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Lab128 Frequently Asked Questions.


General Information.

Licensing Lab128.

Technical Questions.


General Information

What is Lab128?

Lab128 is a tool for the Oracle tuning and performance troubleshooting. It has a set of unique features that makes it indispensable for solving the most difficult performance problems. Lab128 is for Oracle DBAs, Oracle performance analysts and senior developers. Because Lab128 is a GUI-based, it can be used for learning, more on this in How much Oracle experience should I have to run Lab128?

Lab128 has been in available since 2005, it is used in Fortune 500 companies, high profile universities, banking, medical and many other industries around the world.

A trial version is available for your evaluation.

Why do I need Lab128?

The short answer is: because you need full a control over performance of Oracle database.

Below is the long answer:

Most often, someone turns to Oracle tools when the database is experiencing performance problems. Lab128 helps to collect the needed data to find the solution.

When the database application is going through development or extensive changes, DBAs and senior developers need to monitor and constantly assess the impact of changes on database performance. Lab128 provides an extensive picture of Oracle functioning in the most finest details.

You have a performance problem striking intermittently or on a regular basis. You need to gather as much performance data as possible during the next problem occurence, including the time preceding the problem. Lab128 stores collected data compressed, providing hours, days, or weeks of history with the finest time resolution.

You are looking for a tool that is easy to install, lean, blazingly fast, and with smallest impact on the monitored Oracle instance. Just copy Lab128 executable and run it - no agents or code installed on the Oracle server. Lab128 is a multithreaded, high-performance application.

How much Oracle experience should I have to run Lab128?

We believe that Lab128 is a great learning tool. You can have absolutely no Oracle experience, just know how to connect to Oracle database. Then you can observe things, intuitively find your way, grasp underling Oracle concept. Then you can explore things more deeply and move to the advanced features. For beginners, most recommended screens are Main window, Sessions, SQL Explorer, Activity explorer.

If you are a seasoned veteran, you will find complete and sophisticated set of features and techniques used by Oracle performance experts.

How does Lab128 compare to competing tools?

There are a number of high-profile tools such as Quest's Spotlight, CA's Unicenter, Emercadero's Performance Center and others. Lab128 is best compared to Quest's Spotlight. As with other tools, Lab128 provides real-time monitoring and collection of historical performance data. Unlike other tools, Lab128 doesn't provide active monitoring because it doesn't have the alerting mechanism. On the other hand, Lab128 is designed for performance troubleshooting and it does this task much better than any of the aforementioned tools. Lab128 digs into performance data deeper and it collects more statistics with higher time resolution. In fact, it collects about 10 times more Oracle statistics than any other tool and has a very efficient engine to analyze and present this tremendous amount of data. There are number of unique features facilitating new and powerful tuning opportunities.

(See also How does Lab128 compare to Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM)?)

What makes Lab128 a unique tool?

Here are some unique features:

  • Captures all statistics originated from v$sysstat, v$system_event, v$filestat, v$rollstat, v$latch, and many more. That's more than 3,000 statistics, each recorded with 6-12 seconds between points;
  • Uses Frequent SQL Statistics Snapshots (FSSS) technique;
  • Active Session History (ASH) is implemented internally and provides a higher collection rate than Oracle's native ASH (no needs for stat packs, by the way). Lab128 also supports ASH for 8i and 9i;
  • A technique for diagnosing trouble SQL, for more details click here;
  • Provides easy way to fix SQL execution plan wuthout changing SQL text, see Stage and Fix;
  • Buffer Explorer provides dimensional analysis of the buffer cache;
  • New queries can be added to collect more statistics;
  • New derived statistics can be added;
  • Many smaller features available only in this tool.

How does Lab128 compare to Oracle Enterprise Manager (OEM)?

First we should clarify what OEM (also known as EM) is. OEM has been morphing over time from a collection of Windows applications to Java applications and now into an all-HTML-based web application. These days, OEM is represented by two flavors: Database Control and Grid/Cloud Control (GC). Both have very similar user interfaces (UI) and both use the agents referred to as Oracle Management Agents (OMA). The agents run as autonomous proxy processes on a managed node and perform execution and monitoring tasks for OEM, communicating using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP or HTTPS). In some cases, Database Control is installed by default, having all components running on the same node where Oracle server in installed. Unlike Database Control, Grid/Cloud Control is a centralized solution; it needs other two components - Oracle Management Server (OMS) and Oracle Management Repository (OMR). The Management Server is based on Oracle Application Server technology. The OMS pulls information from the Agents and aggregates the collections into the Repository. The OMS also acts as the UI by generating web-pages for database administrators to view the status of systems and services. The Management Repository is an Oracle Database Enterprise Edition (EE), which can optionally be setup as a RAC. This GC setup sounds like overkill if you have only few databases. From user feedback, it seems that most GC installations occur when the number of managed instances/databases exceeds 5-10.

