Effectively utilizing an offshore Remote DBA team ...


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Effectively utilizing an offshore Remote DBA team ...

  1. 1. A Wissen White Paper Effectively utilizing an offshore Remote DBA team augmentation strategy to increase productivity and reduce costs
  2. 2. Introduction Increasing the mileage for a company’s financial resources is a prime concern for all IT executives. With IT budgets being cut and database technologies constantly evolving and becoming increasingly complex, IT / DBA managers have been forced to do more with less. The typical result of such a scenario has been an increase in workload and an inevitable strain on IT staff and resources. More than ever, it is imperative that no stone be left unturned which can directly or indirectly increase efficiency in a cost effective manner. Remote Database Administration is one strategy that a growing number of organizations have implemented to improve coverage and lower costs. The following paper will introduce the concepts involved with remote database support and specifically how Wissen’s approach to Remote Database Administration leveraging a mature on-site / offshore model offers a unique and innovative value proposition to dynamic organizations looking to cost effectively augment the existing DBA team. A Closer Look at Database Administration The safe and effective handling of corporate data is vital to the survival of any organization. Many critical functions of a company are dependent on the accessibility and reliability of data. While business strategists assume the responsibility of filtering out the kind of information to serve business interests and drive the business process, IT professionals must ensure that this information reaches the personnel concerned at a time and place and in a format of choice. Despite growing complexities, the databases must remain stable regardless of the resources available to support them. The ultimate responsibility of ensuring the stability of the databases falls on the DBA, or Database Administrator. As seen in the table below (Mullins, Database Administration: The Complete Guide to Practices and Procedures, 2002) based on organization size and setup, the DBA can be responsible for many tasks. The broad spectrum of responsibilities given to a DBA directly translates into a broad spectrum of tasks. 2
  3. 3. The Challenges The Reactive DBA Team On a daily basis, a DBA is often pulled in different directions including daily maintenance, monitoring, and implementation of strategic projects. The nature of a DBAs day-to-day activity is such that the workload is often unstable and becomes difficult to plan and execute. Monitoring performance, performing upgrades, validating backups and recoveries, applying patches, checking alert logs, and tuning are just a subset of activities that a DBA may encounter on a daily basis. The workload is often compounded by the fact that DBAs must also respond to requests and problems from application developers, system administrators (SA), as well as end users. Often, this inconsistency manifests itself into a reactive cycle in which a DBA team must compromise on strategic initiatives in order to handle emergencies. As databases continue to grow in size and complexity, this reactive cycle becomes a way of life. A DBA team forced to operate beyond the bandwidth capacity may avoid strategic plans such as performance tuning, capacity planning, physical architecture, data modeling and data recovery planning. Ultimately, non-core functions such as these take focus away from core competencies and drastically slow the growth of the organization. In certain cases, this volatility can cause DBAs to be overburdened and the constant stress may result in turnover. Cost reduction coincides with increased DBMS complexity In recent years, in order to survive and compete in a difficult economy, many IT organizations have been forced to minimize costs without compromising productivity. When workload increases or a new project is being executed, the traditional option of hiring more full-time DBAs or contractors is seemingly becoming an expensive proposition. Looking at the future of database administration, it is apparent that databases will undoubtedly grow in both size and complexity. Vendors consistently release new DBMS versions that add new features and functions that further complicate data management. Increased complexity, coinciding with pressure to reduce costs has become a double-edged phenomenon that organizations have been forced to contend with. Web based applications are becoming increasingly prevalent and driving an influx of data and an increase in the size of production databases. Round the clock support is gradually becoming an expectation by many companies. These challenges and the risks they pose have fueled a market demand for alternatives. The Traditional Alternatives The traditional alternatives that have been available for a number of years are to increase the full- time DBA staff, or temporarily utilize consultants/contractors. The corresponding advantages and disadvantages to these methods are outlined in the following charts. 3
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  5. 5. Remote Database Administration Solution What is Remote Database Support? A Remote Database support service provides all the functions of a full-time DBA including monitoring, maintenance, backup and recovery, and performance tuning. These are done via a secure Internet (VPN) connection. The Remote Database consists of a central operations center and a DBA team both of which are shared in order to support multiple clients on a 24x7 basis. The Outsource vs. Offshore Factor: Myth and Reality Where does database administration fall in the ever-growing dialogue of outsourcing and offshore potential? Because of the criticality of corporate data, it is essential for organizations to carefully assess and understand the nature of a remote database support relationship. Both the advantages and limitations must be clearly defined. The table below (www.cio.com, 2004) illustrates the subset of IT functionality that can effectively be outsourced as well as sent offshore. As outsourcing and offshore support has matured in the past decade, the areas of IT operations to consider outsourcing have also expanded. To fully understand the potential with respect to database administration, it is imperative to first understand the nature of tasks that consume a DBA’s time. 5
  6. 6. The graph below plots the common tasks involved with DB Administration with respect to time consumed, frequency of execution, and risk. Looking at the number of low-medium risk tasks in the upper right quadrant, it is apparent that a substantial amount of time spent by a DBA is focused on low-level repetitive production tasks such as monitoring, backups, patching, and troubleshooting. Considering a DBA is a competent and skilled individual, constant focus on mundane low-level tasks such as these is detrimental not only from an investment perspective, but also hinders the ability of a DBA to learn new and emerging trends and maintain a high interest level. This is one of the primary reasons that DBAs have an unusually high turnover rate as opposed to other IT professionals. By offloading such tasks, a DBA can invest time and interest in initiatives that plan for the future and, in turn, directly increase corporate value. Thus, the key to a successful remote DB support model lies in pinpointing and offloading the subset of tasks that force attention away from core competencies. This concept has become known as selective outsourcing. 6
