Oracle Expert Interview with Anton Els of Dbvisit

DBVisit Interview with Kay Williams

Today we have  the second  in our ‘Ask the Expert’ interviews with our guest Anton Els, Vice President Product Development for  Dbvisit

This is the second in a series of interviews with prominent experts in the Oracle world.  Anton will also feature in our next podcast ‘Licence Management Today – Episode 09′. The interview is with  Kay Williams.

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In this interview, Anton answers these three questions:

  1. How to establish and maintain a disaster recovery site for Oracle Standard Edition customers using Dbvisit Standby
  2. How to move data from one environment to another whether Oracle database or SQL Server. Using a data set from the primary database and offloading onto a reporting database to reduce the load on the primary.
  3. How do you migrate and move to the cloud?

For more information on Dbvisit please visit Dbvisit.

Download a whitepaper on ‘Why Oracle Standard Edition’ or watch the video below.

If you need help in building a business case to move or use Standard Edition or understanding the compliance around architectures using Oracle SE, get in touch by contacting us.

Transcription of the interview between Dbvisit’s Anton Els and Kay Williams

Kay:                 I’d like to welcome Anton Els from Dbvisit based out in New Zealand to the show. Hi Anton. 

Anton:            Hi Kay. 

Kay:                 Could you introduce yourself please and explain what your role is within Dbvisit? 

Anton:            First of all I would like to thank you for this opportunity to talk to you today. I was introduced into the Oracle space using Oracle 7 many years ago and running on Solaris and I must admit, I was just hooked on it. I just fell in love with it. I enjoy working with Oracle. Since then, I moved working mainly on consulting and specifically around the database administration side of things and I was lucky enough to get exposure to many types of different environments and configurations over the years. I can honestly say, I’m a techie at heart. I enjoy playing with Oracle databases and things like virtualization and Linux in my spare time. A few years ago I joined Dbvisit, the Dbvisit team, where I’m currently the Vice President of Product Development, with the specific focus around Dbvisit Standby products. 

Kay:                 Anton, how big is Dbvisit as a company? 

Anton:            Head office is located in Auckland, down here in New Zealand. We have a subsidiary in the United States and we have a newly established office in the beautiful Prague in the Czech Republic. At the moment, globally we are just under fifty staff and we’re growing rapidly, with new members joining our team each month. It’s quite exciting for us, it’s really an exciting time. However, in this time that we live in at the moment, size of a company, it’s not as important as the people that makes up that company, so for us that is quite important. I believe we have an excellent team that has a passion for Oracle technology and we will go the extra mile to help customers. 

Kay:                 You said you were expanding, is that expanding in New Zealand or globally? 

Anton:            It’s globally, so in all our different areas, all our offices we are getting people in those areas. It’s not just specific in Auckland. We do have staff, as I mentioned in Prague and in the United States and even in Singapore. It’s not just based in Auckland. 

Kay:                 Anton, how long has Dbvisit been in business?  Are you a start-up or do you consider yourself a mature company? 

Anton:            Dbvisit was founded in 2006, so you might say that we have a start-up status. Having a small group of extraordinary nimble software developers, working to solve quite complex product or problems around the Oracle database replications space. We are well established with a solid foundation. Developing software to help these small to medium size businesses to achieve there goals without the hefty price tag or complexity. 

Kay:                 I understand the solutions you have Dbvisit Replicate and Dbvisit Standby. Could you tell me a little about the solutions please? 

Anton:            Yes. I could talk for hours about this, but I’ll keep it short. If you sit back a little bit and look at it from a non-technical level. I don’t want to go into too much of a technical discussion. There are two questions that our solutions answer. If you look at it, the first question is, let’s say you are using Oracle Standard edition and the question is, how do you establish and maintain a DR site? How do you create a disaster recovery site for your Oracle Standard edition database and how do you maintain that? That’s one of the first questions that our products are looking at answering. The second questions is around moving data. If you want to move data around, and this is simplifying it, for example if you want to move data from an Oracle environment into another target, whether its another Oracle database or MySQL or SQL server, how would you handle this? How can you do this? How can you move this data around? That is where our products can help you answer these questions.

The first product, Dbvisit Standby, is there to help you as a DBA and as we’ve seen in the past it’s not just DBAs in some cases it’s system administrators. We help them to establish standard database environments, with just a few easy steps. We are helping to them to create this DR site, taking away the complexity, making it easier to use. Infrastructure needs to be put in place, but to us with your in-house data, using a data centre or cloud based by solution. We can work with it. Now, the product was designed with specific focus around Standard Edition. Dbvisit Standby was designed and specifically created around Standard Edition because there was quite a big need for that. In most cases Standard Edition customers are the small to medium sized businesses, but as we have seen over the years even larger enterprise environments are now looking at reducing cost and standard edition is still a great solution that can meet many of these requirements. For some, it’s just a perfect fit.

