Servers, storage, routers, applications — even I/O — have been virtualized for data center systems and are now providing IT managers with huge improvements in administration and production quality.
But not until startup Delphix officially emerged Sept. 14 at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., have databases been virtualized to become as portable as those other data center mainstays.
Delphix is now shipping the first server that can create virtual copies of databases to run concurrently on disk. This allows database administrators to duplicate an entire database — no matter what size it may be — compress it and then run it on the Delphix server.
In short, this new-generation server enables any Oracle database to be set free, yet tethered to operational duplicates for upgrades, fixes and routine maintenance — yet not consume server and storage resources. This changes the whole idea of the formerly intractable enterprise database.
“Delphix turns database infrastructure into software that operates in a fraction of the space, while preserving its full functionality and performance,” Delphix founder and CEO Jedidiah Yueh told eWEEK.
Delphix virtualizes the data blocks and logs that make up a database, allowing them to be shared across virtual software copies instead of the redundant hardware copies that most organizations have to make. Most businesses make seven to nine copies of every production database, according to analysts and Delphix customers, Yueh said.
Storage consolidation a big factor
Because it compresses so much structured data, Delphix figures importantly in storage consolidation. Rather than create redundant copies of infrastructure, Delphix creates a single virtual environment, where multiple VDBs can be instantly provisioned or refreshed from a shared footprint. The software coordinates changes and differences in the background without compromising functionality or performance, Yueh said.
Yueh told eWEEK that his current customers see a 10 times reduction in database storage costs.
There’s more. Not only does Delphix release production databases for more agile usage, but the newfound freedom it brings also stands to promote much better relationships among storage and database administrators, whose priorities often clash.
You can’t normally buy that in-house psychology with mere software, but Delphix is giving it a legitimate go.
The Very Real Problem Delphix Solves
“The problem that Delphix solves is very real,” Enterprise Strategy Group Senior Consulting Analyst Brian Babineau told eWEEK.
“IT makes a tremendous number of copies of production databases and applications for a variety of reasons, all of which are usually warranted. The issue is in the time it takes to make these copies and the cost (usually measured in storage capacity expense).”
Often hovering over all of this is a lack of cooperation between storage and database administrators, Babineau said.
“The latter think disk [storage] is free, and the former have to deal with all the copies made by the latter!” Babineau said. “There are solutions that attempt to solve the challenge, but they only address the technology issue; they let someone make ‘space efficient’ copies very quickly.
“In essence, they solve the problem either at the database or storage layer, leaving someone unhappy. Delphix is unique in that everyone gets what they want. DBAs get their copies (albeit virtual) and they can create them. Storage teams do not see a spike in capacity requirements.”
Yueh, who started up storage deduplicator Avamar Technologies in 1999 and sold it to EMC in 2006 for $165 million, told eWEEK that databases running on the Delphix server are typically one-tenth the size of the original database.
Delphix’s server can run on x86-based physical or virtual servers and takes only a few minutes to install.
At the outset, Delphix supports Oracle DBs only, but Yueh said that over time the company will add other database platforms to build out the product.
“You install it, and it just works,” Yueh said simply. “There’s quite a bit going on underneath the covers, of course, but you don’t have to be a DB admin to get a copy of a database up and running in literally just a few seconds. Just follow the drop-down menu and you’re good.”
TiVO an early adopter
TiVO Senior IT Director Richard Rothschild, a longtime database veteran, told eWEEK that he’s been using Delphix’s server in production for about four months and is impressed.
“We had a lot of the same challenges a lot of people had [with databases]. The easiest one to understand has to do with SAP for our financial applications and for handling all our customers,” Rothschild said. “It’s difficult to create new databases. We’d have to use five or six guys and take several days to create a new database — from production to QA and the other environments we have.
“Because it takes so long, we were really hampered in terms of being able to have all the databases [running] in their environments so that we can do proper testing of all our code in the way we want to do it.”
So, based on a recommendation, he obtained a demo of Delphix and checked it out.
“My guys were all pretty skeptical normally, but this is probably the only time I’ve seen them in six years where everybody was really positive, saying, ‘Wow, this looks really great, and we should definitely do a proof of concept with these guys.’ To me, that was a pretty good sign that there was some hope.”
Delphix worked exactly the way Yueh and his staff said it would, Rothschild said. “We were able to create databases in a few minutes, whereas before it would take several days. For us, that’s great, because now I can free up those resources — they can work on things that are more important for the business. For me, that’s probably the biggest value.”
Delphix is like TiVO for databases, Rothschild said. “It lets us instantly create virtual databases and shift them backward or forward in time. The management interface is simple and elegant — a rarity in enterprise solutions,” he said.
Delphix, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is VC- and privately financed and has been in business since 2008, when Yueh left EMC to start his second venture. Yueh has hired top development engineers from Oracle, VMware and other companies to develop the server.
Customers already up and running
The company, whose product had been in beta until last spring, already has a few dozen customers and has been ramping up quickly through word of mouth.
Babineau of ESG had another thought about the possibilities that Delphix presents.
“What most people are missing [at this early point about Delphix] is the cloud connection,” Babineau told eWEEK. “Why are some organizations moving test and development to the cloud? Because someone can do it cheaper and more quickly. If you can solve this problem internally by setting up a lean (from a storage perspective) copy of a database instantaneously and work with it intuitively, why would I go to a cloud?
“Better yet, why wouldn’t a cloud provider start using this to offer a service?”