“Vendor speak” can be a difficult thing to decipher. And that is particularly true within the realm of DBA tools vendors. It would be easier if every vendor followed the same terminology… but, of course, they do not. And there is no way to force them to do so. But we can adopt a rigorous lexicon to describe the software offerings and use it ourselves… and analyze all software that we review using this simple descriptive lexicon.
Here is what I propose.
First, let’s be clear on what is a utility and what is a tool.
- A database utility is generally a single purpose program for moving and/or verifying database pages; examples include load, unload, import, export, reorg, check, dbcc, copy and recover. There may be others I am missing, but these are functions that are frequently bundled with a DBMS, but also may be sold as an independent product.
- A database tool is a multi-functioned program designed to simplify database monitoring, management, and/or administrative tasks. So performance monitor, change manager, data modeling tool, recovery/performance/SQL analyzers, etc. are all examples of DBA tools. Again, the list is not intended to be an exhaustive one (for a more in-depth list check out this blog post).
OK, it would be simple enough if these were the only two types of products we had to concern ourselves with, but they are not. Vendors also talk about solutions and suites. Sometimes, these two terms are used interchangeably, but I contend that they should not be. What I propose it his:
- A solution is a synergistic group of tools and utilities designed to work together to address a customer’s business issue.
- A suite is a group of tools that are sold together, but are not necessarily integrated to work with each other in any way.
So, a solution is a suite, but a suite is not necessarily a solution. Solutions are designed to simplify things for the customer in terms of usage and efficiency. Suites are designed to help the vendor and its salespeople sell more.
Now don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that you should not buy suites of DBA tools and utilities. If the price point is good and you really want or need all (or most) of the bundled software, then it can make sense. But know what you are buying! Understand all of the components of the suite and the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Solutions, on the other hand, should work together seamlessly and you may not even know that there are multiple underlying products. If that is not the case, it isn’t really a “solution” is it?
Of course, these are just my definitions. But I think these are useful definitions that make it easier to review, analyze and discuss DBA products and programs.
What do you think?