REVIEWER: David Anderson, database administrator for the National Marrow Donor Program.

BACKGROUND: The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) is the international leader in the facilitation of unrelated marrow and blood stem cell transplantation. A non-profit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the NMDP facilitates unrelated marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients with life- threatening diseases who do not have matching donors in their families.

PLATFORMS: NMDP uses ProActive DBA with a Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) 11.9.2 database server running on a Sun Solaris 2.6 platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our task of preventative maintenance was becoming a full-time job. NMDP was looking for a way to target potential performance problems, and determine the cause of some current performance issues. In just a couple of hours, we had the product installed and were able to view several diagnostic reports that explained exactly where the "hot spots" were located and why we were experiencing sluggishness in certain areas.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use ProActive DBA to analyze our databases. We then review diagnostic reports that ProActive DBA generates to help us understand the performance issues that exist in our environment. The diagnostic reports are easy to understand and walk us through the process of tuning up our databases. The result was that our query and batch job response times improved. The increasing need for more disk space has become a non-issue due to the space that is reclaimed after executing one of the ProActive DBA database maintenance scripts. ProActive DBA provides graphical representations of our databases. This allows us to better understand performance and space utilization issues. The graphical representations also make it easy to determine the physical locations where each database object is stored, which will help us to span heavily used tables/indexes across multiple disk devices for better I/O load balancing.

STRENGTHS: ProActive DBA is highly graphical, with an intuitive user interface. The reports offer colorful renditions of bogged down areas where performance, if regularly maintained, could be augmented. ProActive DBA creates database maintenance scripts that can be scheduled on a recurring basis to automate NMDP's maintenance needs. The maintenance tasks are triggered based on customizable thresholds, reducing database downtime by performing maintenance only on database objects requiring it. Automating the script process saves several days of manual work plus extensive testing.

WEAKNESSES: ProActive DBA could be enhanced to allow for multiple reports to be selected for printing or to be transferred to HTML at any time. It would also be nice to be able to run analysis on multiple databases at one time.

SELECTION CRITERIA: NMDP selected ProActive DBA for its user interface simplicity with easy to understand diagnostic, historical and summary reports as well as ProActive DBA's ability to generate error-free maintenance scripts in a matter of minutes. ProActive DBA was able to analyze the database's storage structure, produce diagnostic reports on its fragmentation and space utilization problems, as well as completely defragment NMDP's databases and much more with just a few clicks of a mouse.

DELIVERABLES: The product has diagnostic, historical, summary, fragmentation, cache effectiveness, space usage and index distribution analysis reports (to name a few) and automatically generates maintenance scripts. All of these are displayed through a graphical user interface that allows for easy navigation. Reports are very easy to understand and designed to alert the user when routine maintenance is needed.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We had an excellent experience with White Sands' support staff and their product. Our technical questions were answered quickly and accurately via phone and e-mail. Their support staff also uses a system they call Lend-A-Hand that is used to provide live, remote, hands-on technical support. Once my authorization was accepted by ProActive DBA, White Sands's technical support engineer could initiate a Web-based, remote control session with my PC workstation. This is a valuable, time-saving tool for answering technical questions and providing online training.

DOCUMENTATION: The written documentation has a lot of valuable information including not only what ProActive DBA does, but also how the software is designed to expand and meet future demands. ProActive DBA is user-friendly, and the navigation of help functions provided with the user interface is simple.

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