Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stored Procedures and Ad Hominem Arguments

The question of "Stored Procedures and Triggers" comes up fairly frequently.

Over the years (since the 90's, when stored procedures were introduced to Oracle) I've learned precisely how awful a mistake this technology is.

I've seen numerous problems that have stored procedures as their root cause. I'll identify just a few. These are not "biases" or "opinions". These are experience.
  1. The "DBA as Bottleneck" problem. In short, the DBA's take projects hostage while the development team waits for stored procedures to be written, corrected, performance tuned or maintained.
  2. The "Data Cartel" problem. The DBA's own parts of the business process. They refuse (or complicate) changes to fundamental business rules for obscure database reasons.
  3. The "Unmaintainability" problem. The stored procedures (and triggers) have reached a level of confusion and complexity that means that it's easier to drop the application and install a new one.
  4. The "Doesn't Break the License" problem. For some reason, the interpreted and source-code nature of stored procedures makes them the first candidate for customization of purchased applications. Worse, the feeling is that doing so doesn't (or won't) impair the support agreements.
When I bring these up, I wind up subject to weird ad hominem attacks.

I've been told (more than once) that I'm not being "balanced" and that stored procedures have "There are pros and cons on both sides". This is bunk. I have plenty of facts. Stored procedures create a mess. I've never seen any good come from stored procedures.

I don't use GOTO's haphazardly. I don't write procedural spaghetti code. No one says that I should be more "balanced."

I don't create random database structures with 1NF, 2NF and 3NF violations in random places. No one says I should be more "balanced".

Indeed, asking me to examine my bias is an ad hominem argument. My fact-based experience with stored procedures is entirely negative.

But when it comes to stored procedures, there's a level of defensiveness that defies my understanding. I assume Oracle, IBM and Microsoft are paying kickbacks to DBA's to support stored procedures and PL/SQL over the more sensible alternatives.