Scream Test: One DBA's Solution for Database Impact Analysis


I came across an Oracle Database problem in a forum. Actually, it was the first response that caught my interest. A desperate, Database Administrator who was new to the company, had no clue how one of their databases was being populated. There were no records nor documentation that indicated what procedures, triggers, applications, or other sources were populating the database. The first solution to the problem gave me reason to stop and read more of the post. I found the solution, “the scream test”, to be somewhat funny and surprising, yet at the same time, terrifying.

The scream test was the most recommended solution.  As comical as it sounds, the person responding advised the DBA to "lockdown the table and wait for the screams."  When I read this, I went to our in-house DBA for more information. He told me that shutting off a database to see the procedures, triggers, or others sources populating it should be the last option used to solve this problem.  His exact words were, “Heads will roll if you impact clients and/or development teams like that.”  He added, "A stunt like that will either result in you updating your resume’ or will have a negative impact on your internal clients’ opinions of your ability to keep systems up and running."

Other solutions suggested on the forum included:

  • Following ODBC connections from other servers (which is not a solution to the problem)
  • Query the DBA_DEPENDENCIES which will provide you with references to objects within Oracle
  • Audit the table
  • Search log files

And the list went on…

I was going to respond to the DBA problem, but before I scrolled down to the 314th post of the forum, the conversation had already shifted from Database Impact Analysis to log analytics.

This isn’t a problem that only impacts DBAs.  What about some ancient server in the corner of your data center that needs to be retired?  Do you know if it is still being used?  What if you need to move an entire data center? How would you plan out manageable “chunks” to complete the project on time, without negatively impacting your clients?

There are tools on the market that let you analyze across your entire environment.  When finding a database that you haven’t heard of, or a server that is new to you, you need to be able to search for a name and find all references to it in documents, log files, and code across your enterprise.  Being able to find that information in minutes makes you an expert who can quickly plan for the future.  It certainly makes you look better than being the IT person who “just shuts off our products because they don’t know what is going on.”  That is a bad reputation to have and…once earned, it’s a hard reputation to shake.

Tags: Impact Analysis