Why Simplicity Is Key When Managing Your Complex Database Systems

Introduction

The databases and servers operated by many organisations today are large and complex. Rapidly increasing volumes of data coupled with a reliance on data processing for business has created an explosion in the number and scale of server systems in use by almost every business in every industry across the world.

This rate of growth shows no signs of slowing, and, as more and more data is collected and processed to the benefit of businesses, IT teams and DBAs are struggling to keep pace. The job of database manager is more complex than ever - more tuning and maintenance is required, new technologies need to be quickly adapted into current systems, and system downtime is now something to be avoided at practically any cost.

A complex job often requires advanced and complex tools, and hundreds of software solutions now exist to help DBAs to navigate their daily tasks. But a flood of specialised solutions has only made life more difficult for some. Many DBAs now rely on ever-expanding suites of software for their work - complex and sometimes conflicting ones which can slow down their jobs rather than speed them up.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the strain placed on DBAs by an increasingly complex array of database tools. We’ll explore the pitfalls and challenges that arise because of these solutions, and look closely at ways in which streamlining and simplicity can bring performance benefits to any IT team.

The Rise And Fall Of Multiple Database Tools

Just as new technologies emerge to replace old ones, and new database platforms come into use to solve old problems and add functionality, so many new database tools have been designed over the years to help DBAs to adapt.

The development of newer and more advanced and complex database management and monitoring solutions has become necessary to keep up with developments in other areas. As new platforms are widely adopted, DBAs need new and more powerful tools to help them to use them.

Over time, the pace of development has lead to the adoption of a large number of very niche tools - software which only works with one particular platform or version, or which only serves one quite narrow purpose.

Many older solutions for database management and monitoring also follow an outdated instance-centric approach. This means that, while these products are great for working on a single server instance at a time, they often lack the power to help DBAs make system-wide performance tuning, security settings or configuration changes - something which is needed for today’s large-scale server farms.

More modern solutions available today, however, are site-centric, with the ability to monitor, tune and report on a vast number of instances at once. These give DBAs the ability to make the changes they need at a much faster pace than previously possible, as well as unifying multiple functions under one product.

Increasingly, DBAs are turning away from using multiple stand-alone products which can no longer keep up with modern demands. Today, there are several all-in-one database solutions available on the market designed to replace a wide array of other solutions with just one powerful package.

These newer products are capable of reducing the number of different tools that a DBA needs to employ, and are scalable, can work with a wide range of database platforms, and frequently support hundreds, if not thousands, of instances.

Over time, more and more IT managers are seeing the advantages that all-in-one solutions can bring to their DBA teams. Reducing complexity, saving time, and cutting the cost of database software also makes these an attractive proposition for any business decision maker.

server_farm

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Are Your Database Tools Working In Harmony?

Until recently, large collections of niche database tools were the norm for many large IT departments.

Although these individual solutions were often highly specialised and well-suited to the job at hand, they typically were not designed to work alongside the other software that DBAs need. Because of this, different suites of software can have vastly different UIs and processes, making them slow and difficult for DBAs to use.

In an ideal situation, the tools used to monitor and manage any database or server system work in harmony. Whether through one unified dashboard and display or a simple and shared way of working, database management solutions work best when DBAs find them easy to use.

Database tools that work in harmony are those which allow DBAs to go from global overviews, drill down to locate issues and instances and then take direct action on that instance, seamlessly,  without having to spend time switching between applications or logging into other services. 

As the number of instances managed by DBAs grows, time is frequently lost in the delay between locating an issue and being able to use the correct method to rectify it. All-in-one tools which closely link monitoring and management capability give DBAs the ability to seamlessly move between the two, both saving time and increasing productivity.

The right database tools should allow DBAs to focus only on the task at hand, spending their time solving problems rather than learning to use complex or outdated software or switching between a number of mismatched solutions.

The Argument For Reducing Database Tool Complexity

A key consideration for any organisation’s IT team is productivity - in this case, specifically DBA productivity. One of the best ways to increase productivity is to reduce the complexity of a task, and this is where unified and complete systems and database tools can help.

Streamlined database tools, in particular, can go a long way towards boosting DBA productivity. Automation of monitoring, routine maintenance tasks, and other smaller daily jobs can free up time for DBAs to work on other more pressing work. Software which enables automatic report production and real-time alerts can also help a business to be more productive in the long run, providing pro-active warnings about upcoming issues to enable DBAs to solve what could be expensive problems.

Tools like this can also help to reduce system downtime and help businesses to avoid disasters. Automation and increased oversight and analysis of a system help DBAs to predict and solve any future issues, adding stability to your business.  This new way of working also allows DBAs to work in a proactive way, rather than reactive, making them more productive overall thanks to a simplified setup and system configuration.

