Harvesting, querying, delivering, enriching and analyzing data is at the heart of every business. However, most organizations are saddled with high-priced commercial databases as a result of continual departmental investments in new database projects, business intelligence (BI) projects, and the addition of new database projects through the merger and acquisition process. Consequently, IT budgets are increasing. To help reduce the costs of developing and maintaining data-driven business-critical applications, many businesses are turning to open source database (OSDB) solutions.
Most businesses will start by using an OSDB for a new project rather than taking a rip-and-replace approach for the costly commercial database solution. Cost savings are driving many companies to consider OSDB deployments; success with initial projects has made many of those comfortable enough with OSDBs to make larger or more mission-critical deployments.
Helping Cut Costs
A powerful and reliable OSDB can go a long way in helping an enterprise achieve its cost-reduction and other strategic goals. However, the success of an OSDB project will depend on many factors. Here are 10 tips for improving the success of your next OSDB project.
1. Establish an OSDB Center of Excellence. As OSDBs will likely be used in many different areas of a business, it is critical to establish a center of excellence that will focus on such things as ensuring a set of best practices and establishing strong education and standards for the use of the OSDB.
2. Establish Tools Standards. Whether your OSDB project is a client/server application or a Web-based application, you will need to ensure that your current development tools support the OSDB. In addition to development tools, you must also consider other technologies that will touch the OSDB, including ETL solutions and BI/reporting tools.
3. Implement Continuous Training and Pursue Certification. No matter how expert your team, it is important to continue to expand your expertise by learning as much as you can about the functionality of the OSDB as possible. A continuous training strategy will serve as a means for expanding the expertise of the internal team to enable you to become less reliant on third-party consulting for basic work. Your investment in training can be validated and documented by working through your OSDB vendor’s certification process.
4. Don’t Get Lazy. All organizations are under a great deal of pressure to deliver results from IT efforts. Don’t let pressure undermine the true potential for success in your OSDB efforts. As you are building your application for use with the OSDB, consider common questions that most great programmers ask themselves every day: Is there a more efficient way of doing this work? Can I squeeze as much out of this functionality as possible without adding more overhead? A good way to avoid pitfalls during the OSDB project is to focus on building a best-in-class database solution by leveraging excellent training, mentoring, and colleagues’ expertise.
5. Assign and Nurture a Great OSDB Architect. You could probably go out and recruit and hire a strong technical architect with great experience in OSDBs; however, a better approach is to nurture an internal architect who has the passion, reputation, respect, community spirit, vision, and business knowledge and experience to guide colleagues in their OSDB approach. This architect should also be a core member of the OSDB Center of Excellence, and he or she should be provided with incentives to ensure the success of OSDBs in your organization.
6. Establish an Internal Open Source Database User Group and Meet Regularly. Establish an internal user group to ensure that all technologists have a forum for sharing experiences, tips, and insight on the use of the OSDB. It is also a good forum for inviting your OSDB vendor to present advice and provide advanced support for using the database. Relatedly, ensure that your database experts attend the OSDB vendor’s annual user conference.
7. Publish an Open Source Database FAQ on Your Intranet. As your database expertise grows, you will learn lots of tips, tricks, and advanced techniques. Developing an FAQ to help newly minted database administrators and developers will streamline the learning process and help rapidly answer common questions.
8. Secure a Vendor Executive Sponsor. Have an executive sponsor from your OSDB vendor assigned to your account. This executive sponsor won’t replace important support, services, and sales contacts for the vendor, but can serve as the business partner for your company. You can establish a long-term relationship with this executive, who can share your passion about success in using their products. He or she can help facilitate strategic discussions as they relate to the use of the products and should be accessible for any immediate assistance that you may need.
9. View Meta Data as a Strategic Component of Your Database Project. Today’s enterprises are facing major challenges responding to the vast amount of data being generated daily. In the future, customers and partners will commonly inquire as to how their data is being used, how their data has been exposed to other companies and individuals, and who has access to or has touched the data. A strategic approach to your organization’s metadata can ensure these kinds of queries can be satisfactorily addressed.
10. Inject Evangelism, Passion, Excitement and Focus: Fire Up Your Database Team. Winning teams today are more fired up about their products and solutions than ever before. In the OSDB space, there are lots of great technology evangelists that are getting highly trained and educated on how to execute OSDB initiatives and projects to help their companies become highly successful on projects such as providing a single view of enterprise data and customer relationship management. Their success creates great excitement and enthusiasm in their organization for ensuring their enterprises are leveraging the gold that exists in all their data. Having energy and passion around this topic on an OSDB project will go a long way.
With these simple steps, any organization can turn its next database project from just another mandatory IT task into a strategic economic benefit for their business. By enabling your organization to leverage the value of your data on-demand and expand that across the business, OSDBs hold the key to new responsiveness to business and competitive needs.
Bob Zurek is chief technology officer of EnterpriseDB, a provider of enterprise-class products and services based on the open source database PostgreSQL.