By Jaroslav Cerny, CEO at RDB Consulting
In my more than 20 years of experience in the database management arena, I have watched outsourcing and consulting go in and out of fashion. However, today’s business environment is putting more and more pressure on both skilled resources and budgets, leaving outsourced services as the best viable solution for reducing downtime, risk and cost.
I believe infrastructure outsourcing is becoming inevitable. Late last year, at a presentation to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, I highlighted the top 10 reasons why this is becoming unavoidable.
- Skilled technical staff is one of the biggest expenses for any organisation. From the high hourly rates skilled resources command, to the high cost of training to ensure they stay ahead of technology, technical staff are increasingly being seen as an overhead. Staff turnaround is a challenge in any division of a company, but considering the investments many businesses make in their technical resources, this becomes the primary reason that outsourcing the DBA function is not only viable, but preferable.
- Most companies have multi-platform, multi-operating system or multi-premise environments, making support and management that much more challenging. In addition to the skills costs in managing these, businesses are starting to look at the feasibility of maintaining and running different platforms and operating systems. Often, however, the cost of migration to a single platform is not feasible. Outsourcing this function ultimately gets rid of this headache, as the outsourced consultants can provide management and support at a reduced cost.
- The implementation of industry standards and best practices is essential to the effective management of any database ecosystem. To develop these internally would need a significant investment in research and manpower, and requires ongoing training. Outsourced service providers can do this far more cost-efficiently and effectively than in-house resources who are often stretched thin.
- Specialised consultancies have established and nurtured strategic partnerships with software and hardware vendors. This enables them to receive news on discounts, promotions and specials that they can pass on to their clients, as well as ensuring that they can obtain the best possible prices on licenses. These relationships also mean that the consultancies have access to the latest technology updates – often before they are available to other customers – and that they have a direct line to the vendors for any technical queries.
- Comprehensive documentation is the foundation of effective database management. With time-consuming and costly revisions as a result of version control and ongoing updates, this takes up a great deal of a DBA’s monthly schedule. In addition, the cost of producing detailed documentation under delivery pressures creates an additional burden for in-house resources. As part of the outsourced function, companies can rest assured that this documentation will be done right, done in time, without pressurising other deliverables. Since it forms part of the SLA, is also proves more cost-effective.
- Outsourced consultancies can offer something that few in-house DBAs have the time or the resources to develop: in-house proactive monitoring and alerting tools. Due to time and budgetary constraints, most organisations use standard monitoring and alerting tools. These are not bad, but they are not as effective as those developed specifically to include built-in proactive capabilities and a knowledge repository, as well as other enhancements and customisations. An outsourced partner can offer this, built around industry standards and best practices, that will allow easy upgrading and customisation.
- Service level management is one of the elements of database administration that is facilitating the move to outsourced services. This requires the development and deployment of an internal Help Desk or Incident Management function with a built-in knowledge base. In order to be effective, it must have adequate metrics and clear escalation paths. Large Large organisations frequently use OLA (Operating Level Agreements), which adds to the complexity. Outsourcing service level management simplifies all of these functions, providing more simplicity and greater accountability.
- In this age of big data, and with many companies having to tighten budgets as a result of economic pressure, the managers who are responsible for the databases in their business don’t have the time or the skills to effectively administer their databases. Faced by a shortage of management expertise, outsourcing is the most efficient solution. The success of this rests on the SLA and regular management meetings. A bullet-proof SLA rests on clearly defined service definitions and service ownership and monitoring, so management meetings are essential in order to discuss performance, projects, upcoming work and the SLA, and to ensure that deliverables are being met. An outsourced partner should provide an easy-to-use reference for accountability, deliverables and timelines.
- To run business and operations, the right technologies, tools, and processes need to be in place – and delivered effectively. Poor service delivery in a database environment is detrimental to the efficiency and quality of all business services. Large enterprises today have hundreds and thousands of databases of various versions, configurations and patch levels. Some of these serve critical day-to-day functions such as ERP and have a long lifespan, while others serve ad-hoc, peripheral projects and have limited lifespan. Each of these is equally important to the business, and service delivery challenges are no longer an option for companies who require 24 x 7 availability and performance. Outsourcing can provide greater efficiencies, and guarantees of service delivery that in-house DBAs can rarely achieve.
- Return on Investment (ROI) in outsourcing infrastructure management is as simple as a fixed annual cost, guaranteed by the contractual agreement. A high-level cost/benefit analysis will highlight all the areas where outsourcing can create greater efficiencies and cost savings.