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Chapter 1: Oracle 8i: A Bounty for PL/SQL DevelopersIntroduction
After long delays, Oracle 8i Release 8.1 went production in 1999! The "Internet Database" is packed with an astounding and intimidating array of powerful new features - and I don't even work for Oracle anymore! I don't even have to use exclamation marks to describe all the great things you can do with Oracle 8i Release 8.1!
Whew. Got that out of my system. Do you ever have trouble separating the marketing from the reality with Oracle Corporation? The name of their latest release brings that issue to the fore-like never before. "Oracle 8i Release 8.1" - what does all that mean? Here is how I see it: "Oracle 8i" - that's the marketing piece. The first database for the Internet. OK. "Release 8.1 "-now they're talking my language, I started with Oracle 5.1 and have been steadily pleased with the improvements through 6 (quickly, please) and then Oracle7. Oracle 8.0 was a .0 release and as a result many, many organizations around the world paid it very little attention. Now, finally, we have Oracle 8.1 and I expect that many, many organizations will move relatively quickly to this release level.
What do you get with Oracle 8. 1? The list is very long and very impressive ("more than 150 new features," says Oracle, and I believe Larry in this case, for maybe the first time ever). Here are a few of the features I have read about:
- The Aurora Java Virtual Machine right inside the database
- Support for Java Stored Procedures
- JDeveloper, a Java Integrated Development Environment.
- iFS, the Internet File System (not currently available; should be out by the end of 1999)
- Support for the Linux operating system
- Support for SQLJ and JDBC
- Autonomous transactions
- Invoker Rights Model
- Many performance improvements
The Oracle 8i documentation has a section titled "Getting to Know Oracle 8i"; the table of contents for new features is 259 lines long! Is that more than mere mortals can deal with? It sure is more than I can deal with. So I am going to stick with what I know best: PL/SQL. This book focuses almost exclusively on new Oracle 8i features that have a direct impact on (or are implemented by) the PL/SQL language. As you will see, even if we just constrain the focus to PL/SQL, there are many, many new techniques and technologies to learn, absorb and then leverage in our application environments.
And Then There's Java
Before I dive into my feature "roundups", allow me to reflect for a moment on the PL/SQL language and its future in the Oracle environment. Why would I feel the need to do this? I can answer with one word. Java.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate Java. I hold no animosity for a language that has at least the potential to "unseat" PL/SQL as the dominant (used to be only) programming language inside the Oracle database. I have even begun to study Java. It is very different from PL/SQL. I am even planning to write a book to help PL/SQL developers make the transition to Java.
There is no doubt that we will all need to be proficient enough at both languages to be able to:
- Decide which language is best used to solve a particular problem.
- Call JSPs from PL/SQL and vice versa.
So yes, Oracle supports interoperability between these two languages, and we need to be "ambidextrous" when it comes to "left brain" PL/SQL and "right brain" Java.
The big question/rumor that has floated around the Oracle world lately, though, is a more troubling one: will Oracle simply abandon PL/SQL for Java? Not only would that put me out of business, but also it would cause tremendous upheaval in the Oracle customer world. It is simply not going to happen, and the best way to demonstrate that fact is to see the forward motion in the PL/SQL language.
When object technology was first introduced in the Oracle database and in PL/SQL (in Oracle 8.0), a debate raged within Oracle HQ: should PL/SQL become a full-fledged object-oriented language? Should it remain focused on what it does best? Now with the incorporation of Java into the Oracle database, this debate has been resolved. PL/SQL is the premier database programming language (specific to Oracle, but superior to the others, such as Informix 4GL and Sybase/Microsoft's TransactSQL, as demonstrated by the adoption of many PL/SQL features and syntax into the ANSI standards), and Oracle will focus its energies on maintaining that position.
What we see in Oracle 8.1 and what we will continue to see in future releases is a "permanent revolution" in the PL/SQL language with the goals of making it ever:
- Easier to use
- More efficient
- More functional
Hey, they are even exploring the possibility of compiling PL/SQL programs! Now that would be PL/SQL on steroids! Of course, the proof is in the programming. What have they done for us lately? What can we do with PL/SQL in 8.1 that we couldn't do before? Join me on a journey into the depths of Oracle 8i Release 8.1 to answer those questions.
About the Examples
I've been writing intensively about PL/SQL since 1994, and I have a great time doing it. At the same time, I must admit that I have simultaneously grown:
- A little bit bored of using the same set of examples again and again (yes, those infamous emp/employee and dept/department tables), and...
- Very concerned about the state of the world as we approach the end of the 20th Given those twin "preoccupations", I have decided to offer examples that are decidedly different from the usual. From the state of health care in the United States, to the strength of the gun lobby, from wage structures to environmental issues, I'll be talking about those in this book.
I believe that even if you don't agree with the positions I have on a particular issue, you will find that this "breath of fresh air" material will help you engage with the technical material.
I would also be very happy to hear from you - whether you agree or disagree! - and encourage you to visit my website, www.StevenFeuerstein.com, where you can read more about my life and viewpoints, and get in touch.
New PL/SQL Features Roundup
Even if I stick to the "narrow" course of exploring only those PL/SQL-related new features of Oracle 8i, I can still find lots to talk about. This section previews the chapters of the book, and introduces you to the main PL/SQL enhancements in this release of Oracle....