Bring DBAs into the SAN era


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Storage organizational structures
Multitasked: Usually, this is found in smaller organizations where a single person handles multiple tasks. An application programmer may code and build their own databases, while a storage network person will handle everything from storage provisioning to tape backup. Two people handle the entire environment.

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Stove-piped: Within the stove-piped model, personnel and functions are strictly segmented. For example, there will be an OS or systems person, a storage person, backup person, database person, etc. While it's beneficial to have a specialist for each area, the time spent on communication and managing all the pieces on a project can limit the effectiveness of this organizational structure.
Centralized: This type of organization is typically the most efficient. From a central location, one or more people are responsible for a specialized role within the enterprise. The centralized model provides a flexible structure without being stove-piped. The centralized organization also works well over a distributed environment. For example, a single operations center can control the major functions for local and remote sites. Only a minimal staff is needed at the remote sites for physical tasks such as loading/unloading tapes. The centralized organization is best suited for DBA information-sharing and limiting personnel redundancy.

Database storage tools
For every database, DBAs can choose among tools from the database vendor, independent third party tools or from hardware vendors to support the database.

Vendor tools. Just as a DBA's job has evolved over the years, database companies have paid much more attention to storage-related issues regarding their software. For example, with the latest release of Oracle, it's now possible to:

  • Monitor from the application to storage system
  • Manage database space more easily
  • Use self-tuning performance management

Third-party tools. The major third-party storage software companies are also broadening their database software offerings. Most are marketed as "Database Edition," denoting that the product is database-aware.

Many DBAs will find that they're already using software from companies such as Veritas and Computer Associates (CA). If that's the case, you should explore bundling your database software tools with an existing site license agreement to further leverage pricing or gain access to a tool that was not included in the budget.

Hardware tools. Some software from hardware vendors may not be directly apparent as being database storage tools, but with the correct applicability they can be extremely powerful.

For example, a third mirroring hardware option might be used to create a near real-time copy of an active database for read-only access. Other hardware vendor tools are more directly related to database tuning, and suggest changes within the storage network by monitoring the host and storage subsystem.

Different organization, different roles
Beyond tools lies the question of how DBAs and storage administrators work together within an overall IT structure. There are essentially three basic models for an IT organization (see "Storage organizational structures," this page), and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

While multitasked and stove-piped departments can work in certain settings, centralized, storage-centric organization are going to be the most efficient for many companies. The DBAs that manage the many tablespaces and indexes are all located in a central data center and are all in the same group. There they have access to storage architects and full-time storage management for guidance. While there's not a great deal of direct responsibility for storage for a DBA in this situation, the DBA associates closely with the storage group. The centralized, storage-centric software-focused environment will continue to be a more efficient DBA group than older models.

This was first published in March 2003

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