The 'Sweet Spot' for Database Appliances

Arthur Cole

Arthur Cole spoke with Matthew Zito, chief scientist, GridApp Systems.


Cole: Appliance-based solutions continue to gain ground in the enterprise. What would you say are the key elements in network architectural design to gain the most benefit from appliances?
Zito: From our perspective, looking at the database space, it is critical to have a well-designed, highly redundant network. Typically, this means having failover for critical components, a well-documented network plan, and a deep understanding of how the network itself works. As part of our deployments, we often end up spending a fair bit of time helping customers understand the right place in their network to host a database appliance. The better documented and designed the network is, the easier it is for us to assist the customer.

The other big architectural area is storage design, and that's an even more complicated infrastructure as there's not the same communal body of knowledge surrounding storage as networking. That is, there's a decent-sized pool of folks out there who understand at least how to design and manage an IP network, and there's a ton of literature on the subject. In the storage field, it is extremely difficult to find folks with a comparable level of knowledge, primarily because the vendors all do things differently. This means we have to invest a lot of effort educating customers as to how to optimally use their storage in the database space, and the various options surrounding it. This is something we do as a matter of course, due to the whole nature of the appliance, but those two areas are critical.


Cole: What are some of the considerations in deciding when and how to deploy database appliances?
Zito: Well, it's fundamentally about what you want to get out of your database environment. If you're a huge bank with thousands of databases, as nice as the idea of a database appliance is, the environment will be just too complex to leverage a turnkey solution like a database appliance. On the flip side, if you're a small business with one database that runs under someone's desk, the appliance is probably overkill. The sweet spot is an organization that depends on having its database up and available, that has performance needs for their database, and expects to grow its businesses (and databases, by extension), but doesn't want or have the expertise to build the database infrastructure a bank has.

The goal of a database appliance like the D2500 is to give these companies the high-end infrastructure, availability, and on-demand scalability of expensive database systems, without the cost or complexity. We leverage commodity and industry-standard components - Oracle, Linux, IBM servers - and tie it all together with our Clarity management software to make the environment simple to manage. Customers get a best-of-breed, highly tested platform, while the GridApp Clarity software takes care of the management of the whole package. The solution can be rolled out in a day, vs. months of architecture, testing and planning.


Cole: What are the main benefits that users will see with the enhanced D2500 appliance?
Zito: This release is about flexibility, scalability and extensibility. From a flexibility perspective, we've broadened and improved the storage management capabilities of the D2500 - added support for new storage types like Oracle's OCFS2 clustered file system and a centralized storage management GUI. Scalability is improved by our supporting 64-bit architectures for the database. 64-bit is critical for supporting higher-throughput databases and larger environments. Even if a customer doesn't need 64-bit support yet, adding it to the appliance means that the customer is future-proofed as their business grows and they need the enhanced power of 64-bit systems. Lastly, we've added support for SNMP alerting in the software. While each component of the D2500 can be separately monitored by SNMP, our customers were asking for the ability to tie it all together by offering SNMP support. Adding that has allowed us to more effectively integrate with different third-party monitoring and management systems.

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