With an ever changing technological environment, there is always the difficulty of positions being redefined, expanding, diminishing, and evolving. One position going through these growing pains is the Database Administrator (DBA). Many organizations may find themselves asking “Do we really need a DBA?” With the advent of the adoption of Cloud, ever-expanding opportunities for automation, and changes increasing the ability of developers to work with databases, some might think DBAs are slowly sliding down the slope towards extinction. However, this is not the case. Rather than the difficulties of changing database environments looming over DBAs, these changes herald in a new and expanded definition of what it means to be a DBA. A definition IT manager will have to make sense of this in order to adapt to managing this role.

Before considering how the DBA role has changed, it’s useful to consider why DBAs are still essential. The short way to answer this question is to think about how important your databases are. Most organizations require available, secure, and reliable databases to simply conduct business. Beyond that, organizations need their databases to function smoothly and efficiently with the applications that rely on DBs. With databases being such a critical element of business activity, it makes sense that DBAs play a vital role in the organization. The changes influencing DBAs do not make their job any less important, but merely means that DBAs and their managers can expect some shifting of roles.

Database environments are getting more and more complex, meaning organizations need to have someone on board who knows how to deal with these complicated database environments. Even with the adoption of Cloud for databases, which initially seems to remove the DBA from the picture, only changes the role. While some DBA tasks may decrease by running databases in the Cloud, higher security risks will occur which will increase the security responsibilities of the DBA’s job. Also, the trend of developers working with databases more frequently does not mean that they will suddenly take over the DBA’s job. Developers are not experts on databases and their tinkering can often have unfavorable, unforeseen effects on performance. DBAs need to work closely with developers to ensure high performance and effective integration of databases and applications.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that DBAs are simply going to go away. Despite their changing environment, DBAs are still essential– their role is just changing. For more information on the evolving role of the DBA, see Info-Tech’s solution set Structure the Role of the DBA.

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There has been a lot of buzz of a new concept emerging in the network community– software defined networking (SDN). SDN is glamorized as the network’s latest push towards a more streamlined and cost-efficient solution compared to the physical infrastructure currently dominating the floors of IT departments. Promoters are trumpeting this advancement as an innovation marvel; much like virtualization was to servers. In fact, a key component of SDN is bringing networks to a virtual environment. Despite the hype of SDN giving it much notability, many are still confused about the underlying concept of SDN, the possible complications, and the business value of having an SDN network. Visit Info-Tech’s solution set Prepare for Software Defined Networking (SDN) to guide you through fact and fiction.

SDN is essentially a network architecture where the management, mapping, and control of traffic flow is removed from network devices, and centralized in the network. This separation is said to increase performance, network visibility, and simplicity given it is constructed correctly. However, given SDN’s infancy, a sufficient number of use cases and proof-of-concepts have yet to emerge in the SDN space, leaving organizations wondering if there is any revenue generating or cost saving opportunities. How can they make a sound decision on SDN? It may be too early to make a final decision, but they can start crafting the case and investigate the early movers in the SDN space.

Be prepared to see a shift in networking paradigms because of SDN: hardware to software, physical to virtual, propriety to commodity. Naturally, this will throw off traditional networking staff from their game. But, do not worry, current SDN solutions are still in “Version 1” and future versions may see solutions become friendlier to traditional network practices and concepts. With the attention it is getting from the media and established network leaders, SDN technologies will likely (and hopefully) evolve to mainstream deployment states.

Realize SDN is here. Understand where it came from and how it can help your business. Remember to wait for the SDN space to settle and mature before implementing SDN in your organization. After all, you wouldn’t want your child driving your multi-million dollar car.

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Social collaboration is everywhere these days. We have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and countless other solutions available for general use. Enterprise collaboration tools also are on the rise, such as Socialtext, SAP StreamWork and the list goes on (if interested have a look here at Info-Tech’s Collaboration Platforms VL). And now social UIs and collaboration-inducing features have entered into the Project Portfolio Management world.

AtTask, a robust PPM solution for the mid-market and a champion in the Vendor Landscape, has added an activity stream to its product, giving it a familiar, Facebook-like feel. The activity stream provides a continuous flow of conversation surrounding the work that is taking place inside the organization. It is being marketed as providing visibility into the work – both planned and unplanned – that is being completed. Wrike, another vendor in this space and new to our landscape, offers a “social project management solution”, wherein the focus is on collaboration supported by the presence of social streams, the ability to email tasks into the solution, and file-sharing features.

