DBAs Want to Make Database Migrations Easier

Analysts and IT pros said vendors need to provide customers with more tools to ease the database migration process.

Database administrators are looking for a few more tools in their toolbox when it comes time for database migration.

Among the top items on their wish list are tools to bring databases in sync during such a migration, which can be a difficult and complex process in the best of situations.

"If there was some kind of tool that would help you keep two databases in synch during the migration, that would be interesting," said Russ Donnan, CIO of Kroll Factual Data, whose Loveland, Colo., company migrated from Microsoft SQL Server to Oracle Database 10g.

It is a common refrain, according to Forrester Research analyst Noel Yuhanna.

"I have heard that DBAs want a tool to be able to keep two databases in sync during migration, and the reason is that migration is a complex and time consuming effort, and often you would see enterprises running both the old and new databases in parallel to ensure reliability," he said. "Usually they run the two databases in sync for a few days, even months, before pulling the plug on the old one. This process ensures a higher degree of reliability and stability, ensuring that nothing has been overlooked."

Such tools are key to enabling what is referred to as "zero downtime migration," said Philip Howard, an analyst with Bloor Research. According to Howard, there are two companies specifically targeting this: GoldenGate Software, which provides generic synchronization capabilities, and Celona Technologies, which is more focused on the data aspects of application migration.

Some of the best tools for migration today are the data integration tools, particularly ETL (extract, transform, load) tools, because their original purpose was to move data from a source to a target, said Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg.

"Many [of the tools] can read the pre-relational and flat files and transform them to relational," he said. "Although the primary purpose is to load data into a [data warehouse], they can be used very effectively for migration, also."

Data migration in general remains a painful process for many businesses. A recent study by Bloor Research that included responses from 43 Forbes Global 2000 companies found that when it comes to data migration in general, only 16 percent of such projects were completed on time and on budget. More than two-thirds of respondents that overran their timetable blamed it on a failure to properly scope the project, though just one in 10 used data profiling tools to understand their data.

Automated tools can make life easier, Yuhanna said, adding that enterprises should insist on vendors using industry standards as much as possible when it comes to database management systems and applications to minimize migration issues in the future.

Benchmarking tools are another area where vendors can ease the strain of the migration process, said Chris Ingrassia, CTO of FortiusOne, whose Arlington, Va., company moved from MySQL to EnterpriseDB Advanced Server.

"A straightforward benchmarking/estimation tool that could run on the existing database instance and on the new server or setup being migrated to that could give me at least a reasonable estimate of the amount of time that would be involved in copying and reindexing the existing database content," Ingrassia said. "We did spend a bit of time attempting to figure this out on our own for planning purposes during that last hardware upgrade, and we were able to come pretty close, but we also spent a day or two doing our homework and running some benchmarks."

The bottom line, Donnan said, is that customers need tools that will make a complex process simpler.

"The reality of it is that developers like tools, but if it doesnt produce exactly what they want, they are not going to use the output," he said.


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