So, SAP has finally release its first single-brand named version: SAP 16. Whoever has been used to running the GUI installation of the product might have noticed one of the first changes: there is no longer any reference made to the Sybase brand. It is SAP 16 version, with the traditional SAP white/yellow/blue interface:
I do confess that I had a bluish feeling of nostalgia. Although SAP 16 release is not THAT much different from the ASE 15.7, it's installation interfaces is.
Well, that's nonsense. ASE is ASE. Let's put nostalgia aside. ASE 15.7 has seen in the last year almost a monthly EBF/ESD/SP release flurry, with the code-line split into pro-SAP / pro-??? versions (and the confusion the customers were led to as to which version to use & which release to select). We will see if the SAP ASE 16 code-line will be more clean (less bug fixes) and clear (less confusion over releases). SAP 16 is still GA. It is a new page in SAP/Sybase chronology. Let's think positive: if ASE 15.7 has been waaaay better than its previous 15.x releases, there should be no reason to doubt that SAP 16 will show the maturity and stability that Sybase customers have been long accustomed to taken to a new level.
The official SAP 16 release white paper summarizes the changes introduced in SAP 16 in 20 pages. The four "S" motto is: Speed/Scale/Security/Simplicity.
Speed section lists Index Compression & Optimizer Enhancements (the former reduces disk IO, the latter introduces more parallelism in various optimizer operations, new join algorithms & change in query resource allocation).
Scale section lists Logging Enhancement (introducing a queue between ULC and TL to release the bottleneck of writing to DB log), an improved and more efficient way of working with Metadata Cache (DES cache), Improved Locking/Latching mechanism (larger ELC, less locks where possible, less spinlock contention/less latches for cross-database operations, per-partition optimizations, less contention on procedure cache).
Security section lists Full Database Encryption option (an online zero-downtime encryption option), Tighter cleanup procedure for dropped DB objects, Full-Text auditing.
Simplicity section talks about SCC enhancements (pre-defined templates), Trigger Orchestration, Synchronous Replication, Create or Replace syntax.
There are quite a few goodies in the SAP 16 release. As to me, the most curious are those aimed at minimizing spinlock contention issues. DES cache scavenging and PC cache contention has been an issue for quite a long time. I do wonder how the new release (post GA, to be sure) will handle situations where the old ones were a bit shaky. I look forward to the first non-GA release to start testing this in real-life situation (in particular in the environment that has moved technologically from the hosts with 64 to hosts with 1024 executive threads and from 512 GB to over 2 TB of available memory, with IMDB servicing client request with, indeed, an unprecedented speed).
All that in the (close) future. For now, we will have to wait patiently.
Few more notes on the release. The official documentation is pretty minimalist. Apart from Install Guide, New Features Guide, Utility Guide and Security Admin Guide, most of the documentation has been copied from the 15.7 release. I guess, there are quite a few of "undocumented" changes sneaked in.
For example, if we look at the new release from the MDA perspective, we have ~160 more columns added to an already impressive MDA window into ASE's internals. These include 8 new MDA tables (5 of which in the RA section - incidentally, the official documentation specifies the addition of 2 MDAs only, specifying only one by name - the monThresholdEvent - but his may be due to the fact that ASE 15.7 has seen a lot of releases over the last year):
monHADRMembers: Provides information about various HADR members, their groupname, IP address, hostanme, HADR mode and HADR state.
monRepCoordinator: Provides information on Rep Agent Coordinator tasks.
monRepSchemaCache: Provides information on Rep Agent Schema cache usage.
monRepStreamStatistics: Provides information on Rep Agent Component Interface Stream Statistics.
monRepSyncTaskStatistics: Provides information on Rep Agent Component Interface Sync Task Activity
monRepTruncationPoint: Provides information on Rep Agent Component Interface truncation point manager activity.
monThresholdEvent: Provide information about threshold event.
monSysExecutionTime: Provide information about query categories execution time.
In the changed MDA section:
monCachedProcedures has added an Active counter to monitor whether the plan is active or not.
monCachedStatment added metrics to list overall CPU/Elapsed/LIO/PIO information.
There was an interesting move to copy per SPID metrics from the monObjectActivity to a general ASE monState MDA (new DML statistics & performance statistics).
monProcess has added the ClientDriverVersion metrics.
RAMDAs have a few more columns added.
From the MDA point of view, it seems that there has been quite a lot of work done around the RA (or the visibility of its operations). The appearance of the monThresholdEvent probably points to the work been done in the self-management field.
160 new metrics is not few. Release notes list is pretty short, though, which is somewhat surprising.
To round up this a bit chaotic post, ASE 16 is out and kicking. For DBAs (or consultants) busy with ASE 15.7 environment there are a few more things to test and get familiarized with. Scale & Speed sections are most prominent performance-wise. Are there any (good) news in the ASE spinlock activity (the only MDA change here was adding the Spinlock Slot ID column)? Will SAP ASE 16 indeed scale better than Sybase ASE 15.7 without incurring the penalty of stumbling over spinlock contention in particular situations (like LWP/DES reuse)? Will the logging bottleneck be eased as well (for those writing zillions of transaction without possibility to miss a single one)? Simplicity section is also quite a field to explore. I remember stumbling and getting finally frustrated over the SCC interface - even in the versions shipped with ASE 15.7. It is good - but still not very user-friendly. If you compare it with what Microsoft, for example, has to offer - it still lags way behind in many areas (I am not a Microsoft fan). I'd like to see SAP ASE, which has a very strong potential for a good management & monitoring tool from its vendor, to shine in this area - the area it has traditionally failed to satisfy customer needs. Security section is there to test as well. ASE has a very strong security integration. ASE 15.7, in my opinion, has taken DB security to a level unmatched by its competitors (making the third-party security mechanisms largely unnecessary). The performance impact of the general (page-level) DB encryption needs to be tested too.
In general, SAP ASE 16 provided a lot of space for new research - and this is good. Since Sybase has been integrated into SAP, the product has seen a lot of work being done. A lot of patches is a nuisance, on the one hand, but it is also a sign of the steam coming out of the engineers stables. The more steam - the merrier. The list of CRs and FRs for the past year is indeed long and impressive. There are a lot of features in SAP ASA/IQ code lines which ASE code line may benefit from, for example. With enough resources available, ASE will evolve into even stronger product with time. So far we have no visible reason to question SAP ASE future - years ahead. Even though one may argue that the legacy non-SAP market share has been slightly misrepresented as SAP acquired of Sybase, the non-SAP community, I think, still benefits quite a lot from the resources poured into the product.