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The TCO of DBaaS with Nutanix Era (or Why to Evolve from Traditional Database Operations)

By Bill Thompson & Steve Kaplan

Over the years, we’ve seen IT positions evolve or even disappear as technology advances. It is often hard, for example, to find PC technicians in organizations running VDI. And former dedicated server technicians have evolved into virtualization administrators.

Today, HCI is phasing out the need for storage administrators. And native, Linux-based hypervisors are phasing out the need for dedicated virtualization administrators. No one gets certified in AWS, Alibaba, or Nutanix virtualization.

Nutanix Era brings a new approach to database administration that is similarly changing the nature of the DBA role. Rather than spending the majority of their time on lower-level tasks of database administration such as database provisioning, patching, and lifecycle management -- Era automates and simplifies these burdens enabling DBAs to focus on applications. Copying a database, for example, becomes as easy as copy and paste operations on your computer.

The Challenge with Traditional Database Operations

Traditional database operations are disjointed, complex, and inefficient. Leveraging multiple solutions for database operations such as provisioning, cloning, and refreshing results in a complex environment that slows business agility and efficiency. When working with enterprise databases, for example, DBAs do not just clone a production instance exactly as-is, but also must ensure the ability to create these clones from any point in time.

In frustration, many organizations have turned to cloud-hosted database management solutions that, while more agile, introduce significant operational change requirements and, in most cases, much higher costs. Nutanix Era provides an on-premises alternative to the agility and simplicity of public cloud solutions, but at a much lower cost.

Shifting DBA Focus From Low-Level to High-Value Activities

We recently worked with an enterprise customer whose application development team was under constant pressure to add new functionality required by the line of business. The lone Oracle DBA struggled just to keep up with provisioning, tuning, and cloning of existing databases let alone handle new requests. The customer was still trying to find the specialized Oracle skill sets required to fill two open DBA head counts after 18 months.

While the IT admins, in theory, could have used scripting to automate many of the routine tasks, they lacked the time and skill set required. Instead, we showed them how Era could enable the single DBA to meet the organization’s database requests while saving $2.6M in TCO over five years. These savings resulted from four key areas: Labor efficiency, lower third-party technology costs, fast time to market, and reduced storage costs.

1. Labor Efficiency
Figure 1 shows where the customer’s lone DBA spent her day. Up to 75% of her time was consumed by routine, low-level requests, such as database provisioning, cloning/backups, and patching/upgrades. Less than one-quarter of her time was spent on more forward-looking and higher-value activities such as capacity planning, performance management, and documentation.

Figure 1: Business As Usual DBA Effort

Reducing project pipeline and re-allocating effort towards higher-value activities would have previously required three DBAs at a $600K annual cost. Nutanix Era, however, removes the complexity of common database operations through one-click automation, shrinking the amount of time spent on low-level activities by approximately 87%. DBAs can shift their focus to higher-value, forward-looking activities such capacity planning, performance tuning, security compliance, and new projects as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: DBA Effort with Nutanix Era

Because the single DBA could now handle the new project requests, the customer realized an annual savings of $400K. The elimination of legacy inefficiencies impacted staff other than the DBA. Manually intensive DBA processes often cause additional negative downstream labor impacts (costs) for infrastructure administrators.

Developers particularly benefit from calling the Era API to create clones or refresh existing ones. They can include these API calls in whatever workflow tool they are using (Calm, chef, ansible, etc.) and make them completely independent from the DBA. This is especially interesting in CI/CD scenarios where a clone refresh may be required every time new code is checked in.

Figure 3 shows how each of the estimated fifty-two annual project requests required an average twenty-hour completion cycle. Using a blended fully burdened $65 hourly labor cost, we determined the annual cost associated with project delays was $67,600. With Era automation, the customer could expect to reduce DBA-related process cycles by 50% resulting in a $33,800 annual opportunity cost savings.

