Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Classic: Application Developers vs. Database Developers II

The original (with all the fun comments) can be found here. Originally posted on December 9, 2008. This is the "followup" to yesterday's post.

You can read the first article here. My application developer friend, Mr. M, emailed me and another fine gentleman this little blurb recently:

Mr. M:

Hey seriously, what a tub of shit Oracle is. Where does this myth come from that it's such a great platform? Their client tools suck balls and it's generally just a pain in the ass to work with from a developer's point of view. But devs for some reason are under this impression that from thew server perspective it's rock solid and performant. Well, it may be solid, but it's a fucking turd. Our dba here - definitely an Oracle guy - has been tasked with looking into moving us onto an oss db. He basically refuses to even look at MySQL, stating that it's a mickey mouse worthless pile of shit (can't really argue with him there lol), so that basically leaves Postgres. So it's been a few weeks now, and he will basically admit now that Postgres completely waxes Oracle as far as performance goes. LOL We run RAC in production too. He's looking at failover, replication, blah blah blah now, we'll see what the verdict on that is. Oh, and Oracle AQ? That's a worthless pile of shit too. Why do they tack a fucking message queue that doesn't play nice with jms onto the fucking database, which is probably already overworked? Oh wait, that's right, they're in the business of selling per cpu licenses! Cocksuckers.
This was prompted by a recent Oracle email blast about the Exadata storage system/Warehouse.

As I did before, I'll just put the email here.

Agreed, their client tools aren't all the great. Which ones are you using?

I use SQL*Plus (naturally), SQL Developer and JDeveloper. The latter 2 tie in very nicely with Subversion. With JDeveloper, when I want to try out Java, it's got a pretty good suite of tools.

Oracle starting out catering to businesses, Microsoft started with the consumer. Oracle has made pretty good strides in making their software more usable while Microsoft has made theirs more scalable.

I haven't used AQ a whole lot and definitely not with Java. I do know that it's billed as JMS compliant.

Postgres has it's place and so does Oracle. It is a great platform if you know how to leverage it. PL/SQL is a 3GL (or is it 4) and you can write entire applications using it...and if you do that right, an incredibly robust and scalable application at that.
Mr. M:

"It is a great platform if you know how to leverage it. PL/SQL is a 3GL (or is it 4) and you can write entire applications using it...and if you do that right, an incredibly robust and scalable application at that."

NO!!! NO!!! NOOOOO!!!

I want to beat people like you who say this with a ball pean hammer. There are only a select few individuals on this earth who can write and read application logic written in SQL. AVOID THIS ANTI-PATTERN AT ALL COSTS! What is it with you f_cking database guys??? Why do you always want to stuff as much crap into the db as possible?


It's fine for querying and manipulating sets of data, in a relational database. But it is a worthless sack of shit for expressing application logic!

I'm having to dig through this f_cking abortion right now because some Oracle f_ckhead thought "you can write entire applications using it!" Blog that, mofo!
This was followed by a package he had been working on. I wouldn't say it was the greatest, but it wasn't all bad either.

goodness gracious.


disagree (naturally). It's incredibly easy to do, you just don't know how yet...and it seems even the Oracle professionals out there don't either.

I'll tell you this, the crazier the SQL or PL/SQL needed to derive and manipulate data the poorer the design. Start with a good design and it all becomes very simple.
Of course note the use of "naturally" in my lexicon. Thanks Jake.

Mr. M:
well dude, we are back to our old discussion - you arguing that procedural sql code is perfectly fine for building apps, and by extension, that the last 20 years of computer science have basically been a misguided lost journey down the meandering, fruitless trail of oop. um.....no. select this from that. otherwise keep that sql crap caged up where it belongs.

btw, do the db guys here suck? seriously. i'm not competent enough to judge. (to be fair, apparently that crap i sent you is fairly old stuff, but still....)
I would say, based on limited knowledge of software development, that the OOP movement was started because the database (specifically Oracle) was not mature enough to do what was needed. Plus, I seem to recall that the OOP movement was supposed to have solved all the world's problems by now.

It's further propogated due to the needs you specified in our discussion that day at WellCare (i.e. performance). I still believe that if application developers better understood how a DB works (Oracle, MySQL, SQLServer, etc) they would end up writing less code. Database constraints alone force you to write less (and better) code simultaneously ensuring good data.

The code that I did look at (first 1000 lines or so) isn't great.
1. With all those IF THEN ELSE statements it's telling me that there's probably a better way to store the data. Looks like they're missing an attribute that should be contained with a track.
2. using Object (PL/SQL) types to store data in the way they seem to be doing it is not the best way. Again, probably a design issue.
3. When you do something like this:

UPDATE pb_album_metadata
SET primary_digital_flag = 0
WHERE album_id IN (SELECT b.album_id
FROM (SELECT a.album_id AS album_id,
MAX(a.album_id) OVER (PARTITION BY a.standard_upc) AS latest_album_id
FROM pb_album_metadata a
WHERE a.standard_upc = g_album_tab(1).standard_upc ) b
WHERE b.album_id <> b.latest_album_id )
AND primary_digital_flag <> 0;

They should probably have considered end_date as an attribute of the album metadata. While analytic functions are pretty cool, they're more for analyzing (OLAP) and not OLTP environments.