If you look at the second product, if you’re looking at Dbvisit Replicate and we are talking about moving data around, this is where we start talking about logical replication. If you think of this tool, it can help you to move data around. For example, many companies overload the production OLTP systems, so their transaction systems. They overload those and they put reporting systems and processes and tools and they integrate it into the systems, but why not extract this information, catching it real time and loading it into a specific dedicated loading environment. All this can be done real time without effecting the production users.

Even if your reporting environment is MySQL or SQL servers as I mentioned, you can move data into that and that is where the Dbvisit Replicate tool comes into play and that’s where it can help you. It’s also very popular around upgrades and migrations, so for example if you are looking at moving a lot of data, we love talking about cloud computing now days and DR as a service and all those things. Dbvisit Replicate is one of those products that can help you to migrate to the Cloud. If you want to move from premise into the Cloud.  That’s just a quick summary of the products there. 

There are two questions that our solutions answer. If you look at it, the first question is, let’s say you are using Oracle Standard edition and the question is, how do you establish and maintain a DR site? How do you create a disaster recovery site for your Oracle Standard edition database and how do you maintain that? That’s one of the first questions that our products are looking at answering. The second questions is around moving data. If you want to move data around, and this is simplifying it, for example if you want to move data from an Oracle environment into another target, whether its another Oracle database or MySQL or SQL server, how would you handle this? How can you do this? How can you move this data around? That is where our products can help you answer these questions.

Kay:                 Thanks Anton. You mentioned that there is a need for the solutions around standard edition and clearly there is market for these tools. Why don’t you just tell the audience about how Dbvisit came about, who started the company and how it all started. 

Anton:            A good friend of mine, Arjen Vissar started Dbvisit in 2006 in Auckland New Zealand. He was working with Oracle databases as a developer and production DBA and he noticed this gap in the market where smaller companies using Oracle Standard Edition really struggled to establish all creators of master recovery environments. In the data guard, it’s an awesome product, but it’s only available as Enterprise Edition, but it comes with a hefty price tag. The end results is that a lot of people were creating all these home grown solutions and scripts and everything to try and create the DR environment and standby environments, but it actually didn’t solve the problem and in some cases it just created more problems.

Dbvisit Standby was born with a goal to help DBAs using Oracle Standard Edition and to basically establish these DR and standby environments and maintaining them in a very easy to use way. Since then the company has grown rapidly. With a second product that was introduced in 2011 and to date we have more then nine hundred customers in over ninety countries using these products. That just gives you a little idea of where it started. It started initially around the Standard Edition space, but we are not just lock into that. We do look at the Enterprise Edition side of it as well. 

Kay:                 Anton, I know that you have touched on this, but at a high level can you tell me what Dbvisit Replicates does and what Dbvisit Standby does? 

Anton:            I’m going to continue a little bit of where I started. When working with Oracle databases, especially when you are looking at the disaster recovery space, it’s easy to start talking about logical and physical replication. It’s so easy for us, when we talk to people we start talking about all these technical terms and logical and physical replication, but then we realize that not everybody really understands what we mean when we talk about those. What is logical versus physical replication. Let’s keep it simple. If you were looking at a disaster recovery where you need an exact copy of your data in a back-up location, so think of it, you are sitting in this one setting, you’ve got your production system and you want to make sure your data is safe. To make sure that things are protected.

You want to create a back-up site, a DR site, at a different geographical location and you want to keep the data up to date. This is where Dbvisit Standby comes into place. This is where we can help you to establish this environment and it will help DBAs to actually create this environment and then maintain it over time as well. We refer to this as your primary and your standby databases and it’s actually a physical copy of the primary database. That’s where the physical replication comes into play. It’s an exact copy of your primary site, of your production database that’s kept on the DR site.

What about Dbvisit Replicate? Again, let’s try and keep it simple because this is one of the most complex products when you start talking about data replication and moving data around and logical replication. It doesn’t make a difference if you want to just copy one table or maybe a subset of tables or perhaps maybe you even want to take the whole database, you want to take it from one location to another. That is where you can use the Dbvisit Replicate. You are looking at real time moving data around. Dbvisit Standby is looking at, it’s a full exact copy of your database that’s being kept up to date.

Dbvisit Replicate is where you are looking at moving subset, in most cases you would be taking a subset of data that you’ve been moving around. Now, this is a perfect way to feed reporting systems. If you are looking at reporting environments. This is quite an easy example to use because a lot of companies out there are looking at this, they are using it, they understand when we are talking about it, so this is when you want to feed your reporting environments. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to do your reporting straight off your production primary OLTP systems they are in come cases are under heavy load.

