Federal IT pros have historically had limited time and resources; this makes it crucial to find the source of application slowdowns or outages as quickly as possible. Database virtualization can help by allowing IT pros to separate the storage and application layers within the application stack more quickly, therefore providing easier access to root-cause issues.
Federal IT pros aren’t the only ones using database virtualization. An estimated 70% of databases are virtualized. Yet, the benefits of virtualized databases—cost savings and ease of migrating workloads, for example—come with additional challenges. It’s important to understand the ins and outs of these systems to optimize performance.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of virtualized databases and how IT pros can use this information to their advantage as the numbers of virtual databases increase across agencies.
Pros: Cost, Scalability, Better Management
One of the primary advantages of database virtualization is cost savings—several different kinds of cost savings, in fact.
- Capital cost savings. Database virtualization helps agencies reduce costs by requiring far less hardware to achieve the same level of performance and availability.
- Operational cost savings. Once databases are virtualized, federal IT pros can greatly reduce the ongoing administration and management of manual, time-consuming processes by automating operations, thereby resulting in lower operational expenses.
Scalability is another advantage. Agencies can scale database capacity, or add new servers, nearly on demand—quickly and easily. This can help the federal IT team scale resources only when necessary, with little impact on the agency budget and without the need to go through traditional acquisition processes, which can be frustratingly time-consuming.
Enhanced management capabilities are often a strong “pro” for the federal IT team. As discussed at the start of this article, virtualization can help the federal IT pro far more quickly identify the cause of a slow application or an outage, making it far easier to identify root-cause issues.
A final advantage is speed of deployment—potentially, from months to weeks.
Cons: Complexity and Potential Sprawl
While there are many positives to virtualization, there are negatives to consider. For example, database virtualization is complex—far more complex than already complex database environments. Don’t expect your database administrator to be fully versed in virtualization on Day 1. Virtualization requires an additional skill set that may take time (and money) to acquire.
Finally, database virtualization can exacerbate server sprawl. Yes, virtual environments can be far quicker to implement than hardware-based solutions, which also makes it much easier to simply spin up whatever the team needs. This can lead to unnecessary instances and, in turn, a management nightmare. The goal is to implement only those resources necessary to accomplish the task at hand.
Once the virtualization decision has been made, consider augmenting with cloud databases as well. There is a wide variety to choose from, including Amazon RDS, Aurora, DynamoDB, Redshift, ElastiCache, Neptune, and more. These will not only provide the biggest bang for the buck, but they’re also available in GovCloud—a proverbial win-win.
All in all, database virtualization is growing. The “cons” of implementation will decrease over time as costs go down, expertise becomes more commonplace, and the novelty of easy implementation wears off.