The new face of database management software
The nature of applications has recently seen a significant change. This isn’t surprising—the nature of everything has changed recently—yet have been evolving for years, stretching beyond 2020’s global pandemic, and will continue to impact the way database administrators manage their roles (and their infrastructures) for years to come.
Here, we look at the evolving world of database management and the tools required to not only roll with the punches but thrive in 2021 and beyond.
Once upon a time, the apps database managers would have to administer would be a single node in their own data centre, with maybe a failover instance somewhere else. That’s it. All under one roof, as a long-suffering toy store would put it.
Now, however, modern, cloud-native apps are globally distributed, requiring a whole new set of tools, systems, and scripts to manage them. These days, database managers have dozens of systems interacting with each other to form a single application with which users interact. This is a significant shift in terms of complexity, how environments are run, and where they’re located, moving from on-premises data centres to cloud data centres like AWS or Microsoft Azure.
While these traditional systems still exist, system providers are now giving you the opportunity to build globally with distributed systems while still using the relational model. We’re seeing an increasing blending of NoSQL and SQL systems, resulting in multi-model database platforms flexible enough to meet a whole plethora of needs.
This isn’t all good news, however, as most database administrators still rely on tools built to manage the legacy type of system or workload. This makes the management of modern environments more challenging.
This isn’t the only change in the market, which is seeing systems like Postgres taking on more and more market share, a perhaps unsurprising development given it has the advantage of being free and open-source. And while it’s important to note paid models will still remain, this is another indicator of the way the landscape is evolving, with more open-source platforms like MySQL and Apache Cassandra® also flourishing.
It’s understandable, then, that the changing face of the database market is having a significant impact on the daily roles of database administrators, who are finding their plates stacked higher than ever before.
It’s fair to say the increase in the number of database platforms has been something of a mixed blessing. Variety is the spice of life, of course, and different platforms offer different strengths and weaknesses capable of empowering a business to reach greater heights. However, it isn’t always a case of “the more the merrier”—now, administrators are tasked with and more databases than can possibly be realistic.
Many businesses without good tooling or automation in place will rely on one person to monitor a huge number of databases. This is a problem we regularly see, with organisations placing an unreasonable burden on an administrator tasked with watching 300 databases day in and day out. These people (and believe me, there are many) need tools in place to help them out.
The changes we’ve outlined are shifting the conversation in terms of the problems customers face. Instead of having a couple of command-line tools you can use to keep tabs on a system, you need a solution designed to simultaneously monitor everything in a data centre—or multiple data centres—and give you real-time intelligence as to what’s going on.
But with so many database tools on the market, it’s vital to adopt one comprehensive enough to offer full end-to-end visibility, helping administrators identify and prioritise pressing issues and making their lives easier.
The Right Tools for the Job
The first question to ask when adopting database management software is an obvious one: does it support the platforms you need? With so many platforms on the market, a tool designed to support everything from IBM® DB2® and to the artist formerly known as Sybase is crucial.
Unfortunately, however, an inclusive platform can add to your workload. Say someone on the finance team buys themselves a new application with a back end accommodated by your solution. Does this mean you, as a database administrator, will be expected to help them with performance tuning and monitoring?
Such a scenario could result in having a huge number of systems for which you’re responsible, and this can lead to a lot of noise. With this in mind, you’ll need a feature to help you cut through this noise, offering warnings against different platforms, drawing attention to the parts of the dashboard where focus is required, and allowing you to drill into this information to help address these issues.
Also useful for database managers looking to find their way through the clutter is a tagging system, providing information as to which users, databases, or application is running each query. This is vital in a business where there are many different services, with different teams accessing a shared infrastructure and developing multiple applications simultaneously. A tool offering a tagging feature will ensure each person can see whether their own service is performing as it should without having to look at queries from those they’re not responsible for.
A proactive performance analysis tool is also key to making database administrators’ lives easier during these changing times. A tool using machine learning to build a predictive model capable of identifying anomalies, offering insight into how much weight your system can expect at a certain time, and notifying you when it exceeds this weight will offer a lighthouse beacon through the murk of countless notifications and red flags.
Though the database management landscape is constantly changing, there are tools capable of delivering the visibility and capabilities needed to enjoy the benefits a distributed infrastructure can yield.
From an intuitive user interface to second-accurate, real-time, and historical data, database administrators need a tool to help them and their businesses excel and shed the weight of inefficiency and unproductivity. In a market where the waters are constantly being muddied, a tool capable of delivering clarity is worth its weight in gold.
Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution
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.
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.