Getting to Know Oracle8i
Release 2 (8.1.6)

Part Number A76962-01





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Oracle 8i Release 2 (8.1.6) New Features

Oracle8i release 2 (8.1.6) is the first maintenance release of the Oracle8i database. It includes many bug fixes, performance improvements, and feature enhancements. Moreover, this release also includes several noteworthy new features for designing data warehouses and building Internet applications.

The enhancements and new features in release 8.1.6 can be categorized as:

Oracle8i Improvements

The main focus of release 2 (8.1.6) is to maintain stability and improve on quality, performance, and installation/configuration and management of the Oracle8i database server.

Performance Improvements

Various components of the Oracle8i server have been optimized to perform better in release 8.1.6.

Oracle Parallel Server has been optimized for a 2-node high availability configuration. In this special high availability mode of Oracle Parallel Server, one node acts as the primary database instance, while the other node can be used for some DBA tasks, report generation, and other non-buffered write database activities. If the primary node fails, then the secondary node becomes the primary instance. In release 8.1.6, this configuration is optimized to provide better throughput by efficiently managing the locks on only the primary node, resulting in less overhead and better response times. This means that now you can migrate from a single instance Oracle database to a highly available Oracle Parallel Server database with the same guaranteed performance.

For details on how to configure Oracle Parallel Server for primary and secondary instances, see Oracle8i Parallel Server Setup and Configuration Guide.

The performance of SQL*Loader direct path load has been dramatically improved for loading simple files encoded using single-byte character sets (e.g., ASCII, Latin1). When the input data fields are either terminated by a single byte delimiter (e.g., comma separated values) or positional (or are a combination of the two), the load performance can be up to two times as fast.

For more information, see Oracle8i Data Warehousing Guide.

PL/SQL performance has been optimized in several areas, including enhanced performance of C callouts and the manipulation and use of varrays and nested tables.

For more information, see PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference.

Applications, including many packaged applications, that use literals instead of bind variables in SQL can see improved performance because release 8.1.6 can automatically substitute bind variables in place of the literal values. This lets multiple users share the parsed SQL regardless of the literal value, dramatically reducing the SQL parse time and saving memory in these applications.

For more information, see Oracle8i SQL Reference and Oracle8i Designing and Tuning for Performance.

Improved Installation and Management

Installation of Oracle products is now much easier with the consolidation in the Oracle8i installation process of Oracle Enterprise Manager, the DBA Management Pack, and Oracle Internet Directory.

Oracle Enterprise Manager version 2.1 is available with Oracle 8i release 2 (8.1.6). In this release, Oracle Enterprise Manager can manage twelve additional products, including replication, Oracle Parallel Server, interMedia Text, Oracle Applications, and Forms Server. Distributed Access Manager is a new component of Oracle Enterprise Manager that manages and administers heterogeneous distributed environments. Also, Oracle Internet Directory now includes Oracle Directory Manager, a configuration and management tool integrated in the Oracle Enterprise Manager framework.

Functionality has been enhanced to support improved target discovery, notification filtering, and administrative notification blackouts. Notification blackouts allow administrators to suspend email and paging notifications for events or jobs that are registered against targets that are being brought down for backups or any other maintenance.

The DBA Management Pack, a set of management tools bundled with Oracle Enterprise Manager, now supports many additional Oracle8i features, including dropping table columns and controlling database resources (such as CPU) by managing resource plans and consumer groups. New wizards are provided for creating dimensions and materialized views which greatly assist data warehousing projects.

DBA Studio combines the functionality of the Schema, Security, Storage, and Instance managers into one tool for improved workflow between the various day-to-day DBA tasks. A new Create View Wizard is now available to easily create views. A new Analyze Wizard is included with Enterprise Manager for gathering statistics on tables, indexes, and clusters. In addition, the Create Table Wizard now provides the capability for creating partitioned tables.

Finally, version 2.1 has numerous improvements to the graphical user interface, such as displaying descriptions for instance parameters, more information about control files and archived logs, and bar charts that readily display tablespace and datafile used space.

For more information, see Oracle Enterprise Manager Concepts Guide.

Oracle Universal Installer and the Net8 Configuration Assistant have been enhanced to support Oracle Parallel Server, simplifying the installation and network setup of Oracle8i running in a clustered environment. Also, the Database Configuration Assistant (DBCA), which is used to create or delete databases, now has improved multi-threaded server (MTS) support, supports the use of raw disk devices, and runs scripts during database creation that enable most Oracle database options, such as the Oracle Internet Directory, Oracle Jserver, and XML Parser for Java. The Oracle Data Migration Assistant continues to provide support for migrating Oracle7 databases to Oracle8i and upgrading Oracle8 databases to Oracle8i.