A simplified way of working with a streamlined toolset can bring financial gains too, alongside a welcome productivity and performance boost.

Increased productivity itself often brings financial benefits, of course. With more work getting done each day, more problems being solved, and downtime and other errors being reduced, a business will suffer less service disruption overall and will be able to better serve its customers or users.

Simply reducing the amount of different software that is licensed and used by DBAs can be a financial gain too. Using a smaller number of tools, or even just a single all-in-one option, can dramatically cut the amount that a business spends on software licensing, training and maintenance over a year.

Overly complex systems can even cost a business money through increased staffing costs. If too much time is spent each day on routine tasks which could otherwise be automated, or if DBAs are losing time struggling through a large number of different tools, it’s likely that a business will need to hire more DBAs than strictly necessary.

Finally, modern streamlined database software provides much-needed functionality that can be hard to find in older and more complex toolsets. On some commonly used platforms, like Oracle, it can be a challenge to master Grid Control and other advanced tools. Database solutions like dbWatch can make it much easier to monitor and manage the Oracle platform though, without losing significant functionality.

On other platforms, like Microsoft SQL Server, tools like Management Studio and SCOM are quite easy to use - but both are needed and it’s often not obvious where all of the functionality can be found. These often also come with a large amount of installation and configuration necessary before they can be fully utilised, adding additional complexity compared to more streamlined alternatives.

In all, there’s a strong case to be made for reducing the complexity of day-to-day work for DBAs. A less complex toolset is at the core of this and can have wide-ranging benefits for a business, both in productivity and financially.

Knowing When It's Time To Make Work Easier

We know why reducing complexity is a good idea, but how can business leaders tell when it’s time to make a change?

Making this decision will likely require a long, hard look at your current processes, taking a look at what isn’t working so well with your current setup, and speaking directly with IT managers and DBAs to identify areas for improvement.

There are some obvious warning signs to look out for before you begin in-depth planning. Repeated and avoidable system downtime, for example, is a strong indicator that either your DBAs are stretched too thin or they lack the right tools for the job they face. Routine tasks taking too long, or increasing backlogs and projects falling far behind schedule are also indicators that your toolset is not up to the challenge.

Beyond the obvious issues, it’s a good idea to perform a thorough audit of your systems to find areas in which improvements and savings can be made. It may be that your business has failed to keep up with new technology and new software, leaving DBAs frustrated and ill-equipped, or perhaps your DBAs are frequently so busy with routine tasks and struggling with inadequate tools that they simply don’t have the time for new projects which could benefit the business.

Whichever way you choose to approach it, it’s important to have a clear image of the challenges that your business faces so that you can choose the right tools in the future.

If it becomes clear that the problems faced by your DBAs and IT team are a result of overly complex database solutions and systems, it’s time to make a change. As we mentioned earlier, new and improved ways of working exist that cut down on the complexity inherent in outdated systems.

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Increased Database Performance Through Simplicity

Aside from the productivity and financial benefits of simplicity mentioned earlier, cutting back on complexity can also bring significant performance increases to your database and servers.

Thanks to the all-in-one nature of modern database software, it’s possible for businesses to simplify their toolset without losing any functionality. In fact, solutions which can simultaneously work with multiple instances and database platforms can provide much greater oversight and insight than before.

Access to deeper insight and greater control gives DBAs access to more information about their database and servers than any one individual solution could offer in the past. With the most powerful tools, it’s possible to take a look at all instances at once, identifying at a glance where attention is needed.

Modern solutions make it possible, for example, to find out which instances are using the most memory, disk or table space resources at any one time, to see which instances are experiencing the most growth, and to identify instances with bottlenecks or that need tuning.

Access to this information allows DBAs to make better-informed decisions overall. It’s easier to identify areas due for optimisation with usage information at hand, and it’s also easier to make informed choices about hardware upgrades, server expansion, and other large system-wide changes.

Historical and current usage data also enables businesses to better predict future trends. Being able to predict periods of high usage allows DBAs to allocate resources and avoid poor performance or system downtime which could negatively affect the business.

Better optimised systems, combined with powerful analytics and historical data, also make it easier for DBAs to plan future work. Downtime can be scheduled for the least-disruptive times, and long-term plans for growth and performance gains can be made which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

In all, simplified all-in-one database management and monitoring solutions have many advantages over older individual, specialised tools.

An all-in-one database tool not only provides the advantages in productivity and financial benefits previously discussed, but can have a positive impact on system performance too. From access to system-wide data and analytics to total control and deep insight into every instance, simplified database solutions are the key to a modern and high-performing DBA team.


