REVIEWER: Hector Villarreal, corporate DBA for Ofoto.
BACKGROUND: Ofoto, a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak Company, is an online photography service whose core mission is to provide top-quality silver halide prints for digital and film camera users. The Web site gives photographers a new and easier way to store and share their pictures. Once online, these photos can be easily edited, cropped or enhanced with borders and special effects by using Ofoto's free online tools.
PLATFORMS: The product is being used on Sun Solaris.
PROBLEM SOLVED: The number of online subscribers is growing at a rapid pace, and new applications are frequently being developed, which significantly impacts database performance. SmartDBA Performance Monitoring for Sybase helps Ofoto be proactive in catching new codes that go in and contribute to slowing the database. We also use it to report problems that might occur during regular business hours and to predict when we should start tuning the database to prevent downtime.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BMC's DBXray is perfect because it is very graphical, allowing users that are not DBAs to monitor and report problems. It also allows DBAs to go in and quickly see where problems are occurring without running a lot of scripts. DBA Patrol is also important because it reports problems and provides the ability to run a script automatically, which would normally have to be done manually, and try to self-repair. It helps engineers when it reports problems with their SQL by sending them recommendations about better ways to code SQL, thus becoming a tutorial for developers who are not DBAs. The ability to provide recommendations is a powerful option, especially here in the development group.
STRENGTHS: The main benefit is less downtime. There is less time spent wondering what happened because BMC Software's reports provide that information. When users receive a report of a problem, they can address it right away. The product is also more automated and requires less manual intervention to solve and report problems.
WEAKNESSES: The main weakness is probably during the initial set up in trying to figure out how to make Patrol work so that it fires off a script. There are many details required to figure out how to use this to fire off at a given time and run this particular script.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Ofoto also looked at Spotlight by Quest, which is similar to DBXray. We selected BMC Software because of cost. Additionally, Spotlight had less functionality. DBXray was more informational, and Quest's product requires superior expertise - you have to go into it already knowing what you're doing. On the other hand, with SmartDBA, someone who is not an expert can get an idea of what's going on and be able to describe what he or she is seeing, and report the problem clearly to a DBA.
DELIVERABLES: In the case of DBA Patrol, we get many reports that we like to use, which we archive to help identify trend information. The main benefit of DBXray is the graphical interface that provides a snapshot of the database environment. This gives us a graphical representation of what it was reporting at that time.
VENDOR SUPPORT: BMC Software's support has been good. They invited us to attend the conference to get a general overview of what the product can do, and then followed up with developers to get more information about implementation and user situations. One of the best things is that BMC Software strives for a long-term relationship. BMC Software is in it for the long haul. That's what we need for our kind of business because we're developing and growing at a very fast pace.
DOCUMENTATION: Seventy-five percent of the documentation is mostly straightforward, but there's always that 25 percent where we do need to follow up with customer support. I would say the documentation is relatively easy to follow, for the most part. We were able to install it in all of our machines and devise a somewhat general way of doing it fairly quickly just by reading the first 10 pages of the manual. Because you usually have to go through all of the manual, I'd say BMC Software's documentation overall is pretty good.
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