20 June 2010

SSIS and Oracle

    Making SSIS work with Oracle doesn’t seem to be a complicated task especially after several years of experience in doing that, though, as usual, something new appears in the landscape – new software versions, new requirements, an environment with its own particularities, etc. In general, when an application needs a connection to an Oracle server, is needed to install on the client computer several components that come with Oracle Client, add/configure the TNS (Transparent Network Substrate) name, eventually set-up some global variables in case the components were not installed in the default location, and depending on the chosen provider might be needed to configure also a DSN (Data Source Name) pointing to the Oracle server. SSIS makes actually no exception from these steps, once the steps performed you should be in theory ready to develop, test, deploy, schedule and run packages using a connection to an Oracle server.

    Unfortunately, from my experience, every 2-3 installations, there is a problem with the Oracle Client and its configuration, most of the times the solution being quite simple – removing some declarations from the set-up files, correcting the global variables or the TNS name. As it seems the Oracle Client is quite sensible to the changes in the default installation path, therefore is indicated to install the Client using the default path unless you’d like to gain more experience in troubleshooting such installation issues. In addition, as any respectable company, some of the products come with their own defects, the patching of such issues being not so easy, therefore it’s advisable to check beforehand the known issues coming with the Client version you’d need to install, preferably in case you need to take advantage of the latest Oracle features, it makes sense to install the latest stable Client.  

    Because the Oracle Client downloadable package has a few hundred MB, there is a thinner Oracle alternative to Oracle Client, namely Instant Client package, the components could be downloaded from Oracle site (here) and installed individually, as a minimum being necessary to install Instant Client Package – Basic or Basic Lite versions, the ODBC libraries and the SQL *Plus libraries in case you want to test the connection. Of course, after case could be installed also the JDBC, SDK or any other packages Oracle made available.

    On 64 bit platforms might be needed to install in parallel the 32 and 64 bit Oracle/Instant Clients (see SSIS, Oracle and X64 post from Business Vision DEV Team), while in order to troubleshoot the various issues could be a good idea to check the differences between 32 bit and 64 bit registry (here). 

    There are several drivers that allows you to connect to an Oracle database using SSIS, the most popular ones:
- Microsoft OLE BD Provider for Oracle
- Oracle Provider for OLE DB
- .Net Framework Data Provider for Oracle
- .Net Framework Data Provider for Odbc
- Oracle Data Provider for .NET

    The Microsoft drivers come with MDAC (Microsoft Data Access Components), its latest version being MDAC 2.8. Starting with Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, Microsoft changed MDAC into WDAC (Windows Data Access Components), including it as part of the operating system, removing thus the need to redistribute the components. See Data Access Technologies Road Map, FAQ and Troubleshooting MDAC/WDAC for MDAC/WDAC architecture, components and releases, respectively troubleshooting. Given the various issues that exist with a particular MDAC/WDAC library, see in KB301202 how you could check the current version by using the registers, while for  Windows version up to Windows Server 2003 could be used the Component Checker MDAC Utility.

    If .Net Framework Data Provider for Oracle, respectively for Odbc come with the .Net framework, in exchange, Oracle Data Provider for .NET, see also FAQ is Oracle’s implementation for ADO.NET data access,  supposed to take advantage of advanced Oracle database functionality, it comes with ODAC (Oracle Data Access Components). Please note that you might need in install the respective components in addition to the Oracle Client.

    There are also third party drivers for Oracle or even particularly for SSIS, for example Microsoft Connectors Version 1.1 for Oracle and Teradata for use with SSIS from Attunity; see also a few tips from SQL Server Performance blog.

    Before taking any decision on which driver to use, it might be a good idea to look also at drivers’ limitations and advantages. In the past I often used the Microsoft Oracle ODBC Driver until I run into in an important limitation, namely its inexistent support for unicodes, this residing, according to KB244661, in the fact that “from Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) version 2.5 and later versions, both the Microsoft ODBC Driver and OLE DB Provider support ONLY Oracle 7 and Oracle 8i”. Also Oracle Provider for OLE DB seems to have its own limitations.

    SQL Server provides linked servers, the powerful functionality of executing commands against OLE DB data sources on remote servers, including Oracle. As linked servers offer the ability to create cross-vendor distributed queries, in certain scenarios they could prove to be a powerful alternative of querying Oracle databases, in such cases not being needed to create in SSIS package an additional connection to Oracle. KB280106 and an article on Oracle Provider for OLE DB describe how to set up and troubleshoot a linked server to an Oracle database in SQL Server.

    You might want to check also the SQL Server Integration Services with Oracle Database 10 White Paper coming from Microsoft. “Connectivity and SQL Server 2005 Integration Services”  MSDN article written by Bob Beauchemin, Scott Barrett’s blog or this SSIS 64 bit – Using Oracle Provider post.


Anonymous said...

When downloading the instant client, there ar emany options. Which is the preferred one for the ssis ole db driver?


Adrian said...

Sorry, I will have to resume in answering with the typical "it depends". It depends on your requirements, what features or OS versions you are targeting, on the volume or particularities of your data, etc. Also in many cases, one of the drivers was not working as expected so my choices reduced considerably. If you want unicode support or any other type of newer Oracle features then Oracle Provider for OLE DB seems to be the best option, it has acceptable performance and seems stable.

Because of several constraints I had in one of the projects I worked on recently, the most important of them being the compatibility between x64 and x86, I had to work with Oracle ODP .Net driver. The performance was acceptable from my point of view, though I haven't performed any comparison tests.

Probably the best approach is to test by yourself which one of the drivers works best for you. There are OLEDB drivers coming from other vendors too, though think twice before doing that because you need to take into consideration also various factors as support, stability, continuity in evolving the product, etc. Therefore I would go with Microsoft and Oracle products.

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