Database virtualization helps TiVo speed up testing and development

New database virtualization technology is helping TiVo speed up and enhance the testing and development process. Is it a sign that attitudes toward database virtualization have changed?

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Digital video recorder pioneer TiVo Inc. is living proof that end user attitudes toward database virtualization have changed significantly – at least on the testing and development front.  

The Alviso, Calif.-based company – whose name is synonymous with the ability to record, rewind, play and pause television shows at will – earlier this year purchased and deployed the industry’s first database-focused virtualization software from a relative newcomer to the virtualization market, Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup Delphix Inc.

As a result, TiVo has been able to cut database-related testing and development times significantly while freeing up developers and IT staff for other projects, according to Richard Rothschild, TiVo’s senior director of IT facilities and security.

Rothschild’s one regret is that Delphix currently works only with Oracle database management systems (DBMS) and he’d very much like to expand the software’s capabilities to Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and IBM DB2.

Delphix officials point out, however, that they plan to roll out support for SQL Server and DB2 sometime around the middle of next year.

“I’d like to see it work on platforms other than Oracle because we have other database platforms and most companies have multiple database platforms,” Rothschild said.

Database virtualization attitude adjustments

In general, virtualization refers to the process of using software to “virtually” separate computing activity from the physical infrastructure on which the processing occurs. Virtualization increases flexibility and improves efficiency by allowing users to partition servers and allocate or reallocate computing resources based on the demands of a particular application or workload.

Virtualization first popped up on mainframes decades ago but has blown up in popularity in the last several years on x86-based server platforms. Today, many organizations use the technology for server, networking, storage and desktop virtualization. And virtualization may now be poised to conquer the database layer of the application stack.

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In the past, some companies were reluctant to run databases in virtual environments, but industry analysts say technological improvements driven by the likes of virtualization heavyweight VMware Inc. – and now Delphix – are signs that users have become more open to the idea of database virtualization.

“Some users were concerned about the I/O overhead of virtual machines, since databases tend to stress storage and network resources in addition to compute resources,” said Tony Iams, an operating systems analyst and virtualization expert with Ideas International in Port Chester, New York. “At this stage, though, all of the major hypervisors have ways to minimize any I/O overhead to the point at which it is acceptable for hosting most workloads, including database servers.”

Users also had concerns about whether database providers would support their products in a virtual machine, according to Iams. Officially, Oracle will provide support for non-Oracle virtualization software users only if they can prove that database problems are not related to the virtual machine. The database giant also says it will not support Oracle RAC on VMware under any circumstances.

“[Support] does not appear to be as much of an issue for users today,” Iams said.

Database virtualization helps TiVo take time out of testing

TiVo’s Rothschild first became aware of Delphix last spring and immediately saw an opportunity for the database virtualization technology to help his team deal with an SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. TiVo often had to make database copies in order to use the SAP ERP system for testing, training, QA and development.

“It’s called slate processing, and we literally would set aside three days to move data from production into one of the other environments,” he explained.

But Delphix, which was founded about two years ago by de-duplication expert Jedidiah Yueh of Avamar Technologies fame, gave TiVo the ability to create virtual databases in just a few minutes, Rothschild said.

“One thing it can do is it allows developers to get their own sandboxes, and they don’t have to necessarily timeshare a database with a bunch of other people,” he said. “Another way that it was really helpful was for disaster recovery. We can take databases and snap them to our DR facility and have whatever databases we need in our other facility.”

Rothschild said deploying the Delphix software required TiVo to first take a look at the size of its databases, key performance metrics in terms of I/O, and the amount of change that tends to take place within the databases.

“The amount that things change can determine how much space it needs and how much processing power it needs,” he explained.

The fact that TiVo runs Oracle Database 9i, an older version of Oracle’s flagship DBMS, presented some problems during the implementation. But Rothschild said Delphix worked with TiVo to come up with code tweaks, and the virtualization software is currently playing well with the older database software.

Delphix unveils new version of database virtualization server

Delphix this week announced the latest version of its flagship product, Delphix Server. Company officials say the release significantly reduces the time and effort associated with refreshing databases and database provisioning. The company says the database virtualization software also helps organizations reduce and consolidate storage resources.

Delphix is a gold certified Oracle-ISP partner and the company uses standard Oracle APIs. The company adds that Delphix Server appears as a storage target to Oracle Database.

“We are not like virtual machines that sit in between Oracle and the processors,” said Karthik Rau, Delphix’s vice president of products and marketing. “We appear like any other storage platform.”

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