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SQL Tuning Paperback – November 26, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dan Tow is an independent consultant, operating under the banner SingingSQL (www.singingsql.com). His experience solving Oracle-related performance problems goes all the way back to his 1989 hire by Oracle Corporation. During most of his tenure at Oracle, Dan focused on the performance of Oracle Applications, managing the performance group for that division. In this role, he found a fertile testing ground for his SQL tuning method applied to the huge set of complex SQL included in those applications, including both online SQL and diverse batch processes. In 1998, Dan left Oracle to lead performance for TenFold Corporation, where he applied the same methods to tuning questions on DB2, and SQL Server, and Sybase, as well as on Oracle. In 2002, Dan started his own business, SingingSQL, through which he offers diverse database-related tuning services, including SQL tuning and systematically analyzing load to learn which SQL should be tuned. He has introduced his SQL tuning method to over 1,000 people in short lectures, and now offers in-depth courses in the material, using this book as textbook. Dan has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He lives in Palo Alto, California, and can be reached at dantow@singingsql.com.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1st edition (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596005733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596005733
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Charles D. Simmons on January 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Tell me something I don't already know", that's what crosses my mind every time I pick up a new performance, tuning book. If you're like me, 90% of the content in any DBA book in the store is 'old hat'.
This book is refreshing. It doesn't waste time going over all of the stuff you learned years ago.
Knowing how to read an execution plan or when to pick a hash join over a nested loop join is not what this book is about. There are plenty of books on the market that cover basic, vendor specific, query tuning. I personally have about 20 of these books on my bookshelf here at home. (Over the years I've worked on Sybase, SQL Server, Informix XPS, & Oracle.)
Here's the deal...
Anyone who has worked with really big systems will eventually run into an optimization problem that seems to be unsolvable. You can try histograms, compressed key indexes, partitioning, pre-joined indexes, and materialized views, but you still can't get the performance that's being requested. For a DBA, it can be a very frustrating dilemma. This is especially true when you know from the data volume that you should be able to get there.
The truth is, optimizers can't always get the right solution, even with correct statistics. There are some good technical reasons why this is true, but that's out of scope for my review. In any case, that's where this book comes to the rescue. I feel that it gives you some insight into the optimization problem and tells you how to correct the problems that your optimizer can't figure out.
This book is NOT for use on 95% of your queries. Most optimizers will pick the correct access plan if the DBA does his/her job correctly and collects the appropriate statistics.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Survance on July 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have withdrawn my earlier review because I did not properly understand the importance of this book until the second reading. That is a difficult admission to make since my business is database performance tuning.

This book is about tuning SQL queries in a systematic and scientific manner. It is above all about determining the optimum order in which the query engine should access the tables involved. My quibble was that join order is only a part of the whole tuning problem and most of the time the query optimizer got it right anyway. While this is true, I see now that it misses the point.

The fact that the optimizer gets it right so often allows us to take join order for granted. But how do we know the optimizer got it right unless we know what the optimum join order is? That is what this book teaches, a methodology and an elegant system of notation that allows us to determine the optimum join order of the most complex query. As the author points out, the number of possible join orders increases factorially with the number of tables involved. An 8 table join has 40,320 possible join orders. That rules out trial and error for all but the simplest queries.

It turns out that analyzing and diagramming according to Tow's method gives you a deep architectural understanding of the query and the problems that face you. It gives you a plan to which you can apply the tools of the trade, indexes, code optimization, etc.

This is a book that will be on the shelf of serious performance tuning professionals for as long as SQL is the language of data manipulation.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Meade on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like Dan, I have been doing Oracle for a long time (since 1984). I offer three opinions about Dan's book:

1) learning how to do query diagrams is great for people who have never done them and this book is the best (maybe even the only) book for learning this. In learning to do the diagrams, you will understand the basic logic and basic math that an optimizer must do in order to get you a good plan. Do not worry. It is not a deep math book and there are no complex calculations. Indeed Dan shows you how basic it all really is. This gives you a deeper foundation in optimization and brings you closer to having that INFORMATIONAL CRITICAL MASS which is required to do good tuning.

2) the book is outdated. As I said, I have been doing Oracle since 1984. For two decades, Dan's method of tuning and relying mostly on NESTED LOOP JOIN was the only real game in town. And Dan explains it well. Unfortunately about the time Dan published the book (2003), Oracle was entering a revolution in its design. Most notably, databases were increasing in size dramatically and this made the need for PARTITIONING strategies and PARTITION WISE HASH JOINS very high. Dan's techniques of query diagraming are still useful for understanding a query's needs, but the book is today outdated because of its lack of treatement for PARTITIONING and HASH JOIN techniques. Don't get me wrong, even outdated, this book has great value because it clarifies what you need to tell other people, why certain things happened.

3) Even outdated, I learned one neat join trick which alone is worth the 20 dollars I paid for this book.
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