That's for starters and without table definitions...
Me (again):
oh yeah...and PL/SQL is/was built on top of ADA, FYI.
Mr. M:
"I still believe that if application developers better understood how a DB works (Oracle, MySQL, SQLServer, etc) they would end up writing less code. Database constraints alone force you to write less (and better) code simultaneously ensuring good data."

Huh? What are we not understanding? What would be an example of a constraint that would force us to write less and better code?
CHECK, NOT NULL (same as CHECK) and FOREIGN KEY constraints all fit into that category.

Instead of having to check if a value is NULL when submitting it to the database, just submit and let the database throw an error, which you'll conveniently capture in your Exception block. Same goes for CHECK constraints, columnA should be either one of three values (test, test1, test3), you won't have to check that in your application code, just catch the exception. FKs insure good data (proper relationships).

A different perspective. If you are going to pay for it, use that damn thing. If you don't care, don't do it. But over the course of an "enterprisey" application, you'll end up writing more code and make maintenance that much more difficult (did I do it there?). Just those constraints will force you and the teams of application developers to put good data into the database.

You can still do it in the application of course (form validation is a good place)...
Mr. M:
Ahh, jeez dude, I wasn't sure if you were referring to the literal "constraint" or not.

Dude, even f_cksticks like redacted I think have a decent enough understanding of when and how to use db constraints. It's when you get into things like cursors or cost plans of subselects and anonymous tables (i think that's the name for it - where I say select something from (select some other crap). Then we defer to db gurus like yourself.

But dude....."you won't have to check that in your application code, just catch the exception".......uh, don't ever repeat that off our little email group. And definitely don't go posting that on your blog. F_ck me man, it's a damn good thing we keep you db folks caged up in that rdbms box....
So we've had this discussion at work...for a high transaction system, do Java/C/etc handle exceptions well or what?

Why is it bad to deal with exceptions rather than coding to avoid them?

I highly doubt even redacted understood database constraints...him and his cohorts believed all database software would be commoditized and MySQL would be king in short order.
Mr. M:
"for a high transaction system"

Or for any system really....

To use your example of check constraints (is this value one of....) or not null constraints, checking these rules in the Java code and in the database code would seem to violate DRY. But we do that alot, and it is acceptable in certain cases. For instance, we also probably violate DRY if we're checking this same rule say in Javascript on the front end. But we accept this tiny violation of DRY because it tends to make for a better user experience and as a performance gain too, for we avoid the round trip to the server. Now, what your advocating here is close to the same thing. You're basically saying, don't check for the not null constraint in Java code, just go ahead and hit the database, let the database throw back an exception to the Java code, presumably correct the problem, and then make another roundtrip to the database again. Dude, what are you thinking?!? This to say nothing of the fact that this also could be considered a violation of Fail Fast, and a violation of Defensive Programming - what happens if the dba forgot to add the not null constraint in production?

Dude, listen to this guy. For a "high transaction system" basically you want to treat the database, as much as you can, as just a dumb data holder. A f_cking dumpster, that you just throw sh_t into and pull shit back out, using no vendor-specific features if at all possible.

Again, for we've had this discussion, but even in everyday apps, not just on Wall Street, the database is the bottleneck. And the database is the hardest layer to scale. So given those facts, you should design your app to do as little work in the database as possible.
I was laughing at this point because the link above points to one of our consulting architects (I'm not really sure what his role is at this point).
i agree in any application that you want to minimize the number of round trips...

shocker...he's one of our architects. he's spot on in many instances, but...

database is the bottleneck because people don't know how to write SQL. I'll certainly concede the wall street applications (for the time being anyway), but the rest of us with what we do on a daily basis...Oracle will scale far beyond the demands they place. When that bottleneck shows up, 9 times out of 10 some dumb-ass c#/java guy thought he could write a better query than i. besides, what's the idiot doing anything but a simple join anyway? probably poor data model to start with...and we're right back where we started (sort of).
Mr. M:
"database is the bottleneck because people don't know how to write SQL.....some dumb-ass c#/java guy thought he could write a better query than i."

