Database Optimizing Goes Autonomic with New Tool from Centerfield
August 28, 2007 Dan Burger
Remember when the IT version of the snipe hunt was sending the new kid looking for the AS/400 database administrator? That was back when the rookies didn’t realize the AS/400 needed a DBA like a fish needs a bicycle. Ever since SQL and SQL-based applications took root in iSeries shops, things have changed, and the trend toward increasing database performance shows no sign of diminishing. And companies like Centerfield Technology are designing software specifically for database performance and simplification.
Most companies that rely on the System i still don’t employ a person dedicated to database administration, but they do need database access that doesn’t gridlock the system or paralyze the IT staff with complexity when data access expectations rise. Database performance is getting much more attention than it was just a few years ago. And database management is just one of many IT systems that have grown more complex. The goal of cutting through complexities and pumping up database performance pushed Centerfield to create and introduce, just last week, its latest innovation: autonomic optimization for DB2 and i5/OS.
Centerfield calls its tool the Autonomic Database Assistant (AutoDBA), and it’s built into the company’s insure/INDEX tool, a critical piece of the HomeRun suite of products. AutoDBA provides DB2 performance enhancement advice that optimizes database indices, such as DDS logical files and SQL indices. It then follows up with suggested options to automatically implement that advice. The end result is faster RPG programs and, if your company uses them, SQL queries.
The HomeRun suite debuted in mid-2006. It includes all of Centerfield’s key performance tools, including insure/INDEX, which identifies critical access paths and creates new indexes; insure/ANALYSIS, which correlates SQL statements with application behavior; insure/MONITOR, for real-time problem diagnoses; insure/RESOURCES, for implementing controls that grant or deny access to precious system resources; and insure/SECURITY, a network security tool for protecting data and locking down system resources.
In terms of simplification, AutoDBA handles many of the database tuning tasks that formerly were manual operations within the insure/INDEX and insure/ANALYSIS tools. These are the tools that provide the health check on existing databases and provide the starting point for performance enhancements and the autonomics that AutoDBA can provide.
AutoDBA features a wizard-driven, Windows-based graphical user interface that’s easier to understand and use than IBM‘s tuning tools, which require the use of multiple screens and a higher degree of manual manipulation. For organizations that are relying on Web applications, Centerfield’s design makes use of links embedded in the GUI that lead to information on the company’s Web site and takes advantage of SQL improvements IBM made with i5/OS V5R3 and V5R4.
According to Mark Holm, CTO of Centerfield Technology, which is based in Rochester, Minnesota, the autonomic features were based on best practices when dealing with specific circumstances. Analysis of the database determines when the situation calls for a response that can boost performance. He also notes that AutoDBA takes advantage of SQL improvements IBM made with i5/OS V5R3 and V5R4.
“We’ve tried to adhere to IBM’s definition of autonomics,” Holm says. That means automate everything potentially, but give the users full control over how much ultimately gets done automatically.”
It’s not uncommon for users to feel somewhat unsure about autonomics in general. It’s not necessarily mistrust, but more like a period of developing trust needs to take place. With autonomics that are built into database software, or any other software, it’s more comfortable to incrementally add in chosen pieces and move forward at a pace that suits the individuals involved. In the case of AutoDBA, there is a built-in audit trail of changes, so if there is a reason to reverse direction after implementing a degree of autonomics, that reversal process is made easier.
A few examples of the autonomic capabilities in Centerfield’s new software include: the deletion of extraneous indexes, the optimization of existing indexes, and the creation of new indexes that escalate performance. If the administrator agrees with the autonomic assessment, the product can automatically implement the recommendations. At any time, the administrator can regain control over the system, or even reverse the changes and rollback to previous settings.
Pricing for the HomeRun suite is based logical partitions. Introductory pricing, which is available through September 30, is $12,000 per LPAR. Beginning October 1, the pricing is $18,000 for one LPAR, $16,000 per LPAR for two, $14,000 per LPAR for three, and $12,000 per LPAR for four or more. Support is 20 percent of the total cost. The enterprise license agreement includes onsite training and three years of maintenance and support.