Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 Jan 2011

INFOTECH: Database Administration's Role in Software As a Service


Recent Gauteng Business News

Virtualisation and cloud computing are the latest megatrends to hit the ICT industry, creating a major impact as well as a ripple effect onto other areas of products and services. In fact, according to a recent Gartner survey, both virtualisation and cloud computing are top priorities for CIOs from businesses across the globe.

One of the major developments to come out of the cloud computing phenomenon has been Software as a Service, also known as SaaS, a model that uses the cloud computing framework to deploy software over the internet or can run software behind a firewall on LAN or personal computers.

"One of the cited benefits of SaaS is that it gives users the ability to take on licenses on demand through a pay-as-you-go type of model, offering easy scalability and greater flexibility. Increasingly too, these licenses are offered at no charge. This is made possible by technology that is located in the cloud and is accessed via the internet and forms part of what is known as a utility computing model," says Ettiene Myburgh, Team Leader - Operating Systems/Open Source at RDB Consulting.

SaaS is gaining traction as a viable business model because of the various benefits it offers to the end consumer, yet one area that has been slow to adopt this model is that of Database Administration, or DBA. One of the major reasons behind this is due to security concerns as a large number of businesses remain unwilling to put their critical data in the hands of an outside or cloud provider.

However, technology has the ability to address security concerns and ensure the safety of data. The reality is that SaaS is becoming increasingly popular and services of this nature in the DBA space are coming. But while SaaS offers the consumer a lot of freedom with regard to licensing and simplifies the support model, DBA and database maintenance - because of the business critical nature of the tool - will still require specialised support from skilled providers in order to maintain high availability and uptime.

"Because of the level of skill necessary to maintain and support databases this is one area where outsourcing has seen a great deal of interest through the recession and out the other side," says Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB. "Even though the recession is technically over, many organisations remain short staffed due to tight budgets and the ability to access scarce skills on tight budgets means that outsourcing is still an attractive option."

Databases form a critical component of many businesses, yet administration and maintenance are not core capabilities as this is a highly specialist skill. Even in booming economic times this model remains viable because it allows access to these skills which are in short supply, and also delivers guaranteed service levels and high levels of availability.

"While it does provide extensive benefit to the end user, Software as a Service will not be the death of outsourcing. Databases do not run on their own, there is always some level of support required, as while you can automate certain things within this environment it is impossible to escape the need for a person to monitor the database," says Albers. "Even if all of the licensing and so on were run through a SaaS model there will always be new products that need specialist skills to both set up the technology and advise development teams."

Despite this, SaaS has merit in the database field as it will simplify procedures for both the end users and the outsourced maintenance and administration providers. Service providers will be able to deliver a simplified offering to the client, providing both the physical database itself as well as the support needed for the infrastructure, so end users will need to deal with only one provider and outsourced support will handle a bank of databases for one client instead of disparate databases at individual clients.

"This will deliver even better cost benefits and ease of use for clients. The customer will not have to invest heavily into the initial infrastructure required to set up a database, saving costs. The economies of scale achieved by the provider will also be transferred to the client. In other words, because the service provider will have multiple databases they will need multiple DBAs who can work in shifts to ensure high availability and uptime at a far lower cost to the consumer," says Ettiene Myburgh, Team Leader - Operating Systems/Open Source at RDB Consulting..

This also simplifies the service level agreement (SLA) scenario as the end consumer will only have one set of SLAs to manage when it comes to both the physical database and any maintenance and administration required on it.

One thing that consumers need to bear in mind when contemplating databases as part of the SaaS model is the fact that the service provider has to offer DBA and support. Clients need to carefully examine how this support and administration will be offered, whether the service provider is offering this as an in-house skill or whether they use a specialist outsourced provider to deliver the service.

"DBA personnel need to be certified, highly skilled and very knowledgeable as this is a niche and specialised offering. And a DBA offered to a customer, whether in the SaaS model or not, needs to have the experience and skill to be able to handle issues that occur," says Jaroslav Cerny, CEO of RDB.

"Many SaaS service providers will diversify their focus as DBA is not their key delivery, their core business is to provide software. So organisations wishing to go this route will need to make certain the service provider outsources to a specialist DBA consultancy to ensure that the levels of skill necessary are available and that the DBA understands their business," he adds.

SaaS is gaining ground in the software market and is a technology that is here to stay. It offers multiple benefits to end users in terms of cost savings and ease of use. However, many of the services offered through SaaS, such as databases, still require high levels of skill in order to support and maintain. SaaS will not, at the end of the day, erode the business of outsourced support providers, but will only serve to simplify the way they do business and interact with their clients.


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