You don’t want to add reporting onto that, you want to offload that somewhere else and you can use this product to feed those systems and whether they are Oracle or SQL server, it doesn’t make a difference. Now, I can talk about this for hours, but in summary I will just say that Dbvisit Standby is focusing around creating a back-up copy of your whole database in a different geological location, you can have one in a local data centre, but you can have multiple standby databases and we can maintain it for you. If you are looking at moving data around, if you are looking at a subset of data, Dbvisit Replicate comes into play. There’s a lot more I can say about that, but I’m trying to keep it more high level just to explain the basic principals and concepts around it. 

Kay:                 Thank you Anton. What would be the comparable Oracle products to Dbvisit Replicate and Dbvisit Standby? Anton:            For the Dbvisit Standby product, which is focused around Standard Edition, many people see it as the standard edition alternative for Dataguard. Dataguard is Enterprise Edition only, so that’s where Dataguard is used ans it comes at the cost, you have to have Enterprise Edition licenses. Dbvisit Replicate is quite similar to Oracle Goldengate. If you are familiar with Oracle Goldengate, that’s where the Dbvisit Replicate fits, that’s in the space that it plays. 

Kay:                 Can anyone use your products Anton, I know you said they are mainly for Standard Edition rather than Enterprise Edition, but can Enterprise Edition customers use your products? What is the mixture between standard edition and enterprise edition adoption? 

Anton:            Can anyone use the products? yes anyone can use it. Whether you’re using Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition, you can use the products. Both products support all the editions, even if you’re using Oracle Express Edition, we support that, so Oracle Express, Standard Edition, Standard Edition one and Enterprise Edition, they’re all supported. Now, the Dbvisit Standby product is mainly focused around Standard Edition, that’s the specific market it’s looking after, but we do have a few customers using Enterprise Edition. One of the feedback that they gave us is that we find your product so easy to use, it’s so easy to set up and it’s so easy to use. That’s why they use it. Dbvisit Replicate is used for both. Dbvisit Replicate is not focused around Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition, so it’s used across the board whether you are using Standard Edition or Enterprise Editions. We have customers using both editions that will be using Dbvisit Replicate. We do get on a regular basis, questions about migrations between the editions. For example, customers that are looking at potentially moving from the Enterprise Edition to the Standard Edition or the other way, where they are looking at minimum down time and all that and that’s where the Dbvisit product can be used as well. 

Kay:                 Are you seeing a growth of Enterprise Edition customers? You said that your customer feedback is that it’seasier to use than Oracle or are you still seen as predominately a Standard Edition focus? 

Anton:            With Dbvisit Standby we primarily focused on Standard Edition market, which is mainly, as I mentioned, the small to medium sized companies. Standard Edition is still top class, it’s high quality. If you look at the core of the technology it’s the same as Enterprise Edition, it’s not that you’re getting something totally different. The core of the technologies is exactly the same, so you get something that is of extremely high quality.

Over the years we have seen more enterprise organizations reviewing costs and one of the key areas they look at is license cost. As you get a truly exceptional product when buying Enterprise Edition, it really is amazing, but it does come at a pretty hefty price tag and that’s quite important for some customers. They don’t necessarily look at the features and everything, they just want to store data, tables and indexes on a basic level, so they don’t look at the enterprise features. Standard edition is still an feasible option for them. The end result is we are definitely seeing an increase of enquiries on moving from Enterprise Edition to Standard Edition.  With the Dbvisit Standby product we continue to focus on the Standard Edition market, but with the Replicate product, as I mentioned for us it doesn’t make a difference. We will continue supporting both, Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition. 

Kay:                 Anton, why would a customer want to use Dbvisit’s products? If I was a customer looking into this what should I investigate or consider?

Anton:            That is an excellent question. What makes our product stand out? There are two key things for me that stand out. There is actually a lot, but there are two keys ones. The two key areas; one is ease of use. We want to make sure the product is easy to use. That’s one of our key things that we work on, so the installation, everything is just ease of use, is one of the top things. The second one is cost. Dbvisit Standby and replicate is easy to use, it’s affordable and in most cases it’s a fraction of the cost compared to competitors. Maybe I can be a bit biased, but I know that the team that sits behind the development and everything and they’re totally awesome.

