Environment Waikato jumps to Oracle 11g

Decision to skip one version driven by desire to maximise value of support

Regional council Environment Waikato is skipping one version of Oracle’s database to become an early adopter of Oracle 11g, a decision driven in part by a desire to get the most value out of Oracle’s support arrangements.

The new environment is still in testing, but senior Oracle database administrator (DBA) Erica Harris says she hopes to have it rolled out by February, depending on support from the council’s other software suppliers.

Environment Waikato adopted Oracle Financials in 1996 but it is the database supporting a range of other applications, including geographic information systems (GIS), document management, consents management, hydrology and telemetry, that is being upgraded.

Harris says the systems generate a lot of data that is used in the day-to-day operations of the council and for making policy.

Upgrade talk started last year, Harris says, and initially the plan was to move to 10g from Oracle 9i. The driver was that 9i had fallen off Oracle’s Premier Support plan and into Sustaining Support, which happens five years after the product’s release.

Harris says there is nothing wrong with falling onto a lower-level support plan as long as users are aware of the implications, mainly in the area of bug fixes. She says Oracle’s support structure has been standardised, making upgrade planning easier for users.

In Environment Waikato’s case, it also prompted a decision earlier this year to skip 10g, which would only have one year of Premier Support left by the time it was implemented and go to 11g to maximise the value of that support.

Another enabler was support for 11g from the council’s document management system software vendor. The council uses Hummingbird for document management, but that was only certified for Oracle 10g when it was acquired by Open Text in 2006. However, Open Text then moved to support 11g.

Harris says 11g has improved management features for DBAs, especially in areas such as diagnostics.

“It has diagnostics for Africa,” she says.

For instance, it will allow analysis of historical as well as current performance to allow issues to be traced and rectified even when they are not currently apparent on the system.

Harris says the February rollout timeframe has some dependencies, including support for 11g from GIS system vendor Intergraph.

She says she doesn’t consider these applications “legacy” but rather operational systems, but users are dependent on the vendor, and their timetable and commitments.

“Some certify for two or three versions and some just for the latest version,” she says.

While back-end functionality was a major driver of the upgrade, Harris says that the move to 11g will also help future-proof Environment Waikato for planned projects.

“It gives more flexibility,” she says. “When the business says it wants something, this database is better able to support that.”

• O’Neill travelled to OpenWorld as a guest of Oracle

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