Are you solution blinkered? Moving from Oracle Database to DB2 may be smarter and easier than you think
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  capabilities capability database information-insights blinkered ibm db2 software oracle simonds solution life performance conor wes tco reliance insurance pl/sql o'mahony diary
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One of the first things you learn working in IT is how difficult it is to get people to switch from one vendor or IT solution to another. Perhaps you start a new job, at a new company, where they're struggling with a technical problem you've solved in the past. Does your new employer want your opinion on the problem?
Here's another example. In December 2000, I published an essay on Salon.com suggesting that Apple should pursue a specific, technically complex strategy -- a strategy which was perceived as crazy at that time -- in order to rescue itself from market oblivion and become far more successful.
Six years later, Apple pursued the same crazy strategy I had suggested.
Why did it take six years? Because, although my ideas were correct, and although Apple is known for innovation, decision makers inside the company were skeptical of creative possibilities, and wary of the risks that can come from change.
Most organizations are like that. Often, there is simply no good reason for IT to carry on with a problematic status quo, and every reason for IT to pursue something else that looks a great deal more promising.
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I ran into the same issue recently discussing enterprise database solutions with Conor O'Mahony, Program Director for Database Software with IBM Software Group.
In this area -- enterprise-class databases – while IBM led the way on mainframe systems, Oracle was one of the first organizations to bring a solution to market on distributed systems. Since then, Oracle has continued to lead the database market on distributed systems. But how much of that leadership is due to Oracle's early mover advantage, and how much is due to its actual capabilities, value proposition and competitive strength?
That seems to me to be a very open question. It has repeatedly been my personal experience, as a former IT guy, that Oracle Database is about as well known for high costs as high performance. And if the Oracle Database performance has declined relative to competition, their costs have not.
That's a real problem, given how deeply rooted database software tends to be in enterprise IT infrastructures, and the staggering impact they have on both IT service levels and IT budgets.
O'Mahony sees things in much the same way. ‘If IT organizations are looking to identify ways to meet their 'do more with less' mandate, reclaiming some of the IT budget set aside for data management has to be on their radar,’ he said. ‘Data management costs are often a sizeable chunk of an IT budget; and recent advances in database migration technology are allowing them to significantly reduce those data management costs.’
But while competitive options may be superior, organizations often remain blind to those options (i.e., they're solution-blinkered). They have the false idea that switching from one database to another will cost too much, take too long and ultimately create too much risk.
According to O'Mahony, they couldn't be more wrong -- particularly when it comes to the specific case of Oracle Database vs. IBM's own DB2 database solution. Why? Partly because IBM has made it so easy for them to switch.
‘Since 2009, DB2 has been adding language-compatibity features,’ he said. ‘Specifically, DB2 directly supports the most popular aspects of Oracle's PL/SQL language. That means applications written in Oracle’s PL/SQL will run natively in DB2 as well -- typically requiring changes of only 2 percent of the code. It also means that even after a migration has finished, organizations can continue to program in PL/SQL if they want. So any programming talent they've hired in that area can carry on programming just like before.’
How does that magic happen? It seems that DB2's capabilities in this area don't stem from any type of emulation (which often runs into compatibility and performance issues).
Instead, they stem from a compatibility layer that really does deliver native performance. Calls made in PL/SQL continue to work just as they did before; they just don't need Oracle technology to do it.
So, to put it simply, you can just pack up your data and applications, move them from Oracle Database to DB2 and they'll run as fast as they did before -- or faster.
Lower bills. Higher performance. The end.
And if you do hop from Oracle Database to DB2, don't be surprised when your operational costs fall like a cow dropped from a helicopter.
This is because Oracle Database is, by any reasonable standard, a pricey solution to support over time -- one that typically requires ongoing ‘help’ from Oracle and thus generates excessive annual fees. O'Mahony suggests that this is an area where organizations can really see major positive change right away.
‘Instead of spending lots of money on expensive Oracle support and maintenance contracts, more and more organizations are discovering that DB2 is a comparable product that offers far better value when it comes to costs, performance, storage optimization, and staffing levels,’ he said. ‘In fact, some organizations are using this tactic to lower their data management costs by as much as 50 percent, and reclaiming this valuable IT budget for new high-impact initiatives.’
Spend less. Get more. That sounds like the kind of smarter solution organizations always say they want, yet are sometimes oddly reluctant to pursue.
And that's really too bad, because more forward-looking organizations that have already made this leap are already raking in the business benefits: higher performance, lower costs, and all via a nearly painless migration process that often takes next to no time.
‘Gone are the days of high-risk IT projects that often missed deadlines and overran budgets,’ said O'Mahony. ‘Organizations are now migrating from Oracle Database to DB2 in literally days. For instance, one of the world's largest banks recently moved a core application from Oracle Database to DB2 in just two days. It was able to do this because 99.5 percent of its Oracle PL/SQL code was supported by DB2 out-of-the-box. And this two-day period included data movement, all code modifications, testing and performance tuning. Such short and low-risk database migrations are literally redefining many organizations' tolerance for database migrations.’
Would you like another example? Ponder the experience of Reliance Life Insurance, one of India's largest insurers and the third-largest private company in India across all industries.
Reliance wasn't satisfied with the performance it was getting from its legacy Oracle infrastructure. Specifically, it took 36-40 hours to process OLTP (online transaction processing) data. This, in turn, meant that the company faced an unacceptable time lag; they needed key information to be accurate and accessible in real time, but the Oracle infrastructure simply couldn't deliver that. And Reliance had no confidence in that changing any time soon.
For these reasons, Reliance migrated to an IBM solution: DB2 running on IBM Power Systems.
The results? They're now getting the real-time insight they require, because the lag of 36-40 hours they had been getting from Oracle Database has dropped to less than 30 minutes. Customer service is much better informed; customer satisfaction has climbed; and so has application uptime -- 95 percent with IBM vs. only 80 percent with the previous Oracle Database infrastructure. Scalability has also improved dramatically, from 3,000 simultaneous users to 12,000.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that all of these benefits come packaged with far lower ongoing costs. To wit: about 50 percent less total cost of ownership for DB2 running on IBM Power Systems compared to Oracle Database running on Oracle-owned Sun systems.
So let's sum up the case for DB2 over Oracle Database:
1. Pain-free migration. DB2 directly supports Oracle Database applications and Oracle's language -- up to 98 percent direct compatibility. 1
2. Superior performance. If you migrate to IBM Power Systems as well as to DB2, you will get a substantial hike in service levels -- in a typical case, as much as three times faster execution. 2
3. Lower costs over time. While Reliance experienced an impressive 50 percent drop in TCO, IBM studies suggest many organizations can expect even better -- often, about a 60 percent drop. 3
Tell me: Is your organization solution-blinkered?
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About the author
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
1. “Based on internal tests and reported client experience from 28 Sep 2011 to 07 Mar 2012” and also at: The facts really matter .
2. The facts really matter
3. The facts really matter