The efficiency of the DBA in the infinite corporate loop of cost savings

In DBA on September 5, 2011 at 00:31

One of the founders of modern macroeconomics John Maynard Keynes said: “Whenever you save five shillings, you put a man out of work for a day”.

Richard Cookson, chief investment officer of Citigroup’s said last week for CNBC: “The corporate sector continues to simply slash costs rather than focus on top-line growth. If you carry on just cutting costs and cutting people, at some stage the growth will stop.”

Business insider says it directly: Corporate Efficiency Is Getting Absurd.

Efficiency is a great concept but how often do you see a DBA working efficiently in your job who gets to leave the office on time? … Indeed.

It does not take much to fall into the trap of database cost savings. Often a nice .ppt slide with the following challenges can do the trick:

• Lack of true shared service database infrastructure
• Minimal adoption of virtualization and clustering
• Multiple configurations with minimal automation in change management, provisioning and patching
• Highly unbalanced cost on database licenses and database storage
• Minimal infrastructure to improve availability and performance

Add a cost saving graph or diagram, something like this, and be sure someone will bite the bait.

In order to dig deeper into the issue, I will come with two concrete examples:

1. Cost savings due to downgrading the Oracle edition from EE to SE: the features not available with Oracle Database Standard Edition or Standard Edition One is not that long. Here are few:

• Oracle Data Guard and Transparent Application Failover (TAF)
• Online index maintenance, Online table organization and Online table redefinition
• RAC customers must use Oracle Cluster Ready Services as the clusterware; third party clusterware is not supported
• Block-level media recovery, Parallel backup and recovery, Change-aware incremental backups and Trial recovery
• Oracle Flashback, Oracle Advanced Security, Oracle Label Security, Virtual Private Database and Fine-grained auditing
• Grid Control packs, Database Resource Manager, Oracle Partitioning, Data compression
• Bitmapped index and bitmapped join index, parallelism
• Oracle Streams: no asynchronous capture from log files, Advanced Replication

However, if you plan on downgrading dozens or scores of databases, then for sure there will be features not available on the low cost edition. Migration takes time. DBAs spent extra efforts on such migrations plus note the time they will spend on looking for workarounds for the not supported features. And I am talking big time.

And how about the practical issues: backups cannot be taken any more in parallel, Grid Control packs are not supported?

Bottom line: will the efforts spent be really worth the savings? Will there be savings? How about the work and improvements DBA could have done instead?

2. Cost savings due to taking into use Oracle Advanced Compression:

The Oracle Advanced Compression option contains the following features:

• Data Guard Network Compression
• Data Pump Compression
• Fast RMAN Compression
• OLTP Table Compression
• SecureFile Compression and Deduplication

Compression has clear benefits: reduced storage costs and improved performance. It drives storage utilization up, saves data center space, power, HVAC.

But in order to take advanced compression into use for say already existing tables in every database, one must dedicate resources and time. Lots of both. And buy the licenses of course.

Bottom line: will the efforts spent be really worth the savings? Will there be savings? How about the work and improvements DBA could have done instead?

Are you a DBA looped into the efficiency schema of corporate cost savings? May be it is for good and all is well planned and organized? See, experts are predicting that the average data growth in an organization over the next five years will reach 570%. Five Seventy? Sounds solid, right?

But how can you have triumph over temptation?


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