A major portion of GC is free, including Oracle Application Server, Oracle database EE (when both used specifically for OEM), and the Agent functionality used to administer and manage Oracle Database, clusterware, OS-level monitoring, and so on. Moreover, Oracle Corporation currently publishes OMA API, making possible the development of the OMA plug-ins for non-Oracle software. This entire framework can be used for free for a corporate-level IT monitoring project.

Starting with Oracle 10g, Oracle Corporation provides 14 additional plug-ins (packs) to OMA which are not free and require separate licensing. By default, upon installation, the OMA enables several packs (Diagnostics, Performance & Tuning, Change Management, and Configuration Management) without any regard a customer's licenses. In 11g R2, this has been changed; the database administrator needs to enable this premium functionality explicitly by setting the initialization parameter CONTROL_MANAGEMENT_PACK_ACCESS.

Also see discussion how Lab128 compares with Oracle Cloud Control.

When trying to compare OEM to other products, one should be aware of the free and premium components of OEM. So, how does Lab128 compare to Oracle Enterprise Manager? Speaking about Grid/Cloud Control's free framework and Agent's free functionality, they nicely complement each other. Despite the challenges of setting up GC and keeping it up-to-date, we strongly recommend it. Once installed, it has good value for database administrators and has the scalability to handle dozens of databases. It has a sophisticated alert-propagation engine and it keeps track of installed software. GC is invaluable for managing RAC: it can handle ASM, clusterware, services, etc. And it's free. The OEM can detect and alert ongoing performance problems, but it does so at macro level. When it comes to finer levels of details, it shows a lack of functionality. This is, supposedly, where the premium packs should take over. Lab128 shines in this area - it is a performance troubleshooting tool. Once you learn that the instance is having a problem, you can switch to Lab128 and continue troubleshooting in this tool. In general, Lab128 competes with the Oracle Diagnostic and Tuning packs. It is difficult to compare it with the packs, because Lab128 pursues a very different philosophy in both the approach to troubleshooting and the user interface. Even in areas of similar functionality, you can monitor and explore performance data in the OEM premium packs, but doing the same in Lab128 is simpler, faster, and more informative, eventually saving you time and effort. There is also a large area of performance troubleshooting that is unique to Lab128 and not covered by OEM. (See also What makes Lab128 a unique tool?) Lab128 also has a more extensive implementation of ASH and AWR, providing a much higher resolution of recorded data. Try both tools and you will see the difference. If you don't like the limitations of the HTML interface in OEM, you will likely prefer Lab128. If you find OEM is still shallow and sloppy in collecting and presenting performance data, Lab128 is probably for you. Hey, did we mention OEM premium packs cost a bunch of green when compared to Lab128?

What are the System requirements for Lab128?

Please see Lab128 Download page for this information.

Versions of Oracle Database Server supported by Lab128.

Oracle Database Server, versions supported: 8i, 9i, 10g, 11g, 12c; Single-instance, RAC and RAC-One, Exadata.

Can I make suggestions for the future versions?

Absolutely. You can provide your feedback using this link. Also visit Lab128 Forum. Or send us e-mail message to  support AT ;

Can I get a notification message when a new version is released?

Yes. When you request a trial key, you will have a chance to opt in for the future notification. When you purchase a license, your e-mail address is automatically added to the mailing list for such notifications. You may opt out later if you want your e-mail address removed from the list. See more about our Privacy Policy.

Licensing Lab128.

How much does Lab128 cost?

See Lab128 Licensing.

Lab128's feature set exceeds many commercial products, at a fraction of their cost. If compared with Oracle OEM, Quest Spotlight for Oracle, CA Unicenter, Lab128 costs only about 20-30% of their cost for the average setup and even less for the large Oracle servers.

There is a freeware version of Lab128, which is best suited for real-time montitoring.

What are the limitations of the trial version?

The trial version is not limited in any way in terms of functionality. The trial version is limited by the time you can use it.

How much does it cost to upgrade to the future versions?

Please use this link: Upgrade Policy.

