CATEGORY: Database Performance & Systems Management

REVIEWER: Paul Ruais, lead database administrator for Boston University.

BACKGROUND: Boston University (BU) is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 students in its 17 schools and colleges. The University offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, engineering and professional areas, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

PLATFORMS: BMC Software's Change Manager solution is deployed on several RS6000 AIX servers running IBM's DB2 UDB management product.

PROBLEM SOLVED: BU needed a change management tool that would allow us to leverage our machine and human resources when managing the growing list of DB2 applications and objects. We needed a product that would increase DBA productivity by automating migrations across environments. This needed to be accomplished while ensuring high data availability and minimizing system outages. It was also essential that the solution meet our database management needs while integrating with our existing data center's unattended operating requirements.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BMC Software's Change Manager is used to analyze the impact of changes to existing systems as well as for migrating new DB2 objects into our development, test and production environments. Its schema and data migration feature is also used to copy data for testing and diagnostic purposes for our development and production support staffs.

STRENGTHS: Ease of use is certainly one of Change Manager's strongest features. The day-to-day DBA support responsibilities of analyzing, synchronizing, and migrating objects and their dependencies are accomplished in minutes using the client-side analysis and scheduling tool. What once was a manual effort and took hours to accomplish is now done in just minutes. With a few clicks of the mouse, the DBA is able to reliably and efficiently assess the impact of migrating changes to an object from one environment to another. Not only is the impact analysis simplified, but the object's migration is accomplished just as easily. The same efficiencies apply to migrating new objects. In all of these cases, being able to dynamically apply changes to the objects' attributes during migration is an essential benefit of Change Manager.

WEAKNESSES: One of the major weaknesses of the product is in the GUI's inability to allow objects to be dragged and dropped from one environment into another. However, this forces adherence to best practices by not allowing "quick-and-dirty" processes to be executed without analysis.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In addition to the productivity gains for our staff, BU purchased the product because of its command-line operations capabilities. The command-line scheduling control feature of Change Manager enables jobs to be held, released or restarted based on external events – a DBA does not have to be at a terminal "pushing buttons" to make things happen. Integration with our other management processes and scripts allows the DBA to execute, monitor and respond to change management events automatically.

DELIVERABLES: We use the PATROL Database Change Manager Job Notification feature to monitor the success or failure of our scheduled jobs. The level of detail in the message is sufficient for problem diagnostics. We tailor the list of recipients based on the maintenance type and request. This feature relieves the DBA of routine notification tasks when maintenance is successful. We have also integrated the product into our problem notification techniques, which pages the on-call DBA when problems arise.

VENDOR SUPPORT: BMC was extremely helpful during the product's implementation phase. They set up a Web demonstration and conference call with their support technicians to walk us through the installation process before we attempted to install it. Once we completed the install, BMC's support helped us get up and running quickly by resolving one minor "user" installation problem in a single call. BU can be a demanding user at times, and BMC has been with us every step along the way. In addition to the outstanding technical support, our sales support representative has quickly become a partner in our database administration solutions.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is written with the novice in mind. It also allows the experienced user to quickly find help with infrequently used procedures. Different "scenarios" step the user through all the typical DBA support functions. It is a very easy to use guide, and we were up to speed in no time at all. I particularly liked the workflow outlines presented before each of the "scenarios." They break down the tasks visually, making it very easy to get a sense of what needs to be done to accomplish a particular task.

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