Sherlock Holmes

‘Burns - I guess this means I can book the hotel for four nights and cancel the flights to OpenWorld then ?'

It was 10:30 am on a dull, grey overcast Monday morning in Manchester. Sherlock Burns and Doctor Timothy Hall had just emerged from a fractious, tense kick-off meeting at Tiger Telecom. Sherlock Burns and Dr. Timothy Hall had been called by the IT director at short notice to investigate a sudden and marked degradation in the performance of the production database

‘No. On the contrary, Doctor Hall. Please ensure the Hackney carriage is booked for 4pm together with two first class tickets for the return train journey to Euston. I have every confidence this case will be solved by lunchtime. This time tomorrow we will be on a plane to California.'

‘But Burns - we just sat through a 90 minute meeting with no obvious solution. Why, I do declare, the customer can’t even articulate the problem clearly and all the project team are arguing with each other. How on earth -'

‘Dr. Hall - do you recall the pretty chart showing the ‘Key Business Transaction Response Times’ ? What did you observe ?’

‘Err - I believe it was Excel 2007 and used a fancy pivot table…'

‘No, no - not that. Didn’t you look closely at the X-axis ? The timeline of the monitoring process was every 10 minutes. After August 15th, the granularity of the dots changed to every 10 seconds. This coincided with the performance problems and undoubtedly means the frequency of the monitoring probe was modified resulting in the increased load on the system.'

‘Oh Burns - that truly is absolutely magnificent. How did you spot that ?'

‘Obvious Dr. Hall, blindingly obvious. I suspect you will find someone, somewhere has got his asterisks mixed up when he editted the crontab. A common failing when you try to convert Windows support staff to the superior Unix platform. Now as we were brought through the office by our host and walked through the call centre area, what did you notice ?'

‘Well Burns - I noticed a lot of pretty girls wearing headsets. That blonde, in particular, was stunning -'

‘No, no - I’m talking about the plethora of ‘New Hire Induction Guide’ on their desks. Tiger Telecom has obviously hired all these people recently which is also contributing more load to the system.'

‘No - Burns - that can’t be right. You specifcally asked them in the meeting what had changed recently and they all insisted: ‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing.’

‘That’s why we are here, Dr Hall. Unless you saw it with your own eyes it didn’t happen. Another factor at play here is the Senior Oracle DBA. He is incompetent and must be replaced immediately.'

‘Oh Burns - how can you say that ? He seemed like a lovely bloke to me and don’t forget he bought us our Latte’s.'

‘Shut up Hall. What did you notice on his desk ?'

‘On his desk ? Well nothing apart from that rather amusing ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps’ postcard and a photo of his wife sunbathing in Crete….’

‘No, no. I’m talking about the technical books on his desk. He had a pile of Oracle books - all the usual suspects; Kyte, Lewis, Milsap and Antognini. But on the very top of that pile was a curious tome - ‘Oracle Tuning - The Definitive Reference Second Edition’ by Donald Burleson. No self respecting Oracle DBA would have that combination of books. That alerted me that something was amiss.’

‘Oh come off it, Burns. I think you’re putting 2 and 2 together and making 5 here. That’s very unfair -'

‘Dr. Hall. I opened the Burleson book up and noted the following inscription on the inside cover: ‘Barry - all the best in the future and may your redo logs always be multiplexed :-)’ Therefore I conclude this gentleman was dismissed from his previous post as a contract DBA following an unfortunate, and ultimately fruitless, exercise in media recovery. On a production system for an investment bank.’

‘Ah OK, I see, Burns. While we’re discussing the technical staff, I just wanted to mention that PL/SQL developer. I think he needs to be sacked too.'

‘Interesting, Dr. Hall. Why do you hold that opinion ?'

‘Well - when you asked him how much source code, how many lines of PL/SQL, how many packages he’d written, he couldn’t produce anything. Nothing. And to think he calls himself a ‘PL/SQL developer. He’s obviously an imposter.’

Burns smiled inwardly.

‘Not so fast, young, keen, impetuous Doctor Hall. While what you say is true, the young man did proffer a explanation for this. He showed me a source code repository populated with comprehensive, well written and tuned SQL scripts. Why - I do declare he even used Analytic functions. Young Mr. Barnstormworth justified his stance thus: “If it can’t be done in a single SQL statement, use PL/SQL. If it can’t be done in PL/SQL, use a Java Stored procedure. Otherwise consider ‘C’.”

Dr. Hall looked amazed as Burns had solved another mystery and he hadn’t even had to chat with the Head of IT Operations.

‘Now my good man. That’s more than enough work for one morning. I am ready to eat now and rather appropriately, I think I spotted a ‘Pret A Manager’ adjacent to the offices where we can discuss my forthcoming ‘State of the Nation’ keynote presentation at Oracle OpenWorld.

The ‘Council Of War’ was duly reassembled at 3pm and Sherlock Burns took a long drag on his pipe before addressing the group:

  • ‘Fix the monitor probe interval.’
  • ‘Sack the Oracle DBA.’
  • ‘Promote Daniel Barnstomworth to ‘Senior VP of Database Engineering’.
  • ‘Deploy another RAC node by the end of the year to cater for the increased user base.'
  • ‘Here’s my invoice. Good Bye'.