Figure 3: System Administration Opportunity Cost Savings

2. Reduced Licensing and Support Costs
An investment in Nutanix Era may allow customers to reduce the cost associated with database administration tool sets. Our customer, for example, was paying $116,622 in annual support costs for Oracle Lifecycle Management, Cloud Management Pack, and Advanced Compression. As shown in Figure 4, Nutanix Era empowered the customer to reduce the organization’s reliance on specialized skill sets, custom scripting, and technology support costs.

Figure 4: Reduced Third Party Technology Costs

3. Time to Market
Lengthy manual processes inevitably cause project bottlenecks and release delays. The negative impact of these delays can be measured in decreases to customer satisfaction scores, end-user inefficiencies, and potentially, revenue losses. Many customers express concerns about these downstream business impacts but do not have an effective way to measure them.

Figure 5 shows our conservative approach to calculating lost revenues as a result of DBA-related bottleneck impacts in the broader organization. Assuming that just one of the fifty-two annual projects produced an incremental $1M in revenue, the business as usual ninety-day deployment represented a $246,575 revenue opportunity cost. By reducing development bottlenecks, we conservatively assumed that the overall deployment cycle could be reduced by 30% (63 days), translating into a potential $73,973 in additional annual revenue.

Figure 5: Reduction in Time to Market

4. Shrink Storage Requirement for Clones and Backups
DBAs handle many requests for database copies and backups during development, upgrade, and testing cycles. These complete database copies often result in high storage costs and lengthy backup and recovery times. For our customer study, as shown in Figure 6, we calculated an annual copy storage requirement of 216TB. At $800 per TB, that resulted in a $172,800 annual cost.

Nutanix Era copy data management services provides for zero-byte database clones to any point in time, resulting in a 6x reduction in data storage requirements, or $28,800 annually. Era makes copy data management operations for databases that are terabytes in size just as easy as copy and paste operations on your personal computer.

Figure 6: Reduction Storage Costs for Database Copies

Public Cloud Goodness On-premises Driving a Compelling ROI

Nutanix Era enables a database as a service (DBaaS) model for managing and operating databases. It enables standardization across an organization’s database estate while introducing efficiency, agility, scalability, and cost savings. In our customer example summarized in Figure 7, Nutanix Era was able to reduce costs by 62%, or $2.6M over 5 years. And the time to market reduction drove an additional $370K in revenue.

Figure 7: 5-Year Summary Cost Comparison

Figure 8 shows the breakdown of the $2.6M TCO savings by DBA operational efficiencies, reduction in storage and management technology costs, and improved time to deployment. Additional significant savings can result from a reduced need for Oracle licensing due to use of Nutanix Enterprise Cloud features including compression (Oracle Advanced Compression option) and encryption (Oracle Advanced Security option) along with the already mentioned Cloud Management Pack and Database Lifecycle Management Pack.

Figure 8: 5-Year Savings with Era

Era Extends the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform

Nutanix Enterprise Cloud is the software-defined platform built upon the Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure. The unique architecture of the Nutanix solution enables software automation of datacenter tasks such as file services, micro-segmentation, DevOps, and many others.

Era utilizes the enterprise cloud platform to enable zero-byte overhead application-consistent snapshots and clones that don't require duplicating the actual data. This approach makes the clones and snaps super-fast, and they don't use any more actual storage capacity until new data is written or overwritten. In addition, Era uses gold images for both provisioning and patching, making version management of these images both easy and efficient.

Upcoming editions of Era will further leverage the Nutanix platform to achieve agile data management (lifecycle) across clusters (production to non-production), and periodic refresh of non-production environments. Rather than spending their time on manual tasks that add no value to the organization – or really to their own careers – Era lets DBAs focus on activities that drive huge benefits for the organization.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the authors and not necessarily those of Nutanix, Inc. or any of its other employees or affiliates.

See Also
Era of DBaaS. 2019. Maksim Malygin. Nutanix.com.
Building a Data Services Platform with Nutanix. 2019. Sachin Chheda and Chris Paap. Nutanix.com.

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