What really stands out is they’re really passionate about Oracle technology and they are dedicated to delivering elegantly crafted products to the clients. Apart from ease of use and cost, there are many other areas when you’re reviewing these products that you should be looking at and I recommend that people go and review the feature list. Look at what these products can do. Compare them to the competition. Just take Dbvisit Standby as an example, it allows you to create the stand by database by just answering a few questions. Whether you’re using file system, using basic storage or using ASM, or if you’ve got Oracle RAC environment, we can help you create a standby database with just a few easy questions. You look at those features, there’s not a lot of products out there that will help you do that, that automates that for you. There’s not a lot manual steps involved. Those things just stand out for me. It’s ease of use and cost. 

Kay:                 Anton, does Dbvisit provide support for the solutions?

Anton:            Yes, this is one of our key differentiators. We have an excellent support team, we provide support for business hours, as well as 24/7 seven support, so customers can sign up for 24/7 support. We use the “follow the sun” approach because we have people all over the World.  We have people in New Zealand and Prague and the States. We can support the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Americas. For us it’s quite easy to provide support in these areas, but there are customers that can sign up for24/7 support, so if they want priority one support we do that. Our support team is friendly and as I said before, these guys will go the extra mile to help our customers. 

Kay:                 Anton, let’s talk about successes now. What is the biggest customer in terms of an Enterprise Edition customer that Dbvisit has?

Anton:            We do have a lot of Enterprise Edition customers, unfortunately I’m not able to give all the details around that. We have customers across all industries, including health care, retail, hi-tech even stock exchanges. We’ve got global media giants, we’ve got government groups, manufacturing companies, our products are very not vertical specific, but we do find common pockets of industries. I do want to state that, to us, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a small business or a big enterprise, we will treat you as if you’re a big enterprise customer. We really try and look after the customer. 

Kay:                 Is it viable for Enterprise Edition customers to move to Standard Edition? 

Anton:            That’s a great question, yes in some cases it really is. It really is easy to switch and it is viable. It’s not just the license cost that you need to look at. You need to look at the on going maintenance cost. You look at support costs over time because your support cost is a percentage of your initial up front license cost. If you’re looking at Enterprise Edition and you’ve paid a substantial amount for your initial license, your on going support cost is a percentage of that.  So in the long run it’s going to add up. Now, if you review this over a period of time, switching to Standard Edition might end up saving you a lot of money.  

If you want to switch from Enterprise Edition to Standard Edition, you need to look at the Standard Edition licensing you need to obtain, but then if you look at the long run in terms terms of your ongoing maintenance and support, you’re going to save a lot of money. A lot of people just look at the cost, it really is more than just cost. There are a number of key things that should be reviewed before deciding to switch editions. Even if you are looking at purchasing a new license, if you’re looking at implementing a new product or a new project and you need to look at, “Am I going to use Enterprise Edition or Standard Edition?”  There is a few key things that you need to look at. Review the business requirements. Actually go and talk to the business. Do not make assumptions, get enough information from the business.  So many times the IT departments don’t really go and talk to the business.  Make sure you get a good idea of what’s required, what’s involved. Review what the database features are, or are actually required. If you look at the database features make sure you understand what features are required.

If you’re looking at high availability. If you’re looking at all these specific features, make sure you know if they are required. It might be that your application doesn’t require these Enterprise Edition features and that you can get away with just using Standard Edition. The other thing is, it’s very important to review the Oracle documentation. Make sure you understand, what’s the difference between these editions. Review the documentation, make sure you understand what is really included with Enterprise Edition, what’s included with Standard Edition, so you can make more of an educated decision on which way you should go. Following this you might be surprised that if you don’t need Enterprise Edition features, there’s is a whole exciting world out there for you. Standard Edition is quite exciting, there’s quite a lot you can do with it and just think how happy you’re going to make management on all the cost savings that you’re going to make.

 Kay:                 You mentioned at the beginning of the interview, Anton, that Dbvisit is rapidly growing, what’s your plans with regards to growth strategy? 

Anton:            Right now, like everyone else, we are focused on the some of the bigger discussions around Cloud. Cloud is growing, it’s not just a buzz word anymore, people are switching to it, it’s evolving, it’s growing. We are looking at things like big data and the digital business, but also understanding what these actually mean for our customers and how this impacts their requirements and terms of that data protection and management and movement. We have some great development underway and while now I can’t say too much about it at the moment, it’s going to be a very, very exciting twelve months ahead for us as a company.

We are very lucky to be very nimble in our approach. We can adapt and develop for challenging needs. We could bring new staff in quickly, as soon as they’re required. There is no wait time, we just get on with it. We get on with it and we do it. That’s what I really like about the Company, you’re sitting with all these creative people, they’re exceptional, creating the solutions to help customers out there. It’s truly amazing and I think it’s a really exciting, next twelve months laying ahead for us. 

Kay:                 Anton, thank you very much for joining me today. It was an excellent, informative interview. 

Anton:            Thank you very much Kay, I really enjoyed it.