig and go with that. If I don't, then I google my problem. Often I find what I need there. And if that doesn't work, I go to http://www.oracle.com/ and choose Communities from the pulldown at the top of the screen, and then My Oracle Support Community. You can search for fellow sufferers of your problem, and if that doesn't work, you can ask a question. Folks on this community go above and beyond the call of duty to be responsive. Be kind to them and tell them as much as you can about your environment when you pose your question. Otherwise they'll have to ask, and you'll have to answer, and that'll slow you down a bit.

OAUG Connection Point regional conferences: I'm biased because they let me work on the Paper Selection Committee, but the OAUG Connection Point conferences are regional conferences, managed by OAUG in partnership with a local user group and an appropriate SIG (Special Interest Group) to cover a hot topic. The first one I participated on was in Chicago in July, 2011. It was just on the Release 12.1 upgrade, and I thought it went very well. There were lots of presentations, all about upgrading. The users were all very focused on the topic. There were also vendor booths and presentations, which made it easy to find consultants and 3rd party solutions to solve some of the gnarlier problems.

The second Connection Point conference that I attended last year was in Atlanta in November. It covered more than just upgrading - the topics were EPM, BI and Release 12 Upgrade. There were lots of great presentations, but the ones I enjoyed most, because I hadn't had a chance to attend them at other conferences, were by Susan Behn, of Infosemantics:

Maximize Efficiency of Oracle EBS Releases 11i/12 through Diagnostics - Learn how Diagnostic tests can be used in your upgrade/implementation to validate configurations, data and much more. These are XML reports that are run from a new, more user friendly interface starting in 12.0.6 and higher. The Diagnostic Tool includes tests to for users in virtually every area of the organization—functional (setups, processes, month end close), technical (analyze data integrity issues, data validation, purge opportunities), DBAs (security best practices, setup.) There is much more.

R12 Function and Data Security- UMX and Role Based Access Control - Release 12 includes stronger controls across the application modules for limiting access to both functions and data. This presentation will discuss these controls and focus on how Oracle User Management (UMX) and the Role Based Access Control (RBAC) standard work to mitigate security risks.

Ten New Forms and OAF Personalization Examples - This is an update to Susan's original popular personalization presentation with ten new examples. As part of your R12 upgrade, use Form and OAF Personalizations to replace many of your customizations. Also use personalization to streamline your business processes through improved control of validations, defaults, terminology and other requirements. These are the newest examples highlighting the newest Release 12.1 features.

Susan's presentation on using Oracle's Diagnostics tool that is part of the Oracle Application Manager offers up one more place where you can root around to figure out what is going on in your E-Business Suite environment. I was tickled to also pick up two more purge programs (I have a soft spot for finding Oracle-supported ways to remove administrative data from an applications environment) - yup, if you're churning out diagnostics reports, you should also be purging the data periodically; check out the Delete Diagnostic Logs and Delete Diagnostic Statistics concurrent programs.

If you're an OAUG member, you can download all of these presentations and more from the OAUG website. And if you're not, then try googling them!

Oracle's Patch Wizard Webinar: Jonathan Janaitis from Oracle gave this webinar about Patch Wizard. I'm a big fan of Patch Wizard. OK, I'm an embarrassingly gushingly enthusiastic fan of Patch Wizard. Jonathan had this one slide that I really liked. I used snagit to grab a picture of it while Jonathan was talking, but it came out sort of bleary, so here's my reproduction:

