Let’s Virtualize Everything! (Including Your Databases?)

After You've Virtualized The Servers, Why Not Virtualize The Databases Too?
After You

The next time that you are at one of those cocktail parties that they throw for up-and-coming IT staffers who will someday become the CIO (you go to those don’t you?), do me a favor and listen very closely. I suspect that you’ll overhear a number of pretentious CIO-wannabes throwing around the phrase “virtualization”. Don’t worry about these showoffs, I’ve got something bigger and better for you to throw out there: database virtualization.

Have You Caught Vitalization Fever?

Maybe it would be helpful if we took a step back for just a moment and had a quick look at the virtualization landscape. A few years back, IT departments were running into a real estate problem: too many servers, not enough data center room. Any technical problem calls out for a technical solution and this one was solved by a company called VMware.

What VMware (now owned by EMC) did was to create a piece of software that sat between the operating system and the computer hardware. This software allowed multiple (different) operating systems to run on a single server without impacting each other. Ta-da! All of a sudden a mail server and a web server which were on different boxes could now be on a single box. Problem solved!

All of this server virtualization success has led IT folks to start thinking about what else they could virtualize. Right now everyone is thinking about virtualizing the desktop — great for call centers and large enterprises where keeping everything patched and up-to-date is a full-time job for many. This hasn’t hit big time just yet; however, wait a bit and it just may take off.

What nobody is really talking about yet is what will probably be the next really big thing in virtualization: making your databases virtual.

What Is A Virtual Database?

In a nutshell, when you virtualize a database you take the rows and columns of data are currently living in one of your multiple databases and you allow them to be more fluid. They are no long bound to living on a given server, now they can reside almost anywhere.

Why would you even dream of tampering with your company’s crown jewels like this? It turns out that there are three main drivers for considering taking your databases virtual: easier management, higher availability, and better performance.

One key point here: if you are currently using DB2 or SQL Server or some mainstream database, you get to keep using it. Additional software is added to the back end so that you can use a shared-nothing cluster of commodity servers.

The way that we build database systems today is to create a single-purpose system that has an active and a passive side. In essence, we only use 50% of our investment. In a database virtualization deployment all database servers are active at the same time.

You might think that this would require you to purchase additional database licenses. It turns out that you’d be wrong. Database virtualization allows you to decouple the database from the data and from having the data reside on a specific server.

What All Of This Means For You

As CIO you will be under constant pressure to reduce your operating costs. One of the biggest drains on your budget will be supporting all of the databases that your firm uses. Industry reports say that many firms have upwards of 15,000 separate databases that they are using. Additionally, more than 30% of the data in these databases is duplicated because databases can’t talk to each other.

The arrival of database virtualization will provide you with an option. This option will allow you to boost your database performance, reduce your risk of an outage, and reduce your overall IT costs. Sure sounds like database virtualization is something that you should look into.

Two companies that are active in this space are: Xkoto and Xeround.

Do you think the benefits are great enough to risk virtualizing your company’s databases?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A quick quiz for you: what has been the #1 task on every CIO’s to-do list for the better part of the past 20 years? If you guessed “aligning IT with the rest of the business” then you are correct. This has been an IT goal for the past 20 years? What’s up with that? When you become CIO what are you going to do to solve this problem. Can it even be solved?