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Dean Health Plan Stays Healthy with Embarcadero DBArtisan 8.0

  • September 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

CATEGORY: Data administration, management, modeling and database performance.

REVIEWER: George Carpenter, database administrator for Dean Health Plan.

BACKGROUND: Dean Health Plan was created in 1983 as the managed care partner of the Dean Health System. Today, Dean Health Plan is one of the largest and most diversified HMOs in the Midwest. Its network includes nearly 1,000 physicians, more than 50 clinic sites, 27 hospitals and 200 pharmacies in its 22-county service area, plus a 24-hour Dean On Call nurse line. Dean Health Plan earned an Excellent Accreditation status from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for its commercial HMO product, the highest accreditation available for managed care plans nationwide.

PLATFORMS: Windows XP and AIX.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At Dean Health Plan, we have more than 50 databases across three platforms - Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Sybase - and two DBAs to manage them. We needed a way to efficiently handle day-to-day maintenance for multiple databases across multiple platforms. Having one tool to manage all of our databases so that we are not spending hours trying to accomplish something simple gives us the time we need to meet our more strategic objectives. This is by far the biggest benefit of Embarcadero DBArtisan.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DBArtisan's consistency across database platforms gives us everything we need to get our job done efficiently. We take advantage of a number of the DBArtisan features, including the Object Migration facilities, Database Monitor and the ISQL Editor. DBArtisan makes it easy to migrate databases and database objects across multiple platforms using the Migration facilities. For ensuring the overall health of our databases, the Database Monitor provides a good overview - what's running, what the locks are, etc. - so that we can immediately spot trouble and take corrective action. The ISQL Editor eliminates the need to bring up a separate program by offering a command-line interface to the database. It also offers many editing features and visual cues that make writing SQL easier. The ISQL Editor also gives us the ability to save query results in multiple formats (Excel, HTML, formatted text), which is not something you can do with the native tools such as SQL*Plus or Sybase/Microsoft ISQL. DBArtisan version 8.0 has a refreshing new Windows XP style look and feel. Basically, DBArtisan provides us with a rich and easy-to-use feature set that helps us do our job better and faster.

STRENGTHS: Without a doubt, the overall strength of DBArtisan is consistency across database platforms that we have yet to see in competitive products. These products are generally stuck in different niches, catering to SQL Server, Oracle or Sybase. We have a limited head count, a large number of databases spanning multiple platforms and a great deal of work to support. DBArtisan's single console and robust feature set are the reasons we have continued to use DBArtisan for more than five years.

WEAKNESSES: One difficulty we have had is keeping the environment synchronized with DBArtisan and the three different database platforms involved. Given the frequent updates from database vendors, it sometimes might be a couple of months before a new version of DBArtisan is working 100% with the new features found in the latest and greatest release of a database.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected DBArtisan because of its consistency across platforms, ease of use and rich feature set. When we were evaluating vendors, we were seeking a database administration tool that we could use to effectively manage a large database farm. DBArtisan offered us everything we needed.

DELIVERABLES: Our DBA team delivers on two fronts: 1) we do general system administration such as keeping our keeping our systems up and running, monitoring system health, identifying problems and solving them quickly, as well as day-to-day administration, and 2) we support the development teams at Dean by providing for object migration and query tuning. DBArtisan gives us the features and functionality we need to consistently deliver on both objectives.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We continue to see many quality enhancements in each release of DBArtisan. The product keeps pace with database vendor updates, which is necessary for us to meet our objectives. The phone and e-mail support is responsive.

DOCUMENTATION: The product documentation is not necessary in most cases with DBArtisan because the product is intuitive and easy to use. When we have had occasion to use the documentation, we've found it to be hit or miss - half the time we find the answer we're seeking and other times we need to go to the database documentation for answers.

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