Things I found interesting:
  • Jonathan described the process Oracle Development follows for causing patches to land in infobundle.zip, the file that Patch Wizard uses to make recommendations of patches to apply to your environment. Basically, the assorted development groups tag patches that are recommended or critical patches. So you won't find every single patch that Oracle has produced to date in the infobundle.zip file, just the ones that are very important.
  • That said, if you discover a patch that Patch Wizard isn't telling you about, you can still use Patch Wizard to tell you more about that patch. Patch Wizard's interface is very intuitive, particularly when it comes to digging around in a patch's details to understand what the patch (or patches) will affect if applied.
  • If you aren't a Patch Wizard user, you can still get to the same information on My Oracle Support. Just go to the Patches & Updates tab and select Patching Quick Links. From there you can search for patches for Release 11i or Release 12. If you go that route, you'll find it a little tedious; Oracle created Patch Wizard for good reason, so it is well worth it to use their tool rather than dig through the screens on My Oracle Support.
  • Going back to Jonathan's slide, you can do either a Manual download or an Automatic download of the infobundle.zip data. The reason for manual downloading? Some customers don't have their production environments opened up to be able to directly download patches from Oracle. Some customers have to download the information to a separate location and then move it over. If you're in that situation, then you won't be able to make full use of Patch Wizard, which will not only download infobundle.zip - on a schedule if you want - but can also download the patches.
  • One caveat if you are able to automatically download - as part of the setup for Patch Wizard, you tell it somebody's My Oracle Support identification information - a valid My Oracle Support username and password. So if the password changes for that account, Patch Wizard will stop working and you'll need to figure that out and match up the password in your Patch Wizard setup with your new password. I mention this because I can almost guarantee that this will happen to me and I'll end up searching for a solution on My Oracle Support and then blush to discover that it was just a password problem.
Upstate New York Oracle Applications User Group Meeting, January 2012:

Truth be told, I haven't been to a local user group meeting in... I'm thinking 16 years. I got an invite, and realized that I've lived near Rochester, NY for 11 years and have had almost no interaction with local E-Business Suite users. If you held me up against a wall and threatened me, I'm not sure I could name five user companies. So I thought I'd give this meeting a try, and had absolutely the best time!

Doug Eberhardt, Marketing Manager at Sealing Devices, Inc. gave a terrific presentation called Choosing an e-commerce portal about his company's implementation of Workbench Software's Customer Portal for the Oracle E-Business Suite, including information on the implementation, product features, and how his company's customers have reacted to the new services. I loved this presentation for several reasons:

Doug described the process that his company went through to select Workbench Software as their e-commerce portal software vendor. A key feature of the product that Sealing Devices chose was that it interfaced seamlessly with the E-Business Suite. Patrick Harris from Workbench Software mentioned that his company had years of experience with the E-Business Suite and had used only Oracle's standard interfaces for their software.

Doug talked about how things have changed in the sales arena. I've always known that having a website was a good and useful thing, but now understand that the way that we as consumers buy things has changed a lot for many of us, and a good website can mean all the difference. I can think of several cases in the last few months where I've gone to a website, done my research, and happily made a purchase without dealing with a salesperson. Doug also made the point that if your website can answer standard questions automatically, without requiring a human to respond, you can save your company money and make customers happier there too - my favorite example is websites where I can check the status of an order or track when it will be delivered without calling in for that information.

I think, though, that what I enjoyed most about Doug's presentation was the story he told of how happy his company was with this vendor, Workbench Software. The product was easy and quick to install, maintaining it can be done by a non-technical person, and the service provided by Workbench Software sounded phenominal. Those are the kinds of stories I like to hear, where a local company provides a product and service that is so good that customers are willing to spend time putting a presentation together to talk about it.

So, folks, get out there and consider some of the many resources available for learning more about the E-Business Suite. The big kahuna of OAUG conferences is now on the horizon - Collaborate 12, April 22-26 in Las Vegas.

I'll be presenting one paper, Clean Up That Mess! A Mother's Guide to Managing Your E-Business Suite Clutter: If you’ve noticed that your Applications seem to be slowly grinding along, perhaps you need to review your overall approach to managing your Applications data. Are you purging data that ought to be purged? Is your Concurrent Manager configuration all that it could be? Have you LOOKED at your Workflow tables lately? Join me for a lively discussion of all the dust bunnies I’ve found in assorted E-Business Suite closets, and what I recommend you do to clean sweep your way to performance improvements.

Another great conference coming up February 14-16 in Denver, Colorado, is RMOUG Training Days, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Oracle Users Group. Is it the possibility of a ski weekend that snags all the great minds for this conference? Many of my favorites, including Tim Gorman, Jonathan Lewis, Jerry Ireland, Mike Swing, Cary Milsap, and Mark Farnham will be presenting. I wish I could go, as this looks like a super, well-organized, presentation-packed conference, well worth the investment.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Have to Be a Member, But...