Dude, I'll grant you, people don't know how to write SQL, myself included. But that's not always why the database is the bottleneck. I think it's safe to say that's not even the majority of the reason. Yes, there are apps written by people who were just idiots, and they needlessly pummel the database, but that's definitely not the majority of scenarios. At my work the database is the bottleneck, and we run RAC in production. It's my understanding that even with RAC, there is a limit to how much you can scale that out. But any layer up from the database we are basically unlimited in how much we can scale that out. So it's very easy to stick another Apache box in front, or fire up another Weblogic server. But I can't do that with the database. We have 24 Weblogic servers for redacted. The database is the bottleneck. And we don't have shitty sql code in the app. In fact, we have very few hand-written queries anywhere in the app. Persisting something to a database is really a low-level concern that as an application developer I shouldn't even have to be bothered with, except for the rare corner cases where the persistence abstraction I'm using is just a little bit too generic to handle things effectively. And we don't use these ORMs because we don't know how to write sql. To effectively use an ORM tool requires a deeper understanding of sql and databases than simply being able to write solid SQL code. (Not saying Java devs who use ORMs know SQL better than a dba, just that it requires better sql skills than is required of a Java dev to simply write JDBC/SQL.) Now, before you try to tell me that my ORM library isn't able to write as efficient of sql code as a dba of your caliber, keep in mind that ORM tools are pretty advanced. They're able to intelligently do things like batch sql updates, and let you apply transactional semantics much easier than with raw jdbc/sql. But the overwhelming reason developers have so thoroughly adopted ORM is because Structured Query Language is such a nasty piece of shit for expressing application logic. SQL is a declarative, procedural language. It's totally unsuited for writing application logic! This, more than anything else, is why organizations and dev teams should seek to restrict what is handled within a relational database as much as possible - because the programming interface to it is a fucking ancient backward dying dinosaur.
Mr. V (note, not Mr. M):
My 2 canadian cents:
The polyglot approach "... use different languages for different domain ..."
Database was developed to manipulate data and should remain there.
General purpose language was developed to encapsulate logic and should remain in that domain.
You should not use DB to encapsulate business logic (in my opinion) no more than you would use HTML to create complex logic.

While Java, C#, Python, etc are described as General Purpose languages, they, too, are really domain-constrained. Their expressiveness are confined (and should be) to express low-level, tersed, explicit, verbose, and repetive logic (if that makes any sense). Languages such as these are more suitable for low-level abstraction on top of which, richer, more expressive languages can be built. We are seeing this now with the emergence of languages on the JVM (and arguably on the .Net's CLR).

I think SQL as we know will take a back seat and a smart developer somewhere will create a new domain-specific language that lives on the VM and will push the SQL expression out of the RDBMS and closer to the code that needs it. We are not there yet, but Microsfot is trying (see LINQ and all ORM papers). This is not to say that there won't be isntances where tuning in the SQL-native language won't be necessary. However, 80 to 90% of simple CRUD cases will be handled closer to the logic code that uses the data code.

Again, that's my 2 canadian cents... I could go on. But I have a meeting with redacted.
Mr. V, I believe, is a little bit more sensible. Mr. M on the other hand is just trying to rile (sp?) me up.

Someone will probably create something like that, but it still gets at the heart of one of my arguments, many developers don't know how to use a database thus will go to any means to circumvent it. Embrace it I say.

Ultimately for me, it comes down to simplicity. I can write an application using PL/SQL that will scale very well for 90% of the solutions. Of course that doesn't include the "fancy" javascript/Ajax stuff needed for the UI. In my ever so humble opinion, this is a much better solution for a business in the long run.
1. You're more likely to change the middle tier than the database tier. Java, asp, Ruby, what's next?
2. Fewer moving parts means lower cost of ownership, even with the CPU costs. One person, one, was able to build and maintain a 350 page website. Be hardpressed to do that with the more expressive languages.

I think all of us are purists and very passionate about what we do. It's probably the main reason we get along. I thoroughly enjoy these conversations because it does force me to think...and that's always a good thing.
Mr. V:
Haaa chet.
You sorta made my point than diverged away. Building an app in all PL/SQL is dangerous. It's no safer than me building an app in all Java. I can build very limited app in all Java. The moment I need to interact with other domain (UI, data, low-level native code, etc), I have to switch to something that is closer to what I am trying to do. If I need to create UI, I will pick a ui-centric environment, when I need to talk to DB, I will pass connect to a db and send in my SQL, and so forth. I will use Java as the glue to bring it all togher.

In the end, we may be saying the same thing, but using different accent. O well.
And that's where it ended. I must say it's always fun. Mr. M and Mr. V are both very smart individuals and I highly respect what they do. We have different perspectives...but I think they listen, if only a little, as I listen to them. Their voices creep up on me especially now...which is definitely a good thing.

1 comment:

Noons said...

The real funny thing is this ignorant admits openly he can't write SQL if his life depended on it.

But he feels qualified to claim what the future of SQL will be.

And apparently he believes anyone cares what he thinks?


Bottom line, as I have claimed and stated many, many times:

ALL these so-called "experts" who claim they need not databases and SQL are the VERY SAME who cannot understand squat about that technology and the language.

Worse: they make NO EFFORT whatsoever to learn even the most basic data storage technology and languages.

These are the same MORONS who took 7 years - SEVEN! - to develop a simple document management system at the Attorney General's Office in Sydney, NSW.

One of their "fantastic" screens full of "functionality" (only obvious to their eyes) was re-written in 5 minutes - I kid you not, FIVE minutes! - by a humble Forms developer using the latest SQL Developer stuff from Oracle.

FIVE minutes!

SEVEN years!

Nuff said. Good bye.