Craig S. Mullins
Database Performance Management

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October 1999


eBusiness Requires eDBA

by Craig S. Mullins

At this stage of the game there can be no doubt that Internet usage is becoming pervasive. Every business is being impacted by the rapid adoption of Internet technologies. Indeed, a new term, e-business, has been coined to describe the changing nature of business when it is conducted online over the Internet and the World Wide Web

An e-business is always online; it never closes. Regardless of the time or date, customers expect an e-business to be up and running, available to serve their current needs. Whether e-business customers expect e-commerce, online investing, news and information, or simply to comparison shop, full functionality and availability 100% of the time is expected. Why should customers wait for an unavailable e-business site to become available again? They won’t because numerous competitors are just a simple mouse click away.

For these reasons, an e-business must be available and operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 366 days a year (don’t forget that extra day in leap years!). An e-business must be prepared to engage with customers at any time or risk losing business to a company whose web site is more accessible. So availability for an e-business becomes an even higher form of availability, let’s call it e-vailability TM. System outages, whether planned (for maintenance and tuning) or unplanned (due to hardware failure, bugs, or viruses), are the enemy of the successful e-business.

So it stands to reason that those who manage the IT infrastructure for an e-business must be alert and proactive—ensuring that the e-business maintains the highest degree of availability possible.

Enter the eDBA

Companies functioning as e-businesses will find their applications and IT infrastructure becoming incredibly complex. Complexity is nothing new for the IT professional, but the needs of an e-business cause the level of complexity to expand enormously. The IT shop of an e-business will quickly find themselves needing to implement, maintain, and manage integrated systems consisting of traditional and legacy systems coupled with web-based technologies. A key component of these applications will be access to and storage of mission-critical data. And the most reliable, time-tested method of storing persistent data is inside a database.

When databases are involved, DBAs are required to implement them, optimize performance, and to ensure high availability. This is the traditional role of the DBA. This role is greatly expanded and becomes more difficult for the e-business.

When an outage threatens availability, the eDBA needs to be armed with tools to eliminate or minimize the outage. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid outages using traditional technology and tools. Consider, for example, what needs to be done when storage space needs to be increased. Imagine an e-business that experiences abnormally high transaction workload over the holiday season. Perhaps online shopping was projected to grow 150% over last year, but instead it grows 250%. This means more users, more data, and more programs running. To adjust to the expanded workload, an eDBA may need to dynamically alter buffer pools, program storage area (e.g. EDM pools), and sort work area. But most database servers must be stopped and re-started to change these parameters. What needs to be done?

The eDBA should have tools at his disposal to work around the limitations of the DBMS. For example, BMC Software offers Opertune to change DB2 parameters “on the fly,” without the cycling DB2 subsystem. So, as an eDBA, you could expand the EDM Pool and maybe add more archive logs without bringing your system down. This increases availability by eliminating outages.

However, not all outages can be eliminated. Consider a faulty memory chip or disk drive. No one can predict when hardware fails. Certain failsafe methods can be implemented with redundant storage or automatic propagation of changes to a mirrored system. But at some point, due to some problem or disaster, a problem can still occur causing an outage.  If this is the case, the eDBA needs to be prepared to recover as rapidly as possible.  This reduces the time of the outage that can not be eliminated.  Using tools such as BMC’s Recovery Manager, Recover Plus, Copy Plus, and SQL BackTrack, eDBAs can quickly recover databases after unplanned outages. The time of the outage can be minimized because tools such as these can be used to automatically build recovery scripts and then recover faster than traditional recovery methods.


The biggest challenge for the eDBA is data availability.  If data is not available, the e-business is not functioning.  This will impact sales, profitability, and ultimately stock price and valuation. Being prepared to eliminate and reduce planned and unplanned outages is the biggest job of the eDBA.  Of course, there are other technological differences in the job of an eDBA versus a traditional DBA.  Keep watching this space in future issues of Database Trends for more details on the duties of an eDBA.

Note: e-vailability is a trademark of BMC Software.

From Database Trends, October 1999.
© 1999 Craig S. Mullins,  All rights reserved.