I write a lot. Edit a lot. Re-write a lot. My eyes are weary. Some days there is nothing more soporific than the material I am working on. But I really enjoyed working on an article that made it into OAUG's Insight Magazine, Winter 2011:

The article is called: The Big Picture - Upgrading to Release 12.1. I co-authored this with Mike Swing from TruTek. You have to be an Oracle Applications User Group member to get to the article, so if you're not and you're just dying to know what the big picture is, you can download my presentation on it. The article is prettier than my presentation, though. For a more detailed version of the topic, check out Mike Swing's paper The Big Picture - The Release 12.1.3 Upgrade Review.

Another useful link for certifications...

So I published my last blog entry and then sent a note to a couple of colleagues, pointing out that I had out-blogged them, and of course my colleague James Morrow immediately responded, pointing out that this link is quite handy:

James is indeed correct. I followed the link and saw something that instantly cast doubt on what Certify was noting for running Release 12.1.3 with RDBMS

Yep, this link says that is certified, while Certify says it is not. So, I figure this means one of the following:
  1. Certify is wrong
  2. There are Operating System combinations other than the one that I selected (Oracle Solaris on SPARC (64-bit) (10) that are certified with RDBMS
  3. This link is wrong 
If I were a truly dogged researcher, I would sit here and slog through My Oracle Support, searching for Operating System combinations that are certified with RDBMS But it's the end of the day, and I'm losing my inspiration. So I'll suffice it to suggest one more pearl of wisdom - if you are researching a software combination and Certify says that it is not Certified, it would still be worthwhile to log an SR with Oracle Support to confirm it. I would think that being the people who keep Certify constantly up-to-date has to be a pretty tough job. And I am very glad it is not my job.

A Wee List of Interoperability Documents

I was trolling around on the Oracle Support Community site, a dandy site because you can ask questions and your colleagues will jump in to provide guidance, when I noticed someone asking if you could use RDBMS Version 10gR2 with the E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3. I'm pretty sure the answer is yes, though I don't imagine anyone recommends you do so. My rationale stems from three sources:

1. On My Oracle Support, you can look for a certified RDBMS version under the Certify tab (I looked at 10gR2 with E-Business Suite 12.1.3 with the Sun 64 bit operating system), and there are certified versions - with caveats. One version, RDBMS is still able to be patched if new issues are discovered, but Version is not.
2. Also on My Oracle Support, you can look to see if there is an Interoperability document that explains how to connect your particular database version with Release 12.1.3 (you'll have to apply an Interoperability patch), and there's one of those.
3. But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, so take a look at Oracle's Lifetime Support information and think carefully about whether you want to upgrade to Release 12.1.3 on a version of the RDBMS that Oracle may not patch if you hit an error they haven't already resolved. I'm betting that if you're considering doing it, then you must have a legitimate reason - perhaps there's a version of software, or an obscure E-Business Suite module that isn't supported on 11gR2 and thus requires RDBMS 10gR2, so maybe you're thinking you could stick with 10gR2 while your users wean themselves off of that module? That's the one example I was able to think of. The tradeoff is likely in performance and something I'll call "obscure technical issues" - those are issues that occur because the E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3 was developed using RDBMS 11g, not 10gR2, so you might find that you hit errors that nobody else hits when they're upgrading. And you may find you have technical issues with your R12.1.3 E-Business Suite environment after you've completed the upgrade that others who are running 11gR2 don't experience. I guess the bottom line is, if you were thinking you wouldn't have to test your environment too hard for this upgrade, dream on. You'll want to test extremely thoroughly if you plan on sticking with an outdated version of the RDBMS.


So let's start with Certify.

Log into My Oracle Support. Click on the Certifications tab. I've chosen Oracle E-Business Suite for the Product, Release 12.1.3 for the Release, and Oracle Solaris on SPARC (64-bit) (10) for the Operating System and version.

And the answer is:

Well, good news. If this is your configuration, then yes, you could stay on RDBMS 10gR2. But notice that only and are certified. So if you're on, and you still wanted to stay on RDBMS 10gR2, you would need to upgrade to to have a certified platform. If you're thinking that as long as you're in the right range of 10-ness, you should be ok, please cast that thought out. You don't want to be the guy or gal who has to explain to your management while you are in the middle of a database issue that you're having the issue because you chose not to follow Oracle's recommendations.