For more information, see Net8 Administrator's Guide and Oracle8i Migration.

Improved Quality and Support

Release 8.1.6 is the first maintenance release of Oracle8i and contains many bug fixes, but it also has many enhancements to improve the reliability and availability of database operations.

Unplanned downtime due to hardware corruption is reduced in release 8.1.6 with improved block checking functionality to protect the critical SYSTEM tablespace from corruption without impacting performance on other tablespaces.

The SYSTEM tablespace is extremely critical, because hardware corruption in the SYSTEM tablespace causes the database to shut down. In release 8.1.6, block checking and checksums is always be turned on for the SYSTEM tablespace, allowing the Oracle server to detect and repair many SYSTEM tablespace corruptions before they are written to disk or read by other transactions. Error handling is improved, because Oracle re-reads control file blocks from a different file if all attempts resulted in checksum failure. Release 8.1.6 also re-reads redo blocks from non-multiplexed redo logs if previous reads resulted in checksum failure. These sophisticated corruption detection and repair mechanisms reduce downtime due to possible hardware-induced corruption.

For more information, see Oracle8i Administrator's Guide.

Tracing PL/SQL code execution has been enhanced by storing trace data in tables, allowing easy access through standard SQL. Also, more data can be captured, such as SQL text and bind variables.

For more information, see PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference.

Enhanced Support of Internet Computing

Oracle8i includes significant enhancements in release 2 (8.1.6) to keep pace with the technological requirements of demanding Internet applications. Oracle JServer, the integrated Java Virtual Machine (VM) introduced with the initial release of Oracle8i, has improved performance, support for "Java2" and XML, and various other enhancements. Security and support of the LDAP standard have been enhanced in release 8.1.6, allowing applications to efficiently implement and manage robust security policies.

Enhanced Java Support

Oracle8i release 8.1.6 includes performance and functionality improvements to Oracle JServer for building and running Java-based applications. These enhancements include the following:

For more information, see Oracle8i Application Developer's Guide - Advanced Queuing and the Java documentation set.

XML Support

XML has emerged as the de facto standard for describing business data for business to business commerce on the Internet. Just as HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the universal language of Web pages on the Internet, businesses have sought a similar language for describing business data. The adoption of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) by the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was the first step towards identifying a common format for businesses to exchange information over the Internet. Similar to HTML, XML provides the facility to embed business descriptors along with raw business data in a message. Oracle provides several XML parsers that convert XML data into a form that can be easily understood by the Oracle8i database.

Oracle's XML products include the XML Parser for Java - version 1 and version 2 (which includes an XSLT processor), the XML Class Generator, and the XML Parsers for C, C++, and PL/SQL.

Because the Oracle XML Parser for Java is implemented in Java, it runs efficiently in the Oracle8i Java VM, Oracle JServer. Release 8.1.6 includes the Oracle XML Parser for Java, where the Java XML parser classes (DOM/SAX APIs) are pre-loaded into Oracle JServer.

For more information, see Oracle8i Supplied Java Packages Reference.

PL/SQL Pages

Oracle 8i release 8.1.6 introduces PL/SQL Server Pages (PSP), which are server-side Web pages (written in HTML or XML) with embedded PL/SQL scripts designated with special tags. This functionality enables fast development and deployment of Web pages with dynamic content, where the `code' can reside on the server while only the invocation is present in the HTML page.

For more information, see Oracle8i Concepts and Oracle8i Application Developer's Guide - Fundamentals.

interMedia, Spatial, Time Series, and Visual Image Retrieval


Oracle interMedia enables Oracle8i to manage text, documents, images, audio, video, and geographic location information in an integrated fashion with structured enterprise information.

Oracle8i interMedia Text provides content-based retrieval on free text with both literal (word) predicates and thematic predicates. Several performance improvements have been made to interMedia Text release 8.1.6:

Other components of interMedia have been enhanced in release 8.1.6, including adding native support in interMedia Audio for Real Networks RealAudio and support for all layers of audio formats MPEG1 and MPEG2, including layer 3 (more commonly known as MP3). Similarly, interMedia Video now includes native support for Apple Quicktime 3.0, Microsoft AVI, and RealNetworks RealVideo. Also, the Set_Properties method has been enhanced across all interMedia image, audio, and video formats. When present in these formats, interMedia can extract application metadata and store them as an XML string within the media object. Finally, interMedia Web agent support has been extended to include the Apache Web server.