A brief demo showcasing how simple it is to run
the Microsoft SQL Server performance test in dbWatch 12:

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How dbWatch Can Help You Make The Shift To Greater Simplicity and Productivity

The advantages of enterprise all-in-one management and monitoring tools are clear to see, and dbWatch is one such option - designed from the ground up to help enterprises simplify and optimise their database systems and to give DBAs greater overview, insight and control over their servers and databases whilst greatly increasing DBA productivity.

As a unified all-in-one solution, dbWatch gives users access to database monitoring and management tools powerful enough to support some of the largest and most complex enterprise database environments in the world.

Designed to support thousands of instances at once, and working on servers running on a wide range of different platforms and versions, dbWatch takes the place of any number of older stand-alone tools. It gives DBAs the flexibility to make sweeping server-wide optimisations or to drill down into individual instances, all while dramatically reducing the time costs and financial burden of multiple alternative solutions.

The features of dbWatch are divided across a number of functional areas, the two most important ones being database monitoring and database management. Other areas include resource management, security management and license optimisation and consolidation.

Database Monitoring

In-depth monitoring can be vital for DBAs. Not only does it give a business access to usage data and trends, but monitoring can help a business save money in the long run and help to avoid service disruptions and database issues too.

dbWatch provides automated and proactive 24/7 monitoring of any number of instances simultaneously. Combined with automated report production and distribution, and customisable alerts, the monitoring platform gives DBAs access to real-time information, warning of impending issues, and access to regular performance reports to inform future planning.

Current and historical data is displayed in one unified dashboard, giving DBAs an easily accessible overview of server and database health and usage statistics. This overview and insight allow DBAs to drill deeper into their systems than ever before, prioritising their efforts on the most crucial issues to improve the performance of individual instances and their entire system at will.

As well as providing access to invaluable data and acting as an early warning system, this monitoring solution can help businesses to save money. Not only does dbWatch reduce the need to purchase multiple tools and work to reduce the risk of disaster, but it can be used to monitor other software license usage - such as Oracle - ensuring that your business never oversteps its license terms  and accidentally triggers expensive license extensions.

These features, combined with dbWatch’s powerful management tools reduce cost, boost productivity, and give DBAs more oversight and control over their servers than ever before. 

Database Management

The all-in-one and easy-to-use nature of dbWatch’s database management solution gives DBAs total control over their entire server system, database and every individual instance.

Unlike older individual tools, dbWatch allows DBAs to perform global optimisations, reporting or changes across all of their servers and instances, regardless of size, complexity or platform. dbWatch supports all versions of Oracle, MS SQL Server, Postgres, Sybase and MySQL, supporting all the latest systems as well as taking care of legacy database solutions.

Automated maintenance features within dbWatch have been designed to free up time for DBAs to take on more pressing tasks, while customisable scheduling allows managers to make decisions that affect server stability and performance. Advanced analytics in conjunction with database monitoring help to inform resource and performance management too, all accessible through one simple-to-use interface.

Designed to be scalable, dbWatch also makes it a simple task to add new instances. Users can schedule regular automated scans to discover new instances or add instances in bulk from a spreadsheet. A large number of instances can often be hard to organise, which is why dbWatch also includes the ability to tag instances with extra information and properties, as well as organise, filter, group, sort or search for instances.

dbWatch provides much-needed security controls too, enabling DBAs to take full control with encryption, user-defined certificates, security audits and role-based access controls when strong data security is called for.

Our database solution has been designed for demanding enterprise environments, to be as simple to set up and use as possible, and provide fast agent-free installation and setup for immediate results. Installation is surprisingly fast and simple,  and dbWatch comes pre-configured to provide almost instant overview and benefits.

Simplifying systems and reducing complexity from toolsets and DBA workloads is vital for many organizations, and dbWatch has been developed to do just that, providing the power and oversight necessary to take full control of all database server resources in the enterprise.

The features within dbWatch’s database monitoring and management solution give DBAs the ability to be more productive thanks to simplified workflows, unified features and greater control and insight.



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Conclusion

Throughout this guide we’ve taken a look at the consequences of sticking with outdated tools, we’ve examined the benefits of adopting newer all-in-one solutions, and looked at the features of dbWatch, our own database monitoring and management solution.

Overly complex software may be specialised for a certain task, but we now know that they bring many disadvantages to busy DBAs. Being swamped with too many complex and stand-alone tools which have a negative effect on staff performance can cost your business more than is necessary through lost productivity, extra software licenses and wasted time.

All-in-one tools, however, put power back in the hands of DBAs. They provide greater insight, scalability and improved features for managing large and complex database systems. Opting for modern solutions can allow DBAs to focus on more important tasks while helping businesses to save money and to avoid costly downtime and other server issues.

Our solution to the challenges that DBAs face is dbWatch, a combination of powerful database monitoring and management tools. As discussed in the last section, our solution gives DBAs access to the information and control they need to make informed decisions and the required changes to keep their servers performing as well as possible.

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