In order to use a particular database version with a particular E-Business Suite release, you have to apply a particular interoperability patch. That patch makes them work together correctly. And it turns out that there are usually some additional patches that you need to apply - perhaps some RDBMS opatches, or some Applications patches. Those additional patches are documented in the appropriate interoperability My Oracle Support document. Here's a list of documents for several of the database version / E-Business Suite Release combinations:
  • If you are running Oracle 9i and need to upgrade to 10g before upgrading to RDBMS 11gR2, use MOS Doc. ID 362203.1 for the 10g – Release 11i upgrade and MOS Doc. ID: 1058763.1 for the 11g – Release 12 upgrade 
  • If you plan to use Oracle Database 10gR2 with Release 12 (not recommended), use MOS Doc. ID 812362.1
  • If you plan to upgrade to RDBMS because Release 12.1 lays down an RDBMS (not recommended), use MOS Doc. ID: 452783.1 with Release 11i and then MOS Doc. ID: 802875.1 with Release 12.1 
  • If you plan to upgrade the RDBMS to Version 11gR2 prior to upgrading from Release 11i to Release 12.1 (recommended), you will need to use two Interoperability documents, MOS Doc. ID: 881505.1 to deal with RDBMS patches specific to Release 11i when you do the database upgrade, and then MOS Doc. ID: 1058763.1 to deal with RDBMS patches specific to Release 12.1 when you do the applications upgrade. 
These are the assorted MOS Interoperability Notes:
  • MOS Doc. ID: 362203.1, Oracle Applications Release 11i with Oracle 10g Release 2 (10.2.0) 
  • MOS Doc. ID: 1058763.1, Interoperability Notes Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 with Oracle Database 11g Release 2 (11.2.0)  
  • MOS Doc. ID: 812362.1, Interoperability Notes Oracle EBS 12 with Oracle Database 10gR2 (10.2.0)
  • MOS Doc. ID: 452783.1, Interoperability Notes - Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i with Oracle Database 11g Release 1 (11.1.0)  
  • MOS Doc. ID: 881505.1, Interoperability Notes Oracle EBS 11i with Oracle Database 11gR2 (11.2.0) 
  • MOS Doc. ID: 802875.1, Interoperability Notes Oracle EBS Release 12.1 with Oracle Database 11gR1 (11.1.0)
If you're wondering why I noted certain options as "not recommended", it's because I don't recommend using older versions of software that have been superseded with newer certified versions if you don't have to.

By the way, as you're working your way through the Interoperability Notes, I'd like to emphasize a truly important point: Don't skip any steps.

Some of the steps seem trivial... maybe you're thinking they don't apply to you. When we've encountered RDBMS issues during the Release 12.1.1 part of the upgrade, it's almost always because the DBA left out a step from the Interoperability document or the database upgrade document.

I'll give you one example, though this wasn't the DBA's fault - we had a client who upgraded to Release 10gR2 several years ago. The version of their documentation at the time that they upgraded didn't say anything about applying a Korean Lexers sql script that is described in the Interoperability documents (note that if you look at the documents now, they include applying this script, so this was a timing issue for the documentation).

As a result, as they upgraded to RDBMS, the DBA saw a step that said that if they were upgrading from 10gR1 or earlier, they needed to apply the Korean Lexers script. Since they were upgrading from 10gR2, they concluded they didn't need to apply the script, not realizing that the script had never been applied in their environment. The result was that the R12.1.1 part of the upgrade failed, they had to apply the Korean Lexers script, and then restart. And personally, if I were reading through the instructions, I would have seriously considered skipping the Korean Lexers script, on the assumption that it was a languages issue that didn't have anything to do with my single language environment. So, bottom line: Don't skip any steps.


As you are planning this bold move, you should also take into account how long you can limp along on this version of the database. Certify has made that easy. In the previous screen, there's a list of supported RDBMS versions. Click on, and you'll see this screen:

Now click on, and you'll see the following screen:

You need to be really careful to read the fine print. Notice that for, it says "New patch creation available [CPUs, PSUs, one-offs]", while for, it says "No new patches are being created for Oracle Database". So what does that mean? Well, if you hit an issue with that requires a patch that doesn't already exist, you're going to have to make a sudden upgrade to, assuming that it has that patch.

And make sure you read ALL the fine print. Click on the Oracle Solaris on SPARC (64-bit) 10 button to see more details. You may have to apply additional patches to make this version work:

So, at this point, I think we've figured out that you can run Release 12.1.3 on RDBMS 10gR2 if you are running a certified combination of the database and the operating system. If you happen to be doing so, please let me know, as I'd like to know how it all works for you.