Database monitoring enters cyberspace

Companies out looking for experienced database administrators are often out of luck. BMC Software Inc. has created a solution designed to partially solve this problem.

Web DBA, not surprisingly, is a Web-based interactive database management solution requiring only the use of an Internet browser. The company’s decision to create Web DBA was, in part, due to the huge DBA skills shortage. A recent Meta Group survey found that 80 per cent of current DBAs have less than two years experience. With the Internet quickly expanding the amount of data being collected, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“Some of the difficult challenges are [that] data is getting more complex yet the skill level to work with the data is [diminishing] and, at the same time, [database] heterogeneity never went away,” said Anthony Brown, director of product management for BMC in Austin, Tex. Data amounts are growing from 10 to 100 fold, dramatically augmenting the data management dilemma.

Organizations have tried to build one-platform systems but have found their average user is supporting four to six databases on a daily basis, Brown said. BMC customers told the vendor they needed, besides a more user-friendly database management solution, tools to solve their day-to-day issues.

“They were very specific on the types of things they wanted to see the product do,” Brown said.

Customers gave BMC feedback on existing database management products that they already had installed and new features they wanted to see. Customers wanted to easily keep tabs on what was going on in each database, in order to avoid issues such as bottlenecks. Also the customers wanted to deal with systems in real-time fashion, Brown added.

adding features

Basic object management – the ability to create and change tables, look at views, add and remove users – was a basic feature built into Web DBA.

“One of the unique features of this product is that it does span skill levels. What I mean by that is for complete novices who have never worked on a database in their life…if they need to create or change a table and they have never done it before they would be able to double click an icon that says Create Table,” Brown explained.

“[This] will allow the DBA, who has never looked at a SQL server database, to then manage that SQL server database from that same screen. It allows you to bridge those gaps to allow you to use those same set of skills to manage multiple databases and on multiple operating systems,” he said.

“It gives you an easy way to look at all of the functioning characteristics of a database. It gives you the ability, in a quick and easy way, to get the information that you really need to have,” said Bob Morrow, database administrator with International Sematech Corp. in Austin, Tex.

He said you can get the same information from Oracle utilities, “but it is in paper form and it is a nuisance.” Since he does a lot of his work from home, the Web interface makes his job a lot easier, he added.

Morrow said he looked at about four other monitoring products but each had a down side, with expense being a common problem. “This one fit the bill of getting everything you needed to get done and it wasn’t a terribly high price.”

According to Brown, “There really aren’t a good set of offerings on the marketplace that allow you to do that (functions such as security management and privilege control) and even less so that are focused on allowing you to do it on multiple databases.”

Richard Heiman, research director of application development with IDC in Framingham, Mass., said he sees a lot of tools moving to the Web because it is becoming the universal communications tools and that moving database tools to the Web is just part of this trend. “It is certainly an interesting concept and I think it is very positive,” he said. He added that he hasn’t seen similar solutions and expects definite user demand, not only from the typical DBA market but also from the remote user market, and from less-experienced IT types who find database administration part of their job title.

Web DBA is currently available for Oracle databases and will be available for SQL Server by the end to the year. It is priced at US$995 per user. The company also plans on releasing versions for DB2 and OS/390.

BMC ( in Austin can be reached at 1-800-841-2031.