Six Reasons to Review your Database Availability– Part 2 Lost Customers

From working with many customers to help keep their critical databases up and running we have come up with the top 6 reasons for putting Database Availability at the top of your priority list. In this blog we look at Lost Customers:

If an organisation is experiencing an outage, whether planned or unplanned, it is all too easy for customers to get frustrated and take their business to a competitor. This is particularly relevant in an online retail environment. One click can have a customer abandoning their shopping basket and looking for an alternative.

Customers expect services to be available 24/7 whether they are accessing a mobile banking app, shopping website or searching for an insurance quote. Even outages caused by planned, routine maintenance have the ability to leave customers open to using an alternative supplier if they cannot access the service they want, when they want it.

In the age of social media it is all too easy for disgruntled customers to head to Twitter or Facebook to let the world know about their negative experience with your brand. A few recent examples from Twitter below:

Database outage

Companies are spending an increasing amount of time and budget on handling outages and customer communications via Twitter and other social platforms to make sure they keep customers informed and onside during both planned and unplanned outages:

 

This ties in very closely to our third reason for prioritising Database Availability – reputational damage (more on that in a later blog).

A common stat about customer retention is that it is around 5-6 times cheaper to retain an existing customer than to generate a new customer. With that in mind it is vital for organisations to put a value on what a lost customer means to their business. Planning for outages, whether expected or unexpected is essential to minimise loss of customers.

Find out more in our white paper or take a look at our Database Availability consultancy services.

 

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What’s coming up at IDUG EMEA 2018

The countdown is on! IDUG EMEA 2018 is just around the corner and it is set to be a great event. With so many fantastic speakers this year it’s going to be tough to plan your diary so we thought we would pull out a few highlights from the agenda which we think look particularly interesting:

DevOps and Agile are hot topics this year and you’ve got a few choices of presentations:

Monday Afternoon – Cloudy with a Chance of DevOps – A Survival Guide Julian Stuhler, Triton Consulting

Tuesday Afternoon – Agile DB2 Deployment with Docker, Kubernetes and REST Mark Murnane, IBM

Wednesday Morning – Docker and DB2: Recipes for Uncontained Success Ian Bjorhovde, DataProxy LLC

“I’m really excited about IDUG EMEA this year. The venue is fantastic and we have such a great line-up of speakers from users to IBM experts, long-time IDUG speakers and first-time attendees. I think this could be our best event yet!” Iqbal Goralwalla, IDUG Board of Directors Vice President / EMEA CPC Liaison & Emerging Technologies and Triton Head of Midrange Services

IBM expert talks are always popular so make sure you grab a seat early for these three fascinating talks:

Monday Morning – DB2: Latest from the Lab and look into the Future Keri Romanufa, IBM

Monday Afternoon – Developer Services for the Next Generation of DB2 z Developers Patrick Bossman, IBM

Tuesday Afternoon – Build a Slack or Facebook Messenger Interface to DB2 Henrik Loeser, IBM

User stories are a great way to hear experiences and learnings from industry peers:

Tuesday Afternoon – Modernizing the Mainframe – Making DB2 z/OS Agile Paul Whitmarsh, Lloyds Banking Group Co-Speaker: Paul Stoker (Triton)

There will also be three expert panels on DB2 for z/OS, DB2 for LUW and application development which take place on Wednesday. Triton Director Julian Stuhler will be answering your DB2 for z/OS questions from 13:40 and Iqbal Goralwalla will be join the LUW expert panel from 14:50. You can submit your z/OS and LUW questions to the panel in advance.

Join us in Malta on 4th – 8th November to experience the latest in DB2 technologies, networking opportunities and technical content. There’s still time to benefit from the Early Bird rate with the Discount Code (EARLYEMEA18) but be quick because you only have until 24th September!  Book your place today.

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How flexible is your DB2 support team?

Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to DB2 support. If a problem is going to happen you can bet your lunch money on it happening in the middle of the night on a Sunday when your most experienced DB2 DBA is on holiday. Does your IT team have the flexibility to handle DB2 support issues under those circumstances? Who do you turn to when your skilled DBA is away or unavailable?

Issues are often more complicated than they first seem, with multiple teams or departments having to become involved in firefighting the issue. Just take a look at some of our most recent DB2 support nightmares for some hair-raising examples.