For more information, see Oracle8i interMedia Text Reference, Oracle8i interMedia Text Migration, and Oracle8i interMedia Audio, Image, and Video User's Guide and Reference. Also, see the online README.txt file in your ORACLE_HOME directory. Depending on your operating system, this file is in ORACLE_HOME/ord/im/README.txt (for information on interMedia Audio, Image, and Video and interMedia Locator), or ORACLE_HOME/ord/vir/README.txt (for information on Visual Information Retrieval).

Oracle Spatial

Oracle Spatial is an integrated set of functions and procedures that enables spatial data to be stored, accessed, and analyzed quickly and efficiently in an Oracle database. Oracle Spatial includes the following enhancements for release 8.1.6:

For more information, see Oracle Spatial User's Guide and Reference.

Oracle Advanced Security Improvements

Oracle Advanced Security has improved configuration and management tools to simplify security management. Oracle Advanced Security also provides new forms of network encryption, to ensure the security of all protocols accessing the Oracle8i database, and enhanced single sign-on.

Network Security Enhancements

Release 2 (8.1.6) enhances Oracle's support for the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) standard. SSL encryption for Internet Intra-ORB Protocol (IIOP) communications is now available, enabling secure Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs). Also, JavaASO, a Java version of the Oracle Advanced Security encryption libraries, is now available to secure "thin" JDBC connections. JavaASO provides DES encryption, with anonymous Diffie-Hellman key exchange, in 100% Java. Oracle Advanced Security thus secures all protocols into the Oracle8i database, whether IIOP, "thick" or "thin" JDBC, or Net8.

Oracle Advanced Security has also completed the operational testing phase of FIPS-140 (Federal Information Processing Standard) level 2 certification, a United States government standard that relates to the security of cryptographic products. Completion of the FIPS-140 certification is required by many organizations, among them the United States federal government and many financial markets.

Single Sign-On

Oracle Advanced Security already supports many forms of single sign-on for database users, among them Kerberos, SESAME, and DCE. Release 8.1.6 adds support for SSL-based single sign-on.

PKI Credential Management

Oracle Wallet Manager provides secure management of PKI (public key infrastructure)-based user credentials. Oracle Wallet Manager creates a private and public key pair for a user and issues a PKCS#10 certificate signing request which can be fulfilled by a Certificate Authority (CA). After the CA issues an X.509 certificate, the user can load the certificate into his wallet. Oracle Wallet Manager also manages user trustpoints, the list of root certificates that the user trusts, and is pre-configured with root certificates from PKI vendors such as VeriSign and Cybertrust. Wallets are protected using password-based strong encryption.

In most cases, a user need never access a wallet once it has been configured, but can easily access his wallet using Oracle Enterprise Login Assistant, a very simple-to-use login tool that hides the complexity of a private key and certificate from users. After a user has securely opened his wallet, he can then connect to multiple databases over SSL, without providing additional passwords. This provides the benefit of strong authentication as well as single sign-on.

SSL for single sign-on can be used alone or in conjunction with enterprise user management, described below.

For more information, see Net8 Administrator's Guide, Oracle Advanced Security Administrator's Guide, and Oracle8i Distributed Database Systems.

Enterprise User Management

Enterprises today face tremendous challenges in managing information about users, keeping user information current, and securing access to all the information in an enterprise. Oracle8i release 8.1.6 introduces enterprise user management. Enterprise users and their authorizations are managed in Oracle Internet Directory, an LDAP-based directory service, using Oracle Enterprise Security Manager, a tool accessible through Oracle Enterprise Manager.

Enterprise users can be assigned enterprise roles (which are containers of database-specific global roles), that determine their access privileges in databases. For example, the enterprise role CLERK could contain the global role HRCLERK on the human resources database and the global role ANALYST on the payroll database. An enterprise role can be granted or revoked to one or more enterprise users. For example, an administrator could grant the enterprise role CLERK to a number of enterprise users who hold the same job. This information about users and roles is protected in the directory through Access Control Lists, ensuring that only a privileged administrator can manage users, and grant and revoke roles.

User/Schema Separation

In general, users do not need their own accounts - or their own schemas - in a database, they merely need to access an application schema. For example, users John, Firuzeh, and Jane are all users of the payroll application, and they need access to the payroll schema on the finance database. None of them needs to create his or her own objects in the database; in fact, they need only access payroll objects.

Release 8.1.6 lets you separate users from schemas, so that many enterprise users can access a single, shared application schema. Instead of creating a user account (that is, a user schema) in each database a user needs to access, you need only create an enterprise user in the directory, and "point" the user at a shared schema that many other enterprise users can also access. For example, if John, Firuzeh, and Jane all access the sales database, you need only create a single schema, e.g. `sales_application' which all three users can access, instead of creating an account for each user on the sales database.

