Systems management has always been something of a black art for businesses. They start off with good intentions. You know the ones I'm talking about where, much the same way SouthWest Airlines flies only one kind of jet, businesses attempt to standardize all of their technology to make it more manageable. All desktops, notebooks and servers from one company. All application software from another. All networking gear from a third. It makes sense. But, hard as they may try, rarely does it happen that IT departments have end up with the luxury of such homogeneity. Whether it just happens naturally, or by way of M&A, Most database implementations rely on SQL code that's far from standard. what's more likely is that businesses end up with a variety of systems from a variety of manufacturers running a variety of operating systems and applications and before they know it, they've got IT personnel dedicated to the task of managing those systems -- provisioning them, installing and deinstalling software on them, patching them, upgrading them, etc. -- using a quiltwork of management tools from the hardware and software manufacturer that they've bought from over the years.
That heterogeneity resulted in more efficient cross-platform management tools that gave IT managers one place to turn instead of 10 to stay ahead of the systems management game. Companies like Rackspace who gave up on hardware to focus on cross-platform software come to mind, Altiris, OpsWare, and Computer Associates are others. But somewhere beyond managing a company's physical and application infrastructures is that pesky data: data that always comes home to roost somewhere. And that somewhere is typically a relational database management system -- another type of infrastructure where most businesses wish they had the luxury of standards. But for whatever reasons, they may not.
While the various database solution providers -- Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft, IBM, MySQL, etc. -- may each provide their own set of tools for managing their own databases (much the way application and physical infrastructure providers do), there isn't a bumper crop of cross-database management solution providers to make database management (provisioning, patching, etc.) in a heterogeneous database environment more efficient. The problem? Just as with the other infrastructures, few companies these days have the luxury of a homogeneous data environment. All it takes is one merger or acquisition to upset the homogeneous applecart. Even those companies that swore off the idea of multiple RDBMSes have found themselves backing down from that commitment because it's virtually impossible to port mission critical databases from one vendor's solution to the next. As it turns out, most database implementations rely on SQL code that's far from standard. So, what's a database administrator (DBA) to do when he has to spend an inordinate amount of his time (or hers) just worrying about the laborious task of keeping his company's entire, heterogeneous database infrastructure up to date and in tip top shape.
Enter GridApp. Derived from the name Grid Appliance (not grid application), GridApp's chief selling proposition is to reduce the amount of time it takes to do the laborious database management tasks like provisioning and patching that contribute little to competitive advantage, thereby releasing the DBAs time to focus on other more valuable activities such as data modeling. According to the company's chief scientist Matthew Zito [at left], GridApps solutions can easily pay for themselves in a year when you look at the amount of DBA "yoeman's" work it automates. In my podcast interview of him, we covered virtually ever nook and cranny of what GridApp does and the art of database server management. A few things I discovered are that the job of database administrator is actually a good job to get into these days (it's one of the few growing fields of IT) and, according to Zito, GridApp can collapse a clustered database deployment that norally takes days or weeks into minutes or hours.
My interview of Zito can be downloaded, played back using the streaming player at the top of this blog, or, if you're subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts, it'll be downloaded to your system or MP3 player automatically (see ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in).