Managers: Database 101
Managers and CEOs of companies which rely on databases for their
infrastructure, or build on them for their applications, no doubt
already have a handle on the basic “What is…” question.
In short, databases boil down to glorified filing cabinets, albeit
electronic ones which can hold miles of encyclopias worth of
information, and retrieve it in tiny fractions of a second.
More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Database
Behind the Scenes: How You Use it is Everything
We know that databases are put to an endless list of business
uses, from storing credit card billing statements & indexing
web content on the internet, to storing mountains of information
on customer spending habits from larger retailers. Running a
business, one naturally focuses on the business uses. But in
order to understand things at least a little bit under the hood
we’ll show how your technology people look at things.
Principally, there are two types of database uses. One is called
datawarehousing, and the other online transaction processing, which
we’ll call transactional for short. What divides them is dramatic.
A datawarehouse is composed mainly of large mountains of historical
data, which can be used to predict future outcomes, or answer other
big business questions. Huge reports are run against such databases
to show trends, or plot trajectories. How many of our customers
that live in Asia, buy books about technology, and when? How do
they normally pay? How many have joint accounts with family members?
A transactional database is one that runs a website, or other
application which makes frequent small requests of the database.
Such a database is characterized by lots of small requests or
You can think of the two types like readers of the news. The
datawarehouse is like the history researcher, that is going to comb
through old issues on microfilm, to put together a work of great length
on some past story. The transactional version is like the reader
going to work, who skims headlines, looking for important bits of
news, and leaves the newspaper on the subway where someone else picks
it up and scans it again.
Understanding which type of usage you are putting your database to
can help you focus your business and your technology choices
properly. It can also help your technology team tune your systems
for your specific usage. Mixing the two types of uses can have some
negative impacts easily avoided by dividing the work into separate
systems as appropriate.
Which are some of the popular variants?
Some of the popular databases in use today are obviously Oracle, Sybase
and DB2. These are the big commercial solutions. You might include
Microsoft’s SQL Server in the list, though it doesn’t really compete
in terms of real server technology performance and security. On the
other hand there are some dramatic open source solutions to choose
from as well, such as MySQL and Postgres.
What are the tradeoffs pro + con?
There are dramatic differences between the various database technologies
as you might guess. The first obvious one is price. Speed, and
supported platforms are factors too. Some less obvious factors behind
the scenes are the feature sets that each database supports. What
programming languages are supported, how big can tables and data grow
to, how are backups handled, how secure is the database, and how
difficult is maintenance? These are the types of questions which you
will need to ask to differentiate the various systems.
Is there a risk-free way to go?
A lot of companies have already made an investment in one technology
such as Oracle. Others have invested in Open Source solutions such
as Linux and MySQL and have built up the staff to handle that and
are wondering if the jump to Oracle would be difficult. On the
consulting side of the fence, most companies have partnerships and
experience with one particular technology and will try to lead you
in that direction.
Consider these factors when talking with and outsourcing, or
consulting company about database technologies. At Heavyweight
Internet Group we believe there is a right technology for each
business use, and we’ll help you understand those tradeoffs before
biting off more than you can chew.
Remember too that you can prototype with one database backend, and
switch later on as your needs grow if your application has been
written with those eventualities in mind. Furthermore you can
prototype and develop to a limited extent with Oracle without
purchasing a license. While you are doing development you are ok
after which time doing Q/A or obviously moving to production
would require a license purchase.
How do I know if I’m under or over-gunned?
An assesment of the current technology is the best way to figure
out where you stand on the database usage horizon. It involves
reviewing the underlying hardware, and Operating System, evaluating
the database technology, looking at the application, and how
well it is taking advantage of that database architecture, and
features, and seeing where the real bottlenecks lay.
Heavyweight Internet Group can help your business with database
technology assessments. With the right information, and options
at your fingertips, you can make more informed decisions saving
you time and money in the long run.
Your database is likely your single most sensitive technology,
housing your business crown jewels. Consequently just like the type
of car you choose can mean a lot in terms of expenses you will
incur, whether you can haul lumber, ferry your kids to school, or
drive the autobahn, so too what type of database technology you
favor can affect your business tremendously.
Look before you leap, choose the right guide, and you can grow
your business right — from the start.