Your Database – A Long-Haul Truck Or A Sports Car?


Databases, even those running high-powered software like Oracle, can be incredibly touchy, demanding, and even fragile in their own way. For that reason we must take care to optimize and tune them based on characteristic usage.

Data Warehouse vs OLTP

In broad terms, database applications are divided into two large classes, Data Warehouse, and OLTP (online transaction processing – what a mouthful!). For the purposes of this dicussion, let’s call them a heavy lifting truck, and sports car. Now both have powerful engines, but they’re used for very different purposes.

Our Data Warehouse is characterized by large transactions, huge joins, all of which work to produce very large usually one-off reports. The reports may be run a handful of times. These databases do mostly read-only activity, occaisionally performing large dataloads to add to the archive of data.

On the other hand OLTP databases are characterized by thousands or tens of thousands of very small transactions. Web sites for instance, exhibit this characteristic. Each transaction is doing something quite small, but in aggregate, thousands of users put quite a heavy, and repeated load on the database, and they all expect instantaneous response!

We provide these two very different types of databases by laying out the database for its characteristic usage, and then tuning relevant parameters appropriately. We may allocate more memory to sorting, and less to the db cache for a Data Warehouse, whereas a large db cache might help us a lot with an OLTP application. We may enable parallel query, or partition large tables in our Data Warehouse application.

Choose One Or The Other

If you have a database serving a web-based application, and you are trying to do large ad-hoc reports against it, you will run into trouble. All that memory you’ve setup to cache small web transactions, will get wiped out with the first large report you run. What’s more the heavy disk I/O you perform reading huge tables, and then sorting and aggregating large datasets will put a huge load on your database which you setup specifically for your web application.


There are lots and lots of parameters and features in Oracle best suited to one or the other type of application, to the point where your database really will look like a sports car or a long-haul truck when you’re done tuning it. For that reason it is really essential that these types of applications be divided up into separate instances of Oracle preferrably on separate servers.