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Third-party database tools boast attractive alternatives

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Weighing the use of third-party database administration tools

Database expert Chris Foot details the key reasons why DBAs should consider using third-party database administration to fill gaps left by the major database manufacturers.

Since the early days of IMS and Db2, third-party vendors have capitalized on the database administrator community's interest in aftermarket tool sets. Think of any DBA support activity, from installation to decommissioning, and you'll probably find a third-party vendor offering a product that performs those tasks.

In a highly competitive market arena, database management system (DBMS) vendors understand their products must offer tools that simplify, automate and improve the quality of administrative activities. They are aware that ease of administration is a key evaluation point when organizations compare their product with competitors' offerings. 

It's clear the database manufacturers will continue to improve the functionality of their database administration tools. Oracle's Autonomous Database is an excellent example of how important reducing administration costs and support complexity are to the DBMS vendors. 

Oracle, arguably the leading database manufacturer, said its Autonomous Database's self-driving capabilities reduce support costs, complexity and human error. But will the ever-increasing capabilities of the database manufacturer's database administration tools and automations reduce the DBA community's interest in third-party offerings?

Here's a breakdown of the potential benefits of going the third-party route.

Filling the functionality gap

Major third-party tool powerhouses, like Quest Software, Idera, CA Technologies, BMC and Redgate Software, as well as smaller providers, realize their success depends on their products offering unique features that the database manufacturers' tool sets do not inherently provide.

The manufacturers focus on providing database administration tool functionality that fulfills the support needs of the general DBA community. The third-party tool vendors understand that DBAs often require additional features and functionality to meet their unique support requirements. The vendors capitalize on these functionality gaps by incorporating those features into their products.

Quest's Toad is a good example of a third-party tool becoming popular by offering features that the manufacturers' tool sets don't provide. Although the major database manufacturers market competing products -- like Oracle's SQL Developer, for example -- Toad continues to perform well in the marketplace, thanks, in part, to unique features like a utPLSQL unit test creation module. The success of Toad illustrates how a third-party vendor can prosper by offering a strong product that is able to compete head-to-head with the DBMS manufacturers' tool sets.

Complement, not replace

A significant percentage of third-party offerings are designed to complement the database manufacturer's tool sets -- not replace them. The third-party database tool vendors' interest in providing additional and complementary functionality is demonstrated by the number of products they offer to the DBA community. Quest and Idera both offer two dozen individual database administration tools. SentryOne offers 16, and Redgate offers 20 products that focus solely on Microsoft SQL Server. 

A growing class of third-party tool providers is capitalizing on this DBMS proliferation by providing tools that are purposely designed to administer heterogeneous database targets.

When you visit the tool vendors' websites, you will commonly find checklists that compare their offerings' functionalities to competing products. The competing product listing will typically include the manufacturers' tools and other third-party offerings.

The community's interest in third-party tools becomes even stronger for open source, NoSQL and boutique relational DBMS products. The smaller DBMS vendors often provide very basic tool sets, which allows third-party vendors to easily enter the market. Third-party vendors identify the new opportunity and provide tools to fill the community's need for more substantial database administration tools. The success of these smaller DBMS platforms often depends on how popular their offering becomes with third-party product vendors.

Heterogeneous database administration

IT organizations realize not all of the data they need to store, process and present to their end users neatly fits into relational rows and columns. NoSQL, nonstructured data storage technologies allow IT shops to custom tailor a service that meets each application's unique requirements.

In addition to the traditional DBMS offerings from Oracle and Microsoft, supersized competitors like Amazon and Google now offer a wide range of database products to the IT consumer, including Amazon Relational Database Service and Cloud SQL. It's a rare occurrence to find an IT organization that supports a single DBMS platform these days.

A growing class of third-party tool providers is capitalizing on this DBMS proliferation by providing tools that are purposely designed to administer heterogeneous database targets.  Their value proposition focuses on providing a single console -- commonly referred to as a single pane of glass -- for multi-DBMS product administration to reduce administrative complexity and support times.

A few examples of heterogeneous DBMS tool vendors include Idera, Navicat, DBeaver and Nucleon Software. Nucleon said its product supports 40 different on-premises and cloud platforms, while DBeaver claimed it supports 50 different systems.

Evaluating third-party products

I highly recommend DBAs evaluate the third-party database administration tools market on a regular basis. Like any IT product evaluation, DBAs need to perform a thorough analysis of the competing offerings before, during and after deployment.

A weighted evaluation checklist helps to compare the different products to see if they're a worthwhile investment. Some questions to consider include the following: Does the cost of the product justify the additional functionality? Will the product save time or improve process quality?

Dig Deeper on Database management systems (DBMS)

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