Although the presence of social UIs and the ability to converse with your co-workers may bring more people into the PPM solution, the question remains—will it increase usage of the core PPM features which really matter to organizations trying to accomplish resource management and forecasting? Timesheet entries and budget reporting have traditionally posed a challenge in terms of getting employees to complete them. The inclusion of auto-reminders for publishing completed tasks to an activity stream may help, or at least that’s the idea.

Interestingly, at the same time that these PPM vendors are including collaboration features, collaboration platform vendors, such as Citrix Podio, SAP StreamWork, and TIBCO tibbr, are adding well developed workflow management features to their solutions. These changes that are taking place in both spaces may be indicative of a future merging of these two applications into one comprehensive solution, covering both needs.

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It is not a new concept that organizations use data to make verifiable business decisions, but why then has the governance of data only gained popularity recently?  This question is a misconception; data governance has always been important, and most enterprises in some way, shape, or form, were practicing data governance in the past. However, the topic has recently emerged as seemingly important because organizations are facing many challenges solidifying governance practices in the changing data environment. What’s so different from 60 years ago? Data users today have a lack of data knowledge, and when organizations let them dabble in their most valuable asset, things get messy. Not only that, but big data poses problems to maintaining data cleanliness (especially unstructured data), but is vitally important to the enterprises’ competitive advantage.

Regardless of the changing data environment, in a recent Info-Tech survey, one third of organizations reported having no plans to invest in a data governance initiative. On top of that, organizations that opted out of a data governance program had significant issues with data quality, data sprawl, regulatory compliance, and many other data related issues. Reasons for not investing in a data governance program vary, however 79% of organizations agree that lack of executive buy-in, and stakeholder availability are the largest challenges when attempting to launch a data governance program. Without applying best practices to overcome these challenges, a data governance program will fail to launch.

It cannot be reiterated enough that the business needs to own the data governance program. It is the business that produces, and uses data so who else would be best to control that same data? However, getting business buy-in, and stakeholder support is difficult in any data governance program. The Solution is KPI measurements demonstrating the value of data governance in the enterprise to the business. Focusing your data governance program’s metrics on business processes, decisions, and interactions that the data is enabling, will assist in spiking executive interest.

Do not be misled, data governance is important for any data driven organization. Many organizations have problems launching their programs; however, implementing the right best practices to hurdle the challenges associated with your organizations data governance launch, will mitigate the risk of failure. Ensure that your data governance initiative has executive sponsorship, and stakeholder support. The overall success of your data governance program will not be seen until the business side of the organization begins to view data as the valuable asset that it truly is.

For more, see Info-Tech’s solution set Effectively Manage Data Governance.

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Mobile devices are here to stay, and with that comes a myriad of newer mobile operating systems, and hardware form factors. From all the hype you’d think we’re entering into some brave new uncharted world. Stepping back, however, it is clear that we are seeing a natural evolution of well-travelled territory: providing information to people in the right place and time. We saw this with mainframes through reports, desktops through files, laptops through network folders, and now mobile through the cloud. There’s even talk of wearable computers through NFC and cloud that blur the distinction between our reality, and the digital world. The meta-objective has not changed. It’s not about form factors, and operating systems – these will continually change.

If form factors, and operating systems continually change, placing a development strategy along those lines will require a reboot at some point. So how do we develop mobile applications that provide information to the right users at the right time? If only there was a way to abstract the actual device, and still run applications independent of the device, or operating system – then again, that’s what the web is intended to do.

Stepping back and looking at the trajectory of application development, we are witnessing increasing commoditization of hardware and operating systems. Newer devices are shinier and better looking, but that’s the wrong focus for application developers. Salesforce.com, Facebook, and now Microsoft Office are on the web, accessible by multiple devices, and operating systems with the intent of providing information that is relevant and immediate. Granted, features are not consistent across the board yet, but this is just a matter of time.

When you consider mobile development, you essentially have two choices – native app or web app. Keep in mind development includes deployment (through some type of Enterprise App store for native apps), and maintenance (with branching and merging against the code trunk). As a default position, stick with your web development strategy, and extend it into mobile. This doesn’t mean there’s no work – after all, cramming a desktop-sized website into a mobile phone won’t make for the most pleasant user experience. There are many well known techniques with HTML and CSS that scale without adding significant payload to the development cycle. But for those instances where you absolutely need localized hardware features like camera and contacts, abstract your platform and operating system through the use of Mobile Enterprise Application Platform tools that give you some shelf life without burning through your entire operating budget on multiple native coding development paths. It’s not perfect, and you’ll certainly have to consider a small degree of customization per mobile operating system, but that’s a lot better than having to do an overhaul over multiple devices, operating systems, and coding languages in the long term.


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