It’s not only those emergency scenarios which require a high degree of flexibility. Your DB2 support team, whether internal, external or a combination of the two, need to be able to; plan maintenance work, deal with daily management, complete development projects and handle emergency situations often against a backdrop of competing priorities.

The ability to provide this kind of flexible service can be a real challenge for small and medium sized businesses. Not only having enough hands on deck but also having the required mix of skills within the team. Smaller organisations who don’t have access to the right skills or don’t have enough staff on hand when they need them can find themselves under real pressure.

Cost can be a major factor when it comes to increasing access to skilled IT staff. However, being able to scale-up your DB2 team during busy periods and scale-down during quieter times isn’t just a luxury for large multi-national organisations with access to a huge resource pool.  Imagine doing your resource planning and knowing that you could call on expert DB2 skills to cover your seasonal workload peak.

Triton Consulting provides a Consultancy on Demand service which is designed for customers who need varying levels of support and consultancy. This highly flexible service allows you to purchase a block of hours to be used as and when needed. You can purchase a block of 20,50 or 100 hours. You can then call off hours as and when you need them. The highly flexible nature of this service means that hours can be called off for a development piece, training or to cover DB2 skills when they’re in short supply in your team.

Find out more about Consultancy on Demand.

Download the Consultancy on Demand infographic.

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“Suck it and See” development – A DB2 Support Nightmare!

 

The set-up

 

This could be strongly related to the Support Nightmare #1, but not necessarily always. We have many clients who have rigorous change and version control procedures, where nothing goes into a downstream environment until it’s been tested and signed off and where database changes to give performance improvements are handled by the DBA staff who are carefully checking for adverse impact from any changes. And we have many clients who have none of the above.

It’s easy to be critical if you’re a database purist and I think everyone recognizes that there are situations where agile and immediate changes are imperative, but the danger is that the Prod environment (or even Pre-Prod or QA if these are crucial environments where the test results are taken as being a realistic representation of what will occur in Production) is treated as a sand-box.

  • This query is running really slowly
  • I wonder if a new index might help (creates new index and re-submits query)
  • No, that made no difference. Maybe I’ll Google it
  • OK, let’s try setting Database Manager Configuration parameter obscure_and_poorly_understood_parm to YES
  • No, that hasn’t helped. I wonder if I create a small table with just the bits I need and query that (submits massive INSERT INTO TABLE statement using a SELECT on the base table with no usable index to service the WHERE clause)
  • Etc., etc.

At the end of this exercise not only do you not have a solution to your performance problem but you have a number of changes that may have made things worse rather than better. And it’s very rare that anyone retraces their steps and removes all the changes they attempted in an effort to solve the problem.

 

The Moral

The first moral of the story is don’t leave this sort of task to someone who isn’t an experienced DBA. Performance tuning is a specialist skill, some might say a Black Art, and it’s unfair to offload this sort of work on someone without the necessary skillset and the time to do it properly. I’ve been in IT for 30 years but I don’t expect someone to hand me a screwdriver and a soldering iron and ask me to rewire their mainframe.

The second moral is don’t leave this task so late in the cycle that it is occurring in Prod. Performance tuning should be part of the development cycle; occurring in the early stages of the project and forming part of the release checklist.

 

Sign-up to receive DB2 Support Nightmare updates or download our previous series ‘Top 10 DB2 Support Nightmares and How to Avoid Themhere.

 

 

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Master the Mainframe 2018

What is the Master the Mainframe Competition?

The contest is sponsored by the IBM Z Academic Initiative. Designed to help you learn, prepare for a career and win prizes, it’s a great way to get started with the Mainframe. The IBM Z Initiative provides Mainframe training and resources to students at more than 1000 schools in 70 countries.

IBM works with students, professors and businesses from across the globe to enable the next generation to acquire the skills they need to become the Mainframe experts of the future.

Pre-Register for the 2018 contest

More than 85,000 participants in 1,000 schools across 70 countries have participated in the Master the Mainframe learning. Meet some of the past Champions.

Why should you think about the Mainframe as a career choice?

Many of the largest organisations around the world rely on Mainframes for the security and reliability of their mission critical IT systems. Due to a looming skills gap on the Mainframe, many of these organisations are actively looking to recruit new Mainframe talent.

Want to know more about why Mainframe skills are a good bet? Check out IBM’s blog – 1,001 Reasons Why The Class of 2015 Should Consider a Mainframe Career

Not ready to enter? You can still try your hand at the challenges and use the learning system as this is available year-round – Register here.

