Apr 9, 2021

How to get the most out of your database

Big Data
Thomas LaRock
4 min
Thomas LaRock, Head Geek at SolarWinds, shares his insights into optimising your database's performance
Thomas LaRock, Head Geek at SolarWinds, shares his insights into optimising your database's performance...

When refined, data has the potential to fuel the success of your business. Data helps you better understand your customers, offering insights into their requirements, and data helps your organisation provide an all-round better user experience. 

In short, data is critical to the success of any business. And optimising database performance is paramount to keeping customers happy and helping your company stay ahead of the competition. 

Here are some ways to get the most out of your database. 

Examine your database health

Health comes before performance. It’s the difference between being healthy enough to run a four-minute mile and actually running a four-minute mile. Therefore, before you start looking to optimise database performance, you need to ensure it’s healthy. This means looking at things like CPU utilisation, I/O statistics, memory pressure, network bandwidth, and locking/blocking. These metrics can help you keep your database running as efficiently as possible. 

Embrace cross-platform solutions

More and more organisations are embracing cross-platform database solutions, offering the ability to deliver comprehensive applications regardless of database type or the location of actual data. This increases the challenges facing IT professionals, but it also offers a host of benefits, helping companies avoid revenue losses and damages to reputation caused by poor user experiences or business decisions based on incorrect data. 

Ensure your database in the cloud is up to scratch

As more IT organisations shift an increasing number of workloads to the cloud, it’s important to ensure database performance in the cloud is on par with the performance in your data center. IT professionals and business leaders need to strike a balance to make their data perform at its best, whether earthed, in the cloud, or in hybrid models, and optimising databases across the board. 

Create a performance baseline

Measuring the performance of your database is difficult to do effectively without a daily baseline “normal” to measure against. Implementing a comprehensive series of database management and monitoring tools is the best way to create a baseline. These tools allow you to drill down into the database engine, across database platforms, and across deployment methods. They also make it possible to establish a historical record of performance metrics. 

Understand your metrics

Optimising the performance of your database ensures queries will execute quickly and throughput can be maximised. To do this, you need to understand the data you’re working with, drilling down into granular metrics such as resource contention. Your database’s workload will be key in identifying and mitigating the root cause of performance issues. Getting it right makes a huge difference to your organisation and customers.

Select the right queries to optimise  

Database optimisation is all about making the right changes which make the biggest difference to your customer. But it’s worth considering where you’re making those changes. Look to optimise queries that cause user-visible problems, impact other queries, or cause significant loads to the server. This will prove beneficial, as optimising a query that generates a significant percentage of your database’s overall load can make a huge difference to your organisation’s bottom line.  

Predict and identify potential issues before they disrupt the business

Keeping your database in tip-top condition makes a huge difference to your organisation. Tools such as SolarWinds® database performance management solutions provide intelligent recommendations based on best practices for faster troubleshooting. With anomaly detection fueled by machine learning, it’s easy to identify potential issues before they’ve really made an impact on your business. 

Streamline your database deployments with continuous delivery

Continuous delivery is one of DevOps most foundational technical processes, and a key pillar when it comes to improving software, delivery, and operational (SDO) performance. The benefits of continuous delivery are clear to see, including the ability to push faster fixes and determine outcomes in less time, more agility, and the ability to continually learn. Put simply, embracing continuous delivery is a great way to future-proof your business.  

Be prepared for failure 

Whether your database is large, small, earthed, or cloud-based, it will always have the potential to fail. There are plenty of reasons this can happen, from application code changes, to database version upgrades, to configuration changes. This can result in a host of outcomes, including data loss, a loss of productivity, poor user experience or other systems failing. 

While sometimes it’s simply not possible to avoid such failure, you can do your best to be prepared. Disaster recovery preparation is an ongoing process and should never stop. It includes setting up monitoring on all essential systems, carrying out testing in stages, introducing rollouts gradually, being able to roll back if necessary and making sure you create backups regularly.  

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Jun 6, 2021

Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution

Tim Loake
5 min
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies highlights the importance of often-overlooked digital infrastructure

As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services.  Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.

Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world. 

Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies

Serving workplace transformation

But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere.  As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.

When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive.  Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.

Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.  

Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.  

Ripe for a digital revolution

Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers. 

As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work.  Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures.  By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.

The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow -  uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.

The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.  

Resolving the problem of the future, today

Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss. 

Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.

Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables. 

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