| Craig S. Mullins
Managing Database Change
And the individuals that comprise
each and every business usually find it difficult to deal with change.
This is so because change means we need to take on additional roles
and responsibilities which inevitably makes our job more difficult.
Our comfortable little status quo no longer exists. So we have to
change, too – either change aspects of our environment or our way of
There are many different aspects
of managing change, particularly with respect to Information
Technology. Each of the following are different facets of the
"change management" experience.
Change is inevitable but necessary
for business survival and success. So we better have solutions that
enable us to better manage these inevitable changes.
Most of today’s business
information is managed within the context of a complex, computerized
business application. Almost every type of information you can think
of -- from customer information to vendor information to product
specifications to payroll information -- is managed by computer. And,
this information is dynamic, it is always changing. Businesses must
prepare to handle the challenge of managing and controlling their
constantly changing information. To complicate matters, though, most
businesses are further challenged by having a limited number of
resources with which to tackle this growing mountain of information.
A DBMS is used to store the
majority of today’s computerized data. So when that data changes,
the databases used to store the data must also change. If the data is
not reliable and available, the system does not serve the business,
but instead, threatens the health of the business. So we need
infallible techniques to manage database changes. But even more, we
need techniques that are not just failproof, but are also automated,
efficient, and easy to use.
Change Management Requirements
To successfully implement
effective change management it is imperative to understand a set of
basic requirements. The following factors needs to be incorporated
into your change management discipline in order to ensure success:
proactivity, intelligence, analyses (planning and impact), automation,
standardization, reliability, predictability, and quick and efficient
change, which can eliminate future problems, is an organization's most
valuable type of change. The earlier in the development cycle that
required changes can be identified and implemented, the lower the
overall cost of the change will be.
When implementing a change, every aspect of the change needs to be
examined because it could result in an unanticipated cost to the
company. The impact of each change must be examined and incorporated
into the change process. Because a simple change in one area may cause
a complex change in another area. Intelligence in the change
management process often requires a thorough analysis including an
efficient and low-risk implementation plan. True intelligence also
requires the development of a contingency plan should the change or
set of changes not perform as projected.
maximizes the effectiveness of change. A well-planned change saves
time. It is always easier to do it right the first time than to do it
again after the first introduced change proved less than effective. An
effective organization will have a thorough understanding of the
impact of each change before allocating resources to implementing the
impact and risk analysis allows the organization to look at the entire
problem and examine the involved risk to determine the best course of
action. A single change usually can be accomplished in many different
ways. But the impact of each type of change may be considerably
different. Some carry more risks: the risk of failure, the risk
associated with a more difficult change, the risk of additional change
being required, the risk of causing downtime, etc. All considerations
are important when determining the best approach to implementing
With limited resources and a growing workload, automating a process
serves to reduce the human-error factor and to eliminate more menial
tasks from over burdened staff.
of procedure. Attrition,
job promotions and job changes require organizations to standardize
processes to meet continued productivity levels. An organized and
thoroughly documented approach to completing a task reduces the
learning curve, as well as training time.
predictable process. When creating any deliverable, a business needs to know that all of the
invested effort is not wasted. Because time is valuable, a high level
of predictability will help to ensure continued success and
profitability. Reliability and predictability are key factors in
repeatedly producing a quality product.
changes require down time to implement the change. To change an
application the application must come down. The same is true of
databases. But high availability is required of most applications
these days, especially for e-businesses. Reducing the amount of
downtime required to make a change will increase application
availability. And this is fast becoming a requirement in the Internet
efficient delivery. With most products and services there is a consumer demand for quick
turnaround. Profitability is at its best when a product is
first-to-market. Conversely, the cost of slow or inefficient delivery
of products can be enormous. In the case of implementing change,
The Change Management
Perspective of a DBA
The DBA is the custodian of
database changes. Usually, the DBA is not the one to request a change;
that is typically done by the application owner or business user. But
there are times, too, when the DBA will request changes, for example,
to address performance reasons or to utilize new features or
technologies. At any rate, regardless of who requests the change, the
DBA is charged with carrying out the database changes.
To effectively make those changes,
the DBA needs to consider each of the items discussed in the previous
section: proactivity, intelligence, analyses (planning and impact),
automation, standardization, reliability, predictability, and quick
and efficient delivery. Without a robust, time-tested product that is
designed to effect database changes, the DBA will encounter a very
difficult job. Why?
Well, today’s major RDBMS
products do not support fast and efficient database structure changes.
Each RDBMS provides differing levels of support for making changes to
its databases. But none easily supports every type of change that
might be required. One quick example: most RDBMSs today do not enable
a column to be added to the middle of an existing row. To do so, the
table must be dropped and recreated with the new column in the middle.
But what about the data? When the table is dropped the data is
deleted, unless the DBA was wise enough to first unload the data. But
what about the indexes on the table? Well, they were dropped when the
table was dropped, so unless the DBA knows this and recreated the
indexes too, performance will suffer. The same is true for database
security – when the table was dropped all security for the table was
also dropped. And this is but one simple example. Other types of
database change that are required from time to time include:
And this is a very incomplete
listing. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that most organizations
have at least two, and sometime more, copies of each database. At the
very least, a test and production version will exist. But there may be
multiple testing environments for example, to support simultaneous
development, quality assurance, unit testing, and integration testing.
And each database change will need to be made to each of these copies,
as well as, eventually, the production copy. So, you can see how
database change quickly can monopolize a DBA’s time.
solution is to use an automated product to implement database change.
The product will enable the DBA to focus on all of the issues of
change management because it is built to understand not just the
discipline of change management, but also the RDBMS in which the
changes are to be made. This built in intelligence shifts the burden
of ensuring that a change to a database object does not cause other
implicit changes from the DBA to the tool. And once the change has
been identified and implemented for one system, it can easily be
deployed on other database copies with minimal, or perhaps no changes.
feature of a database change manager product is analysis and planning.
The impact of changes can be examined prior to implementing any
change. This is an invaluable resource for ensuring safe and efficient
database changes. This type of tool also uses automation to minimize
the resources required to implement database change. Instead of
writing a new, complex change script from scratch for each database
change, the DBA can rely on the Change Manager to accomplish this. And
application and database availability will be enhanced because the
product will implement the change in the least intrusive, quickest
in all, a database change management product will improve
availability, minimize errors, and speed up your time to market. And I
think we all can relate to that!