Local users report 'huge benefits' with new databases

Oracle and SQL Server's newest iterations are up and running in New Zealand

SQL Server 2008 is benefiting Trade Me, says Matt van Deventer, head of database at the online auction site.

The latest version of the Microsoft database is powering Business Intelligence applications and several other areas at Trade Me, but some other core databases remain on SQL Server 2005.

“The roadmap is to have them upgraded by the first quarter of 2010,” van Deventer says.

The benefits of SQL Server 2008 include Intellisense, a feature that helps developers write code, and the compression features in the database.

He describes the latter as “a huge benefit”.

Policy-based management is another benefit the 2008 version offers as he says, “You can define a set of rules for a group of servers”.

The new database also enables users to “run commands against a group of servers natively, from within SQL Server Management Studio.

“Things like that are real time-savers.”

Another feature, Resource Governor, “enables you to re-set areas of applications to use limited resources”.

That has huge benefits for BI applications running on the database, van Deventer says.

“It stops a running query from bringing a whole server to its knees.

“For example, if you have a server with four CPUs and 10GB of memory, and some analytics guys do a query, rather than running a big query that uses all the CPU, you can give the query maker 10 percent of CPU and 2GB of memory.

“It will take them longer to run the query, but the server will continue to function for everyone else.”

There are “literally dozens and dozens of new features” in SQL Server 2008, he says.

“It is a pretty exciting product.”

Trade Me is a pure SQL Server environment and, says van Deventer, “that’s a testament to the fact that SQL Server does scale, and does it well.”

The database environment is a mix of SQL Server Standard and Enterprise editions.

“We use the Enterprise edition for bigger servers.”

As well as upgrading the remaining SQL Server 2005 databases to SQL Server 2008, looming on the horizon is Kilimanjaro, the next release of SQL Server, due for release in 2010.

“We’re awaiting that with bated breath,” van Deventer says.

Meanwhile, at the high-end of town, MetService, the first local adopter of Oracle 11g, is also reaping the benefits of upgrading to the latest version of its database provider.

The move to upgrade was approved in May 2008 and the database was rolled out that December.

MetService CIO Russell Turner says, “Our existing database met our business requirements and enabled us to provide a high level of service to our customers.

“However, our investigations revealed Oracle 11g could scale to support existing key clients and allow us to provide more detailed, longer-range and descriptive forecasts to domestic and international clients.”

MetService, a state-owned enterprise, sells meteorological data to media, aviation and energy organisations around the world, as well as providing weather information locally.

Turner says the organisation has “used Oracle databases for several years to host data streams from international weather centres in Europe and the US, data generated by its own observation systems and information from other third-party weather providers.

“With the database acting as a repository we run the information through our processes and algorithms, and distribute it as a value-added data stream to subscribing customers through an application.”

While Oracle 9i was meeting the needs of the organisation, growth in data volumes and scale necessitated an upgrade, Turner says.

“There were two primary business problems. We needed the functionality to develop certain products and we needed improved performance management, speed of operation and reliability.”

Goals when implementing 11g included supporting geospatial queries needed to deliver new client products, better information management using upgraded storage management capabilities, along with better statistical performance management.

The database’s Automatic Storage Management feature has improved Metservice’s management of its mathematical modelling data.

“The datasets we use are typically very large and disposed of very quickly,” Turner says. We also regularly need to pull out historical data and just as quickly dispose of it again.

“The storage and access is faster by a factor of two to three times on Oracle database 11g running on blade servers.”

Turner says 11g’s improved geospatial querying functionality is improving local forecasting services.

“What we needed was a way of defining a query to the database in terms of geographic boundaries rather than places.

“We wanted to expand our capabilities beyond providing weather forecasts for individual locations in New Zealand, to being able to forecast across a geographically defined region.”

The statistical performance capabilities of 11g were also a drawcard.

“We undertake a lot of database tuning to ensure our systems are running smoothly and that the data we send to our customers is more accurate and of superior quality than the raw data generated by the various national weather services.

“Oracle’s statistical performance tools for database tuning enable us to ensure we are continuing to deliver quality forecasts and information.”

MetService decided to move directly from Oracle 9i to 11g, skipping the 10g database.

“We decided to go with 11g to exploit its upgraded functionality, scalability and performance,” Turner says.

The implementation was done inhouse, rather than with a partner, with the help of Oracle Sales Consulting.

IBM, the other major database vendor, doesn’t yet have any user organisations locally that are live with the latest version of its database, DB2 9.7, but confirms that a customer in the manufacturing/technology sector is testing it.

Local IBM partner and data warehouse specialist WhereScape has had considerable involvement with DB2 9.7, with chief architect Jason Laws travelling to the US to take part in testing the new database’s capabilities.

“We did some benchmark tests for data warehousing and ran 9.7 on new Intel server chips, and achieved a 30 to 40 percent performance improvement across every test,” Laws says.

The benefits of version 9.7 for users include better I/O read-write performance and features that make a migration from Oracle to DB2 easier.

“It has functionality to do things you would be able to do in Oracle.

“You will be able to run Oracle PL-SQL in DB2. That’s something IBM is very keen on.”

DB2 also has “a significantly enhanced set of security features”, Laws says. He emphases that his assessment of DB2 is from a data warehouse provider’s perspective, not that of a general user.

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