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Book Review: PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA by David Kurtz

by Christopher Foot
Technical Reviewer Wolfgang Breitling; Apress, Nov. 2004.

In the Beginning, There Was the Ego

I have administered my fair share of PeopleSoft applications in my time. Having close to 20 years of experience administering Oracle for Fortune 500 companies, I have had the opportunity to support almost every enterprise-wide application there is. The laundry list includes Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP, and JD Edwards, to name a few. I currently work as the manager of a database group at Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two of the applications we are responsible for supporting are PeopleSoft Financials and PeopleSoft Human Resources.

I remember the first time I was asked if I could assume administration responsibilities for a PeopleSoft environment. I was younger and more naïve back then, and I must admit, a little cocky. Cocky may be too strong a term, but let’s say I was extremely sure of my technical skill sets and learning abilities. I quickly said, “Yes, no problem. I can support it. I’ll work with the consultants to install and configure the application and I’ll be ready to assume administrative control of the environment in no time.”  My boss knew very little about PeopleSoft but was older and wiser than I. He asked me to begin reviewing the technical documentation and get back to him in a few days.

I was very excited about learning this new application. I thought to myself, “How hard can it be?  I have a half-dozen years administering Oracle. It’s just another application running on top of my database.”  I spent the next few days devouring every piece of technical documentation on the PeopleSoft environment I could find. And the more I read, the more concerned I became. This was no mere application that “rode on top of Oracle.” This was an entirely different architecture with its own distinct set of administrative tools, best practices, and terminology. I slinked back into my boss’s office after a few days to where I told him that this new product had a steep learning curve (somewhat along the lines of Mt. Everest) and I needed extensive training. He smiled and said, “I thought so. We’ll work with the PeopleSoft folks to help you create your training curriculum.”  In the end, it was PeopleSoft application 1, ego 0.

Climbing the Learning Curve

I would have been much better off had I kept PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA by David Kurtz at my side back then. Kurtz’s book is an excellent source of information. The big advantage third-party books have over the technical reference manuals is that they are able to quickly deliver the information that most of us feel is important. Technical reference manuals must provide all of the information on the entire environment while third-party books are able to focus on just what the author felt was important.

Before I dig into the contents, let me provide you with my high-level review:  This book is a must-read for all administrators who are responsible for supporting a PeopleSoft application. After reading PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA, members of my unit have a more thorough understanding of the PeopleSoft application environment. As a result, the quality of support we are providing to our PeopleSoft applications is at a higher level than before we read this book. Does this sound like an unqualified positive review?  I hope so, because that is my intent.

I worked for a half-dozen years as a senior-level Oracle Certified instructor. I told my students that the mark of a successful DBA isn’t knowing all the answers; it is knowing where to look when you don’t. This task is much easier for PeopleSoft application DBAs that have PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA on their desks. The book is no mere rehash of the same subjects covered in other reference books; it is a wealth of information that is both comprehensive and well written, and the author is refreshingly unafraid to tell you his opinion. Kurtz provides readers with recommendations, best practices, and procedures for administering a PeopleSoft application, and I like that. No regurgitation of the technical documentation here; I make it a habit to read all of the technical reference manuals for the applications I support. No, I want the author’s opinions: I may not agree with them at times, but I am looking for those personal insights on how the author thinks things should be done. This book taught me something new.

Drilling Down Into the Book

The book is well organized and has both an extensive table of contents and index. I am a big fan of indexes: the bigger and more robust the index, the better. Books with poor indexes are usually read once, then sit on the shelf waiting to be reread in their entirety … someday. With a thorough index, you can use the book as both an educational textbook and reference manual. And you won’t have to leaf through dozens of pages looking for that one piece of information that you thought was contained in that particular book. The index in PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA is excellent, and it is quickly becoming dog-eared from being passed around to members of our DBA team.

The book’s topics range from entry-level discussions to information that even the most experienced PeopleSoft administrator would find enlightening. Here is a small sample of some of the topics:  Architecture overview, BEA Tuxedo (PeopleSoft’s application server), PeopleSoft DDL, locking and transactions, performance monitoring, SQL optimization, and tuning and configuring the application server. PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA covers everything from formulating and tuning SQL and SQR statements to how the PeopleSoft application interfaces with the database and operating system.

The book begins with an overview of the application’s architecture and then peels back the layers to reveal the inner workings of the product’s processing environment. It  follows a natural progression that allows readers to apply recently learned concepts to future topics.

The architecture overview is extremely valuable, but the most helpful topic may be the case study on end-to-end performance monitoring. Because PeopleSoft has so many different components, finding performance bottlenecks can be a monumental task. The information that Kurtz provides will help readers to become more proficient in the performance monitoring and tuning process.

And It’s Easy to Read, Too

All of this information would be useless if it were poorly — an author has lost the battle of conveying his thoughts when readers spend more time trying to understand his writing than the underlying concepts behind it. In PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA, Kurtz is able to transform highly technical information into easily understood (and interesting) text.

I’ve taught Oracle off and on for a long time. When I can’t verbalize a thought, I quickly reach for the nearest pad and pencil to attempt to sketch out my thoughts. This approach is also extensively employed in the book. It makes liberal use of charts, diagrams and pictures to explain the most complex topics.


Before reading this book, I’ll admit that I wasn’t that familiar with David Kurtz or his work, but I was quite familiar with the work of his technical reviewer, Wolfgang Breitling. When I saw Wolfgang’s name at the bottom of the cover, I knew that Wolfgang would not be afraid to express his opinion when he disagreed with the author. I have read many of Wolfgang’s contributions to Oracle Metalink and third-party Oracle Web sites. I have also read many of his articles and presentations on Oracle performance. (For those of you interested in reading his work, you can navigate to to learn more.)

If this sounds like a positive review, it is. Do I agree with all of the best practices, hints, and tips put forward in PeopleSoft for the Oracle DBA?  No, I don’t … but when does a DBA agree with everything?  The answer is, never. DBAs, by the nature of their trade, are a cynical group. But I will admit that I do agree with 95 percent of Kurtz’s advice, and for me, that is an excellent percentage. I’m glad I read this book, and am even happier that I don’t have to give it back.


Christopher Foot has been involved in database management for over 18 years, serving as a database administrator, database architect, trainer, speaker, and writer. Currently, Chris is employed as a Senior Database Architect at RemoteDBA Experts, a remote database services provider. Chris is the author of over forty articles for a variety of magazines and is a frequent lecturer on the database circuit having given over a dozen speeches to local, national and international Oracle User Groups. His book titled OCP Instructors Guide for DBA Certification, can be found at

Contributors : Christopher Foot
Last modified 2006-03-21 09:51 AM
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