10 January 2011

You can't afford what?

Tibor Nagy recently did a nice intro to Populating a SQL Server Test Database with Random Data.

It was a good primer to generating gobs of data, but part of the problem the solution was addressing wasn't technical: "I heard about some excellent commercial tools but they are expensive and my company cannot afford them."  The first commercial tool that comes to mind is Red Gate's SQL Data Generator, which isn't expensive by any measure, least of all a DBAs time.

It sickens me when a company can afford to squander days of a $50/hour DBA's time hand rolling something that could be had commercially for only a few hundred dollars.  How can a company that can afford a DBA not afford a simple tool that will save days of effort and free up that expensive human time so it can be spent solving business problems?

To illustrate, a company where I used to work had an extravagantly expensive suite of database design, monitoring, and migration tools.  That was well and good, but the migration tool took hours to compare a simple database, and often didn't succeed (though you still had to wait hours to find out).  The result was a lot of squandered time and production releases that were often missing database objects or permissions.  Ouch!

This company frowned on any suggestion to evaluate a different tool-set, so one of the DBAs, who believed more in getting things done than toeing the line (this gave him a reputation as a something of a cowboy), downloaded a trial copy of Red Gate SQL-Compare and started playing with it.  This DBA's compare times went from hours to minutes (or less) and he no longer had last minute manual compare frenzies prior to production releases.

After a few more DBAs started using the evaluation - the tool completely paid for its purchase price in the first week of evaluation - the company finally realized that all this "free" salary time was being squandered, and decided to make the purchase.  The enterprise-class database tool was put to rest, along with its rather generous annual maintenance fees, and they never looked back.

Though I have yet to work there, someday I will work at or run a shop where each DBA has his or her own annual tools budget equal to roughly a single day's pay that can be used to purchase simple tools about which they are passionate.  They gain experience managing a corporate budgetary item and get the power and confidence to use that money to save even more money without any corporate red-tape, thank you very much.

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