Now, you can truly create an enterprise user once, in the directory, who nonetheless can access multiple databases using only the privileges she needs to perform her job, thus lowering the cost of managing users in an enterprise. Another benefit of schema-independent users is that you can manage many more users than could otherwise be done with users tied to individual database accounts. Schema-independent users thus enables scalability of user management for the Internet.

Oracle's LDAP version 3-compliant directory server, Oracle Internet Directory, is fully integrated with Oracle8i and supports "off-the-shelf" enterprise user management. Other LDAP directories, including Novell Directory Service (NDS) and Microsoft's Active Directory for Windows 2000 will be certified to operate with Release 8.1.6.

For more information, see Oracle Internet Directory Administrator's Guide and Oracle Advanced Security Administrator's Guide.

Advanced New Functionality

Oracle8i release 2 (8.1.6) introduces many new features to improve the functionality and performance of the Oracle database, including several important improvements for data warehouse and object relational applications.

Data Warehouse Enhancements

Analytic Functions

Oracle8i release 8.1.6 introduces a powerful new family of SQL functions for business intelligence and data-warehousing applications. These functions are collectively called `analytic functions', and they provide significantly improved performance for many business analysis queries.

Some examples of the new capabilities are:

These functions significantly extend the capabilities of Oracle8i for analytic applications. Moreover, these new SQL functions are now being reviewed by ANSI for addition to the SQL standard in 2000, which encourages all third-party analytic tools and applications to leverage the power, scalability, and performance of these new functions.

For more information, see Oracle8i Data Warehousing Guide and Oracle8i SQL Reference.

Materialized View Enhancements

Materialized views, first introduced in the initial release of Oracle8i, have been an indispensable feature for high-performance data warehousing.

Materialized views include the functionality to create and maintain summary tables, resulting in dramatic performance improvements in aggregation queries. New functionality in Oracle Enterprise Manager supports the creation and management of materialized views and related dimensions and hierarchies through a graphical user interface, greatly simplifying the management of materialized views.

For further improved performance, an ORDER BY clause can be used when creating a materialized view and when inserting records using INSERT-SELECT. This allows rows in the table or the materialized view to be inserted in the specified desired order, resulting in better performance of query sorts when the sort order is the same as the inserted order.

For more information, see Oracle8i Data Warehousing Guide and Oracle8i Replication.

Enhanced Partitioning

Many data warehouses and data marts use partitioning to implement a "rolling window" scheme. In a rolling window, new data is added and old data is purged from a data warehouse on a regular periodic basic. For example, a data warehouse may store the most recent 13 months of historical data. Every month, a new month's data (corresponding to a single range partition) is added to the warehouse, and the 14-month-old data (also corresponding to a single partition) is dropped from the warehouse.

The refresh capabilities of materialized views has been enhanced to allow partition maintenance operations to be executed on base tables without requiring a full refresh of associated materialized views. For example, a materialized view is not marked as 'stale' if partitions are dropped, and a materialized view can be fast-refreshed as a new partition is added.

The administration functionality of composite partitioning, the combination of range partitioning and hash partitioning, has also been improved. It is now much easier to support a rolling-window data application. An entire hash-partitioned table, with all of its partitions, can be exchanged with a composite-partitioned table's range partition and all of its hash subpartitions. Therefore, when a new rolling-window range needs to be added or dropped, multiple subpartitions can be added efficiently.

For more information, see Oracle8i Data Warehousing Guide.

Query Rewrite

In release 8.1.6, query rewrite has enhanced capabilities for Oracle DATE without the use of dimensions.

For more information, see Oracle8i Data Warehousing Guide.

Object Relational Enhancements

The extensibility framework that was introduced in the initial release of Oracle8i is enhanced in release 8.1.6 by adding Java wrappers to the ODCI (Oracle Data Cartridge Interface) API so that data cartridges can be seamlessly developed in Java. Other improvements to the Oracle8i object relational functionality include:

For more information, see Oracle8i Application Developer's Guide - Object-Relational Features.

CACHE READS LOBs are supported in release 8.1.6. The CACHE READS option for LOBs specifies that LOB values should be bought into the buffer cache only during read and not write operations.

It is now possible to bind LONG values to LOBs, allowing smoother interoperability between LONG and LOB datatypes.

For more information, see Oracle8i Application Developer's Guide - Large Objects (LOBs) and Oracle8i SQL Reference.

Other Enhancements

Oracle8i release 8.1.6 includes many improvements to many areas of the Oracle server:

Release 2 (8.1.6) New Features

Oracle8i Improvements

Java Enhancements

Enhanced Support of Internet Computing

Security and Networking

Advanced New Functionality

Object Relational

Other Enhancements

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