An ASP Plays Doctor with Database Health | Article

dbDoctor Reengineers Monitoring Process

face over binaryAt Outsourcing Center, our mantra is “faster, better, cheaper.” Outsourcing allows vendors to take over a process and do it cheaper because of the ability to share the costs with all its clients. It can do the process faster because it has all the component parts already in place. But the “better” generally happens only when the provider reengineers the process to suck out the slack.

That’s exactly what Brent Tucker and James Koopmann, the founders of dbDoctor Inc., a Superior, Colorado, ASP, determined was the Rx to solve their buyer’s problems. dbDoctor has reengineered the database monitoring process for Oracle and Sun Microsystems systems. “Databases touch each and every facet of your business. When they go down, all hell breaks loose and losses immediately start to accumulate,” says Michael Misheff, vice president, sales and marketing, for dbDoctor.

The Contingency Planning Research Corporation estimates database downtime costs range from $10,000 to $7 million per hour. No company and no database are immune. “downtime is non-recoverable cash,” Misheff points out. With the clock running, the database staff has to scramble to find the cause and repair it while “the financial burn-o-meter” is running.

Eliminating Crisis Management

Because the standard monitoring programs were reactive instead of proactive, the software forced the database administrator into a state of perpetual crisis management. “We’ve reengineered the all too common fire fighting model,” says CEO Vandy Van Wagener. Instead, dbDoctor enables a company to move into an offensive mode.

In addition, the database monitoring programs of the late 1990s sat on the system and required a “full on” connection. They created a choking bottleneck, draining CPU processing time by as much as 30 percent, says Misheff.

These programs also focused on “session level” diagnostics and were unable to analyze any trends. “They informed you of concerns that had already matured into problems that you must now fix. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid being sick instead of being told you are now a critical care patient?” continues Misheff.

The founders, who had put in their time as Expert Level Oracle database administrators, created the consulting firm in 1997 to solve these server problems. “Keeping databases healthy” became their motto. The program they wrote reengineers the process of database monitoring by addressing three issues:

  • It’s proactive not reactive.
  • It’s fully automated and Web-enabled.
  • It uses less than one percent of the server’s capacity.

“We help our customers stay ahead of the pain curve,” says Misheff. dbDoctor’s software emails reports to the database administrator, his or her boss, the CIO and anyone else who needs to know. These reports analyze trends for CPU, memory and physical I/O characteristics based on 90 days of stored data. The program also checks the physical layout to check the system’s reliability and performance. dbDoctor calls this “predictive analysis.”

Pinging Every 15 Minutes

The process starts by reading database performance statistics for five seconds every 15 minutes. The program collects this meta-data at the client’s servers and uploads them daily to dbDoctor’s data warehouse. dbDoctor emails a daily report containing its prescription for health. The data is also available on its password-protected Web site, so users can explore in as great a detail as they need.

Van Wagener says dbDoctor is fully automated. Most database tools require “significant user effort” to write scripts and then wait at the console for the results. “This frees up time for the database administrator to actually work on the database. Time is the real issue,” says Van Wagener.

In addition the CEO says there’s no risk to mission critical data since everything remains on the buyer’s servers.

Today dbDoctor is an ASP, hosting the application and warehousing the data in its own facilities. Currently it is concentrating on end users and has nine customers. As the ASP model matures and business service providers (BSP) evolve, dbDoctor expects to form alliances with them to include its offering in their menu of services. Misheff predicts infrastructure and hosting companies will also want to incorporate the company’s application into their services.

Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Outsourcing vendors can usually do things faster and cheaper. When they reengineer the process, the also make it better.
  • Analyzing trends and fixing problems before they happen can saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in downtime.
  • Outsourcing allows database managers to focus on their real work instead of spending time managing the database.
  • DbDoctor is concentrating on end users now. But as the ASP model matures, it expects to incorporate its application in a BSP offering.


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