COMMENT: Analyst's Corner

Evolving Grid Management
By David Baum

Increased complexity has led to more-intelligent and more-automated system tools.

Oracle Magazine spoke with Noel Yuhanna, a senior analyst covering database technologies at Forrester Research, about new trends in enterprise grid management.

Oracle Magazine: How has the IT environment changed over the past few years, and what effect has that had on systems?

Yuhanna: The complexity of the IT environment has grown significantly, which has driven the need for better systems and data management. A decade or two ago, most companies had homogeneous computing environments. Now these environments are more heterogeneous and complex and contain much more data, making data management challenging. You may have 15 or 20 servers tied together, and you need to be able to manage availability, performance, scalability, and security in a cohesive way. We find that 30 percent of failures in applications and databases are related to human errors. One single change in a command line or interaction could bring down a mission-critical ERP [enterprise resource planning] application. However, automation and better data management can overcome many of these errors.

Oracle Magazine: As more systems management tasks are automated, how are duties for database administrators (DBAs) and systems managers evolving?

Yuhanna: DBAs are getting more involved in managing business data. Thus, they need to understand how it is used, managed, and exchanged by applications. The traditional roles of DBAs, data architects, and data modelers will converge somewhat to implement this vision, especially as data sources and applications become more virtualized into grid environments. At the same time, DBAs will have less interaction with databases, as the infrastructure becomes more intelligent and better automated by advanced DBMS technology and system management tools. For example, the need for managing performance and tuning queries will go away because the database will be able to tune complex queries itself.

Thanks to intelligent agents and alerts, IT professionals have more information to work with, and they don't have to go looking for problems. Tools like Oracle Enterprise Manager give you a cohesive view, so it is easier to spot potential problems and stay focused on the big picture.

Oracle Magazine: IT operations still consume about 70 percent of most IT budgets. Is that number going down as the tools become smarter?

Yuhanna: A decade ago, your average DBA could manage five to seven databases. Today, thanks to greater intelligence within database management systems, DBAs can handle 20 databases or more, which includes production and nonproduction databases. That's because of automation, which lowers costs, improves operational efficiency, and adds control. So, yes, we are gradually seeing a shift in the IT budget, away from routine operations management and toward new development and innovation.

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle Enterprise Manager help manage enterprise grids?

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LEARN more about Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Release 2

Yuhanna: Oracle Enterprise Manager is a powerful database management tool. Along with Oracle Real Application Clusters, it helps automate the grid infrastructure and virtualize the IT environment—the applications, servers, storage, and data. All of these elements have to come together in a manner that is more efficient and productive to enterprises. Oracle Enterprise Manager helps you accomplish this while simplifying the environment and minimizing errors. It supplies insight into many aspects of service performance, including application servers, firewalls, operating systems, load balancers, and storage components.

Oracle Magazine: How do these capabilities of Oracle Enterprise Manager differ from those offered with general-purpose systems management environments?

Yuhanna: With Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Release 2, Oracle is reaching out to the infrastructure at large by connecting with these existing management tools as well as with other critical databases. The difference is that Oracle sees the database as central to these environments and has much more knowledge about database internals. Of course, 90 percent of enterprises don't have just Oracle; they also have SQL Server, DB2, Sybase, and other databases. That's why Oracle is extending its management capabilities through plug-ins and connectors. That will be a useful step, because customers want to have a single solution that unifies a diverse environment. Oracle's continued integration with other frameworks will be crucial, especially for grid environments.

David Baum ( ) is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.

Forrester Research ( ) is an independent technology and market research company that provides advice about technology's impact on business and consumers.

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