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6 Keys to Success with Hyperconverged Database Platforms


IT leaders in public sector agencies and higher education crave a simpler way to manage their high-availability databases. One path to simplicity is the hyperconverged database platform.

IT leaders in public sector agencies and higher education crave a simpler way to manage their high-availability databases. One path to simplicity is the hyperconverged database platform, which virtualizes compute, network and storage on a device fine-tuned to improve database performance.

Familiar examples of hyperconverged database platforms include the Exadata, which Oracle introduced in 2010, and its smaller cousin the Oracle Database Appliance, which arrived in 2011. These tools represent an evolution of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which uses software virtualization to give developers and IT leaders vast improvements in scale, speed and agility.

Hyperconvergence yields faster time-to-value and a firmer competitive footing in normal times. In extraordinary times like the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the landscape is much different. IT leaders know they can pivot quickly to implement new technologies. Now could be the right time to explore the potential of migrating to hyperconverged database platforms.

With most of the engineering already done, deployment timeframes can shrink dramatically. “Instead of taking weeks or months to bring up a new database system, we're doing it in hours and days,” says Kevin Ort, Director of Infrastructure and Open-Source Technology at Mythics, a leading integrator of Oracle solutions.

Moreover, a tool like the Exadata has a simplicity advantage because it puts all Oracle database technologies in the same place, making it much easier to resolve the inevitable challenges of getting software, hardware and databases to cooperate. Everything gets better: troubleshooting, resiliency, stability and overall performance.

“You have one go-to vendor for your hardware issues, software issues and bugs. You almost get to where you take it for granted,” says Steven Crowder, a senior database administrator at Liberty University, an early adopter of Exadata systems.

Randy Hardee, Vice President for Technology at Mythics, shares a favorite anecdote: A customer in Florida grew fed up with the costs of mixing and matching vendors and suffering two or three outages every month. A hyperconverged database platform retired those problems. “They didn't have an outage for the next three years,” he says.

This underscores the value proposition of hyperconverged database tools. “It’s just the whole life cycle-cost equation: faster implementation and much less time and energy in the operations and maintenance,” Hardee says.

For all the potential of these innovations, success is not a sure thing. Following are six keys to getting wins with hyperconverged database platforms:

1. Start with a strategy. Moving to hyperconverged database platforms requires a well-thought-out plan that assesses the full IT environment, especially when IT leaders are moving workloads and databases to the cloud. “It's really important to understand how your applications relate to one another,” says Scott Dickson, Enterprise System Architect with Oracle North America Cloud and Infrastructure Solutions.

2. Move carefully on cloud migrations. Many enterprise customers have public and hybrid cloud architectures on their minds. Dickson advises against trying too much at the outset. “I don't have to go all in right now,” Dickson says. “I can figure out how these technologies benefit me on my premises while I'm maintaining data sovereignty as I look for the best place for different applications at different points.” Another critical point: Some applications have latency issues when moved to the cloud. These kinds of challenges cannot be overlooked.

3. Get stakeholder buy-in. Look for data points that can sway decision-makers. For instance, many large institutions have lost control of their database licensing because it’s so easy to download software that generates financial obligations. Oracle made simpler, more economical licensing central to its Exadata offering, for instance.

“The key to getting stakeholder buy-in, in my experience, is asking how are you handling your licenses — is your license spending a concern to you?” says Ort. Many stakeholders respond well when shown specific cost savings, he says.

4. Confront vendor lock-in concerns. A unified database platform has vendor lock-in issues that are bound to raise questions. Don’t ignore them. “There is a high degree of vendor lock-in because you're buying your entire stack from one vendor,” Ort says. “When we can show customers how much more simply their environments will operate, they usually embrace that and then move forward.”

5. Don’t go it alone. Strong partners are essential. “When customers tend to have problems, it's because they try to do it on their own and get frustrated when it takes longer than they expected, or they run into issues they don’t know how to deal with,” Ort says. Working with experienced system integrators is essential to avoiding these kinds of issues, he says.

Crowder, the Liberty University DBA, advises IT leaders to embrace the knowledge of people who implement these systems every day. “Let the vendor’s experts do what they’re good at. Let them manage the project. Let them walk you through the steps of getting it implemented.”

6. Consider services packages. Systems integrators often provide service packages that ensure smooth transitions and strong support after the migration. Services examples might include cloud migrations, taking systems online and moving data over properly. On-demand services could connect customers with an expert engineer for a set quantity of hours.

“Always take the services,” Ort advises. “It might be an additional cost that you'll be thankful for later.”

What to Look for in a Hyperconverged Database Solution

The experts from Oracle and Mythics say vendors of hyperconverged database technologies should be able to deliver:

  • Integration. Hardware should be engineered to integrate with the vendor’s database software.
  • All-in-one simplicity. The end-to-end solution should include hypervisors; database management; and virtualized compute, networking and storage.
  • Cloud readiness. Platforms should easily adapt to hybrid and public cloud architectures.
  • Licensing management. Software should limit redundant licensing and enable cost controls.
  • Cost savings. Specific economies over the platform's life cycle should be spelled out.
  • Compliance. Automation and scripting should enable adherence to patching and regulatory policies.

Crowder says IT leaders pulling all the pieces together in a hyperconverged database platform need to maintain a long-term, big-picture perspective: “Really think critically about the environment you're putting it in and try to make sure you're looking ahead three to five years.”

For more information on this critical topic, download the paper, “Succeeding with Hyperconverged Database Platforms.”