  7. 7. Selective Outsourcing: The Key to a Successful Remote Support Model Unlike other processes that can fully be outsourced and handled by an outside vendor, database administration is different in several ways. Because of the heterogeneous nature of the systems and the uniqueness to each organization, it is difficult to fully outsource the DBA function. Selective outsourcing entails resolving specific DB issues based on the vendor's expertise rather than trying to solve all the problems. The table below (Yu, www.sqlwizard.com, 2004) is a summary of a Forrester Research study done in the fourth quarter of 2003. As the table suggests, regardless of the uniqueness of the organization, there is a substantial portion of DB activities that can selectively be outsourced without any considerable risk and without relinquishing control of the infrastructure. It is evaluating these and researching an appropriate vendor that will dramatically improve productivity and lower costs. 7
  8. 8. The Real ROI: Growing with the Extended Team Similar to an in-house DBA, the extended team grows with the client’s internal DBA team. As the comfort level grows, and processes are clearly defined and executed, the nature of work offloaded will evolve accordingly. Thus, initial exposure to routine mechanical work will allow the extended team to have a clear understanding of the client’s databases. A constant knowledge transfer is ensured via a shared knowledge base for both the internal and the extended team. Consequently, based on the performance and execution of routine low-level tasks, the in-house team will gain the experience to offload a greater subset of the database activities. Thus, the true ROI of selective remote db support model occurs as the extended team fully handles any activities that distract from the core competencies of the internal DBA team. Ensuring a Seamless Integration: Keys Points to Consider As with any concept that deviates from the traditional solutions, there are a number of factors to consider in understanding the potential fit for an organizations needs. By carefully examining the potential, taking into consideration the challenges and benefits, the viability of remote support can be accurately determined. Operational Philosophy Database administration is a discipline in which the control factor has been solidified based on existing industry methodologies. Because of the heterogeneous nature of databases in each organization, many DBA teams are accustomed to managing all aspects of DB administration. As shown in the previous sections and tables, these tasks vary in time consumption, frequency, and expertise required. Understanding the benefit of a selective remote DB support model entails assessing which tasks should be the core focus of a DBA team. This directly translates into realizing how a DBA team is spending its time. It is essential to understand that implementing a selective remote DB model does not require relinquishing control of the process. Installing a selective DB support model may allow a DBA team/manager to have an even higher degree of control with respect to future strategic initiatives. Essentially, as the relationship matures, the extended team should become an integral part of the existing DBA team. Clear Communication and Pre-defined Expectation The most important part of a successful remote DB support model is clear and effective communication. The criticality of a successful DBA team depends heavily on clear understanding of the needs of the company. The success of the relationship must be measured via clear performance metrics and remedies if there is any deviation from these metrics. All responsibilities should be detailed and documented. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should be mandatory and specify both the performance standards and the methods by which performance is measured. Culture Fit As with any other vendor relationship, a successful DB support model requires a mutual understanding of values, philosophies, and work ethic. All successful companies have a unique culture and code that is followed across the board. As such, any extension to the DBA team must make a concentrated effort to understand the values of the client. 8
  9. 9. Why Wissen? Given the fact that Database Administration is one of the fastest growing IT areas within companies across the U.S, choosing an effective strategy and vendor is crucial. Wissen differentiates itself from other remote DBA vendors in several ways. Pioneer in On-site/Off-shore DB Support Model By developing a model that strategically combines on-site experience with offshore resources, Wissen can bring the advantages of both approaches. With growing complexities in database administration and reduced budgets, the ROI of many on- shore vendors is seemingly inadequate especially when the tasks executed are of high frequency/time consumption and low risk. By fine-tuning a model using global resources, Wissen offers clients an attractive ROI and increased corporate value. Originally founded by a team of highly experienced DBAs working for major corporations in the U.S, Wissen has worked extensively in understanding the local and internal needs of clients. Consequently, unlike companies headquartered offshore, Wissen has developed a highly competitive edge in leveraging global resources to address the specific needs of its clients. This methodology also ensures that knowledge is transferred and retained on a consistent basis between the in-house DBA team and the Wissen team. Core Focus on 24x7 Database Administration The sole focus of Wissen is remote database support. Considering the importance of a reliable DBA team, Wissen has constantly worked to develop best practices and a mature operational model. Wissen has specialized specifically in the area of remote DB support for over five years assisting companies ensure database availability. By developing a mature model and by being in tune with the issues outlined in the previous section, Wissen is at the forefront of cost effective database support. Level of Experience and Training Wissen was founded in 1999 by a team of highly experienced DBAs working with major companies in the United States. Our Senior DBAs are all certified and have, on average, 8-10 years experience in the field of database management. Our DBAs are trained regularly in order to keep up with the changing needs of our clients. Having the support of the Wissen team has allowed our clients to proactively learn and implement new technologies. Consequently, this has allowed the knowledge to be acquired by the Wissen team. 9
  10. 10. Flexibility & Scalability Database administration is rarely a “one size fits all” scenario. In addition to convenient service plans, Wissen allows clients to customize the services of the extended team based on evolving business needs. If an in-house DBA is absent due to a vacation, illness, or other reasons, a member of the Wissen team dedicated to the account is brought on-site. Based on the unique needs of each organization, Wissen leverages its on-site and offshore resources to create a seamless remote extension to the existing DBA team. Service Level Agreements Wissen has standardized the use of SLAs as part of the service offering and is held accountable for the service quality via a contractual agreement. Based on the client’s needs, all aspects of the SLA can be discussed and formalized. For more information contact: Wissen Infotech, Inc. 14320 W. Greenfield Avenue Brookfield WI 53005 USA Phone: 414-510-3058 Email: info@wisseninfotech.com Web: www.wisseninfotech.com