Research@DBTA - Database Virtualization: New Approach Rapidly on the Rise

An overwhelming challenge - expanding volumes of data - threatens to gum up any productivity improvements seen to date as a result of information technology deployments. All that data is coming in from systems, sensors, and storage area networks, pressuring organizations to expand database inventories, while grappling with associated licensing and hardware costs. Plus, many compliance mandates demand that this data be stored for long periods of time, but remain accessible to auditors and business end users.

With shortages of critical data management skills and tight IT budgets, organizations are hard-pressed to be able to grow their data environments in a smart way, while still reining in costs and complexity.

A new survey of 381 members of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), confirms that not only are data volumes and database instances on the rise, but these environments are siloed across multiple vendors, running on multiple platforms. Unisphere Research conducted the study for the IOUG, in partnership with VMware, to explore issues and solutions for this challenge.

But there are solutions on the horizon. The survey finds growing interest in virtualization strategies to better manage these diverse environments. Most respondents already have server virtualization in place, and half are looking at database virtualization to increase the value of their data environments.

Here are some of the issues and initiatives uncovered in the IOUG survey:

Data environments keep expanding.

More than eight out of 10 respondents report that the number of database instances within or across their companies have increased over the past year. A majority of respondents have mixed database environments, and there is a limited amount of sharing of data that takes place between these environments. But, in most cases, this is not deep integration. With volumes of data increasing on all levels, there's no shortage of requirements for new database instances. Close to three out of 10 report they have increased their number of databases substantially, increasing by more than 10% over the past year. However, adding new database instances isn't necessarily a seamless process. For example, six out of 10 respondents say they face additional hardware and networking costs as they grow their number of databases. A majority also find issues with licensing costs as the number of copies grows. Half also cite the additional administration costs and complexity as they expand their data environments.

Tight budgets and skills constraints put the squeeze on IT environments.

Three out of four respondents say tight budgets are the greatest issue their IT operation currently faces. Even when the economy improves and budgets do get more flush, there will still be challenges facing IT and data managers. Even at a time when hiring is slow, more than four out of 10 say they can't find the right skills to address their current requirements. Respondents also pointed out the pressures they face with fast-growing data environments. As one manager lamented: "Our database growth and support continues astronomically while staffing remains the same, and our budget has been cut." Another echoed this sentiment, noting that "staffing remained the same, but we've expanded database and software purchases and support."

Virtualization efforts face organizational challenges, versus technical issues.

Since data resources from many parts of the organization need to be engaged, political and leadership skills are required to make data virtualization work. The survey finds that organizations with advanced virtualization efforts underway report that they are able to more effectively grow their data capabilities while reigning in staff time and costs.  As one respondent put it: "I certainly believe that virtualization makes it easy to manage databases more efficiently and effectively. However, we need to convince our top management-the decision-making point-with return on investment; the cost savings in hardware and less administration costs."

While still relatively new in database production environments, virtualization is on the rise.

Those that are embracing high levels of virtualization are more likely to be expanding their production database environments, signifying that virtualization paves the way to such expansion. Database virtualization is still a relatively new approach for many enterprises. Overall, about 10% of the respondents running virtualized solutions within their data environments indicate that the majority of their production databases are part of that virtualization. A majority of respondents running virtualization within their organizations, 55%, report that adoption has increased either significantly or somewhat over the past year. Eighteen percent report this adoption rate has "increased significantly." 

Database virtualization is the decoupling of the database layer from hardware and applications, and enables users to access disparate data sources from anywhere across the enterprise. Database virtualization enables different data-base management systems or instances to be used simultaneously, regardless of location or underlying platform. Benefits include the ability to support data environments-from data warehouses to analytic applications-with underlying hardware that can quickly be configured as business requirements demand. "Combined with cloning techniques we were able to set up a new server with new instances in less than one hour, even in production environments," one respondent points out. Another observed that "with the use of standardized ‘gold' images, virtualized provisioning could decrease the amount of time end users and developers wait for a database deployment."

Today's data environments are complex and costly, running on many platforms, supporting many applications, and handling growing volumes of data. As organizations rely more and more on the quality and availability of data to better compete on analytics in the global economy, they are encountering difficult challenges in managing and maintaining their information infrastructure. That is, they are faced with a fast-growing infrastructure, while running out of resources to better manage and leverage its components. Data virtualization offers a means to expand with a smart redeployment of IT and data resources. As this survey shows, those organizations that are employing virtualization in a big way are able to more effectively grow their data capabilities while reining in staff time and costs.