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The Performance Principle

Russell Rothstein

Database administrators beware: The dark side of the cloud

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Private cloud computing is set to significantly transform enterprise IT, and promises to deliver cost savings, greater agility and improved scalability. However, there is a dark side to private clouds - they significantly distort the visibility into the flow of services in the cloud. Whether they offer database as a cloud service, use a "cloud database", or utilize hybrid models, database teams are about to lose critical information to match end users and business services with information stored in the database. They will lose critical information they need to do capacity planning based on business needs. And they will be relegated to a utility-based computing and data management service that does not add value to the business.

Let's consider a scenario in the cloud - a DBA thinks everything is running smoothly and at peak performance, only to get The Call. A particular business transaction won't go through or there has been an application outage. One reason this happens is that DBAs have only limited visibility, such as the performance of SQL queries, stored procedures and other database metrics that are not directly tied to business activity and business transaction flow. With these limited views, it is impossible to know which activity in their database is directly linked to a specific business activity type (such as a payment vs. a search vs. a back office update in banking, for instance) or a business transaction instance itself, such as a particular person's statement request.

Many times performance of business transactions suffers and when technical teams look for the root cause, they find it hard to isolate problems. In order to improve one's business, it's essential for DBA's to also have context of business activity and business transactions from the database perspective. The visibility into business services in the cloud is called Business Transaction Management (BTM).

Take, for example, problem resolution. Without a business transactional perspective, database sessions are all identical and anonymous.  They all come from the same shared app servers in the cloud, with the same user IDs (the app server user ID), same IP address (the app server's IP), and so on.  When a DBA spots a problematic database session (e.g., a long-running query, or a query consuming lots of resources), he/she has no way of knowing the business context of the query and therefore can't predict the business impact of killing or de-prioritizing the session.  The results can sometimes be disastrous to the business.  With BTM, the DBA can trace the problematic session back to a specific business transaction associated with a specific business user, and make an informed decision on how to handle the issue. 

The founder of FedEx was famously quoted as saying, "The information about the package is just as important as the package itself." The visibility into the information about packages in transit was essential in incorporating package delivery into critical business processes. Private cloud computing is about to hide from view the crucial information about the flow of business transactions that is critical for managing data from a business perspective. We need to achieve this visibility in order to ensure that cloud computing delivers on the goals to the business.

Follow Russell on twitter @RussRothsteinIT



Russell Rothstein blogs about cloud computing, performance management, business service management and related topics, examining how new technologies and business models impact the dynamic IT service management market.

Russell Rothstein

Russell Rothstein has spent his 20+ year career in the enterprise technology industry at the crossroads between technology and business. He has spoken at industry events including Interop, CloudConnect, CMG, Red Herring, and TeleManagement World. Russell is currently Founder and CEO of IT Central Station, a B2B social networking site that provides user reviews and ratings of enterprise software, hardware and services. Previously, Russell was Vice President of Product Marketing at OpTier, a vendor of application performance management (APM) solutions. Before joining OpTier, Russell was AVP Product Marketing at OPNET Technologies (Nasdaq: OPNT) where he helped lead the company’s focus into APM. He was co-founder and CEO of Zettapoint, a venture-backed enterprise software startup that was acquired by EMC, and ran marketing for Open Sesame, a Web 1.0 startup that was acquired by Bowne/RR Donnelley (NYSE:BNE). Russell began his career at Oracle, deploying Oracle Applications for Fortune 1000 companies. Russell received a BA in Computer Science from Harvard University, an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT and an MS in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Follow Russell on twitter at @RussRothsteinIT .

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