Rowboats, Sailboats And The Future of Database Management

Every complex process has something called a “limiting reagent.” It’s the ingredient whose supply determines how fast and how effectively the process can work. Or, put another way, it’s the ingredient you don’t have enough of to maximize the value of whatever you’re doing.

If you’re trying to heat your house, the limiting reagent is your gas supply or the output capacity of your furnace. If you’re trying to upload Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from the Internet, the limiting reagent is the bandwidth of your network connection or the speed of your modem.

If you’re rowing a boat, it’s the number of rowers you’ve got to work with.

In the IT world, companies in virtually every industry are finding that often their limiting reagent is the availability of skilled technology staff.

A recent survey by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) reported that managers at U.S. companies created a demand for 1.6 million IT workers in 2000. But, managers expect that about half of those positions will be left unfilled in 2001 because of a lack of qualified candidates. In a total U.S. IT workforce of 10 million, that shortfall means one job in every dozen will be vacant
At the same time, according to the Meta Group, operational corporate data is expected to grow 30-fold in the next 10 years, a cumulative annual growth rate of about 46 percent. But while the sheer volume of data continues to grow exponentially every year, the supply of IT professionals is not keeping pace.

Nowhere is the IT workforce problem more acute than in the discipline of database administration, since databases function as the heart for today’s most popular applications.

Approximately 100% of ERP, 93% of supply chain, and 71% of e-commerce applications use a relational database management system (RDBMS). However, approximately 48 percent of the total demand for database administrators (DBAs) will go unmet in the year 2001 due to a lack of skilled applicants. In addition, more than 26,000 new DBA positions will be created annually through the year 2006 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There simply aren’t enough DBAs to go around . . . and that supply to demand gap is going to get bigger in coming years.

A Solution: MSP Outsourcing

Fortunately, companies are able to select an option to sidestep the detrimental consequences of the IT labor shortage. Thanks to the advent of companies that deliver IT infrastructure management services to multiple customers remotely over a network, organizations can escape some of the spiraling difficulty associated with finding and keeping the right DBA talent. In the latest addition to the alphabet soup of IT acronyms, this new breed of companies are known as Management Service Providers or MSPs.

An average DBA salary in the IT industry is $84,000, which translates into a total cost of $150,000 to $160,000 to employers. This figure nearly triples when companies lose employees and must conduct the process of hiring and training new staff. With estimates of the IT turnover rate at 8 to 17 percent per year, the impact on the bottom line is significant.

So today, we have an environment where individuals move frequently outside of organizations altogether, chasing bigger salaries, or “up the organization” where their skills can be applied more strategically.

But, of course, “up the organization” is not a bad place for talent to go, provided there’s some way to do the important jobs that talent is leaving behind. If you can’t find enough rowers to move your boat forward, get yourself a sailboat, turn your rowers into sailors and you can fully outfit a lot more boats with the same number of people.

That’s essentially what those of us who sell MSP services do for IT organizations. We turn them from oar-powered boats to sail-powered boats. The MSP model eliminates the need for companies and individuals to buy, maintain or upgrade IT infrastructure management systems, which typically require a major capital expense, highly technical expertise, and a considerable investment of time.

How Much Does Not Rowing Cost?

To illustrate the bottom-line impact of a DBA workforce that’s stretched too thin, consider the issue of database downtime.

Historically, unplanned outages have accounted for most of application downtime. However, with the improvement of operating systems and hardware, today unplanned outages make up only 30 percent of downtime. Planned downtime accounts for approximately 70 percent of system outages.

According to recent figures from The Standish Group, the average cost of planned downtime for ERP, supply chain and e-commerce applications is in the neighborhood of $7,500 per minute. Unplanned outages obviously cost more since they occur unexpectedly, often during peak times forcing companies to plan for recovery and implement proactive strategies to avoid it.

So the net costs of not rowing the boat, either by choice or by accident, adds up very fast.

As organizations wake up to the value of the MSP model, the use of MSPs to perform systems management functions continues to grow rapidly. The expansion of e-business operational requirements and initiatives is expected to result in most Global 2000 companies engaging at least one MSP by 2001-02. In addition, due to the growing need for IT resources and the cost savings offered by MSPs, the revenue for the current $100 million MSP market is expected to exceed $10 billion by the year 2004.

Today’s organizations face the challenge of keeping their business-critical systems moving forward (sailing), while their DBA staff is constantly being pulled away from strategic projects to resolve crisis situations, or to perform routine database maintenance activities (rowing).

By integrating a large team of certified DBAs with the latest in technology and monitoring tools, MSPs can provide service assurance for business-critical database operations by delivering a total package solution for today’s database administration dilemma. The result shifts the burden of daily database administration functions from existing staff members, and frees up their time to focus on new development and strategic projects.

Services typically include monitoring of the production environment and notification of potential problems. Combining technical expertise with operational intelligence, a more sophisticated MSP methodology to systems management and database administration goes far beyond the traditional “monitoring and reporting” approach. It also includes database restoration, recovery, maintenance, corrective action, and proactive tuning.

The result is technology reliability, improved operational intelligence, and higher staffing efficiency.

With a strong MSP partner, your organization gets true 24×365 support and ensures that there are no gaps in the management of business-critical databases. Benefits include:

- Staffing and recruiting efficiency, eliminating the revolving door of hiring, training, and retaining

- Immediate cost savings, reducing costs by outsourcing daily database administration functions vs. trying to hire, train, and retain full-time contractors or employees

- Optimal staff utilization for strategic projects, maximizing the value of in-house DBA professionals by placing them on more pressing and strategic development projects that fuel future growth

- Employee satisfaction, removing the day-to-day maintenance and on-call responsibilities from existing DBAs, who are now free to work on challenging new projects and relax when away from the office

In an IT environment that is stretched too thin already and getting thinner, the ability to eliminate worry from the equation is what MSPs are uniquely equipped to do.

Happy sailing.

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