Is there a volume discount available?

In most cases not. We are trying to keep operational overhead at minimum preferring automated purchasing at the fixed price. We are sharing these savings with you in the form of lower price. At the same time we recognize that purchasing decision in your organization may depend on established practicies. If you have doubts, please send as a message.

Technical Questions.

How Lab128 should be used with Oracle cluster databases (RAC)?

Currently, all real time windows are RAC-enabled, but historical data is recorded for the connected instance only. It is recommended to open a monitor for each instance. Don't use connect strings or TNS names configured for failover. Create a TNS name or connect string for each intance. If using service name, also specify the instance name to ensure connection to a particular instance. As alternative, use SID (instead of service name), this will guarantee connection to the specific instance. Don't specify the Instance Name in this case, because it is redundant and Oracle will give an error.

Example using Service Name:
For the instance 'my_instance1' running on 'my_hostname1':

For the instance 'my_instance2' running on 'my_hostname2':

Example using SID:
For the instance 'my_instance1' running on 'my_hostname1':

For the instance 'my_instance2' running on 'my_hostname2':

If you save performance data to disk, it is advisable to specify a dedicated directory for each instance.

I have a computer with no Oracle software / Oracle client installed. What options do I have to get Lab128 running?

Lab128 uses Oracle Call Interface (OCI) to connect to Oracle server. The OCI is a part of Oracle client software provided free of charge. If Oracle client is not installed or installing Oracle software is not desired, there is a workaround. All Lab128 needs is two DLL (Dynamic Link Library) files from Oracle Instant Light Client package: oci.dll and oraociicus10.dll (or oraociicus11.dll for version 11). These two files should be placed into the directory where Lab128 is installed.

Please note that Instant Light Client supports databases with these character sets:
* Single-byte character sets include US7ASCII, WE8DEC, WE8MSWIN1252, and WE8ISO8859P1.
* Unicode character sets include UTF8, AL16UTF16, and AL32UTF8.

You can find which character set is used by running this query:

select * from nls_database_parameters 
where parameter='NLS_CHARACTERSET';

If you have databases with the character set not in this list, you can use Oracle Instant Basic Client. In this case you will need two DLL files from that distribution: oci.dll and oraociei10.dll (oraociei11.dll for version 11).

Note that this option can be used even when Oracle client is already installed, for example some old version. We strongly advise to use Oracle client 10 or higher because older versions had multi-thread related bugs. Oracle client 10g can work with older Oracle servers (from 8.1.7). If you have old Oracle client, this can be a good option. If you use Lab128 on 64-bit Windows and there is no Oracle 32-bit client installed, then this option should work too. You can obtain these two DLLs by downloading Oracle Instant Client from Oracle site and then extracting files from the ZIP file, or you can download these DLLs from our site:

Instant Light, 32-bit, 2 files, Version - 6,635,306 bytes
Instant Light, 32-bit, 2 files, Version - 10,283,780 bytes

Use one of these only if your database character set is not supported by Instant Light client (because these files are larger and take more disk space):
Instant Basic, 32-bit, 2 files, Version - 30,529,115 bytes
Instant Basic, 32-bit, 2 files, Version - 40,828,143 bytes

Can I use Lab128 in 64-bit Windows?

Yes. Lab128 is 32-bit application and needs 32-bit Oracle client (32-bit DLLs) when used on 64-bit Windows. The 32-bit applications can run on 64-bit Windows. If Oracle 32-bit client is not installed, the easiest way to get it is to download just two DLL files into Lab128 directory - for more details see I have a computer with no Oracle software / Oracle client installed. What options do I have to get Lab128 running?

How can I resolve ORA-12737: Instant Client Light: unsupported server character set ...?

You are using Oracle Instant Light client and the character set on your database is not supported by this client. There are 3 types of Oracle client (for 10g and 11g): Full, Instant Basic, and Instant Light. You need to use either Instant Basic or Full types of client. Also, for additional information see I have a computer with no Oracle software / Oracle client installed. What options do I have to get Lab128 running?

Lab128 starts on Windows 7 with this error: "The program can't start because MSVCR71.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem." How to handle this error?

This file is Visual C++ dynamic library distributed by Microsoft as part of Windows before Windows Vista or Windows 7. Download this file and put into Lab128 directory. If you have problems locating this file on Microsoft's web site, you can download it from this site: MSVCR71.dll 348,160 bytes. Future versions of Lab128 will include this file.

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