Database Holy Grail: Ease Of Use

Oracle, CA, Vision Solutions and Expand Beyond all are releasing tools and features that they say will make a DBA's job a lot easier.

SAN DIEGO –Oracle Corp. and a host of database tool vendors this week announced product enhancements that aim to make databases easier to manage.

At the International Oracle Users Group Live conference here, Oracles senior vice president of database and application server technologies, Andy Mendelsohn, outlined a range of manageability improvements slated for the next version of the companys namesake database.

Among the enhancements in Oracle 9i Release 2, which is due for release in May, are the introduction of additional "advisories" that analyze and chart the affect of a database tuning changes on performance, such as capabilities for tuning the performance of SQL statements or setting various database recovery times.

Separately, Computer Associates International Inc. this week introduced upgrades to five software tools in its Unicenter Database Management lineup. Each is now integrated with a common interface for simpler and more efficient management and boasts added support for Oracle 9i, said officials, in Islandia, N.Y.

CAs announcement includes the following new releases of Unicenter tools: DBA v5.2, Enterprise DBA v5.2, Database Analyzer v2.2, TSreorg v3.1, and Fast Unload v4.1. They can be implemented individually or as a suite and all make use of a common Unicenter Database Management console.

Meanwhile, San Diego-based Vision Solutions Inc. introduced Symbiator 4.0, a tool for integrating data across databases from Oracle, Microsoft Corp., IBM and Sybase Inc. The newest release adds monitoring capabilities, a new central UI and formal professional services.

On the mobile front, startup Expand Beyond Corp., of Chicago, released version 1.4 of its PocketDBA tool for Oracle, which lets database administrators connect to management tools through a Palm Inc. or PocketPC handheld. The latest version adds additional security with support for virtual private networks and RSA Security Inc.s SecurID authentication technology, said Ari Kaplan, CEO and co-founder.

In addition to its new security features, Expand Beyond also is planning to introduce its PocketDBA in the fall for Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2 in addition to Oracle, Kaplan said.

Although database administrators at the conference remained skeptical about the functionality of the usability enhancements until they try the features for themselves, the vendors focus on manageability struck a chord with many. Of particular interest to Gregg Houghton, database manager at Inland Paperboard and Packaging Inc., were additional abilities in Oracle 9i to tune the database while keeping it online.

"Its extremely important for us," Houghton said. "We have to beg [our management] for outages. If the database goes down, people stop working."

The Indianapolis-based manufacturer of corrugated containers relies on an Oracle database to carry sales orders to the production floor, he said. The company is running Oracle 8i, but is planning to upgrade to 9i later this year.

Oracles Mendelsohn said his companys goal with Version 9i has been to cut the cost of managing the database in half. Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., also is trying to shake its reputation as a hard-to-manage database.

"Now manageability is a major competitive differentiator," Mendelsohn said in an interview with eWEEK. "We think with 9i were actually way ahead of IBM and getting very close to Microsoft."