Engineering Better PL/SQL

PL/SQL is a great language. It’s relatively simple to learn, is well integrated with the Oracle database, and can often be the most efficient way to perform complex or large scale database operations. In fact PL/SQL is so useful, it’s difficult to believe that its origin is SQL*Forms – and that PL/SQL was once was an optional cost add-on to the database. Working with Oracle over the past few decades has come a long way, and PL/SQL had evolved into a mature, robust and highly functional database language.

However contrary to logical and reasonable expectations, a simple to learn yet robust language like PL/SQL does not automatically guarantee programs which are readable, maintainable, effective (i.e. correct) and efficient. In fact, some of the worst programs I’ve seen over the past twenty years of Oracle development were written in PL/SQL. I have often been quite amazed at just how easily one can “shoot themselves in the foot” with PL/SQL – and how often it goes undetected until a major production crisis occurs.

So the question is “How do we engineer better PL/SQL?” This paper will examine some commonly used manual methods and their shortcomings, and then will offer some more scientific advice for how to improve upon the PL/SQL development process. And while this paper will demonstrate techniques using Quest Software’s TOAD for Oracle product, the practices espoused within are actually based on industry standards (although as of yet not universally prevalent – although hoping that papers like this may help to correct that).

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