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Six Reasons to Review your Database Availability – Part 1 Lost Sales Revenue

From working with many customers to help keep their critical databases up and running we have come up with the top 6 reasons for putting Database Availability at the top of your priority list. In this blog we look at our top reason – Lost sales revenue:

Lost Sales Revenue has the number one spot because it is the biggest fear related to database downtime. It is a major concern for online retailers in particular. If customers cannot access goods and services online then purchases are hindered resulting in lost revenue. Similarly in the banking sector where revenue is generated through credit card transaction fees and trading fees, if transactions cannot take place, revenue cannot be earned.

The VISA card payment system went down across Europe in June this year, meaning that thousands of customers faced difficulty when trying to use their VISA cards and hundreds of small businesses were left without credit card services. According to a report from FT.com one café owner in London feared a loss of £3,000 because customer’s cards were declined.

Amazon was the unfortunate headline star of one of the most famous online retailer outages a few years ago.  When Amazon.com went down for approximately 30 minutes in 2013 they lost a reported $66,240 per minute.

In another example from 2012 the UK mobile operator O2 experienced two separate faults due to issues with its Central User Database. In July 2012 millions of customers were unable to call, text or use mobile internet services for more than 24 hours. As a result the company was forced to offer subscribers a 10% discount on their bill and subsequently decided to spend £10m to replace the central User Database.

There is a huge amount of research available about how much an IT outage can cost an organisation. Estimates range from £70,000 an hour to over £40 million in a year.

With this kind of threat to the bottom-line it is vital for CIOs and IT Management to put Database Availability front and centre of their plans for maintaining IT systems.

Find out more in our white paper or take a look at our Database Availability consultancy services.

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How to get the most out of your RemoteDBA service

Got a RemoteDBA for DB2 support service or thinking about taking one out? Make sure you get the most out of it with these tips:

Give the RemoteDBA team as much information as possible
Knowledge is power! The more information you can give our team the better prepared they will be to support your DB2 environment. During the free database healthcheck which is run before a RemoteDBA contract commences we will discover a lot about your DB2 environment. However, it helps to know:

• About the team personnel and who we will be working with
• Company background and culture
• How the DB2 database we are supporting fits into the wider IT infrastructure
• Any previous issues you have experienced with your DB2 environment

Get to know your RemoteDBA support team
When your contract starts, plan some time in to speak to the team and get to know your key contacts. Help them to understand how your team works and what your expectations of the service are.

Advance warning
Tell the team well in advance of any upcoming events which might impact database performance such as seasonal spikes or planned upgrades. We can help you to effectively plan for these types of events so that services are not adversely affected.

Choose the right support package for your business
There are several support packages on offer so it is important to look carefully at the options and choose the one which best fits your organisations’ requirements. Do you need 24/7 support or just office hours cover? If there is a problem with your DB2 database outside of normal working hours, how would this affect your business?

Whichever package you opt for, there are unlimited support calls and support hours included so you never have to worry about running out of support.

Utilise the consultancy on demand hours which are included in your contract
RemoteDBA comes with 20 hours of our Consultancy on Demand (excluding RemoteDBA Office). We highly recommend that you make the most of these hours. It’s a great way to get some expert DB2 skills onsite! You can use your hours for training, consultancy or development work or any planned DB2 activity – for example, version upgrades or new feature implementation.

Find out more about DB2 support services from Triton Consulting.

Download the Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Remote Database Support white paper.

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Less than 5 months to go until Black Friday 2018 – have you started to plan?

According to research by PWC the vast majority of Black Friday spending will be done online. This means that retailers are under immense pressure to ensure that their IT systems are up to the job. We’ve come up with a checklist of tasks which should be performed over the next five months to make sure you’re ready for the big day:

• Review performance trends from 2017
• Evaluate potential areas of weakness
• Scale beyond expected traffic spikes
• Evaluate your failover strategy
• Perform disaster recovery check
• Perform a configuration check
• Test your availability
• Update statistics
• Resolve pending issues
• Set up a change freeze date
• Ensure you have enough technical expertise on hand

The last point is sometimes overlooked but is arguably one of the most important. Will you have enough hands on deck during those crucial shopping hours should your IT systems experience any problems? When a workload spike hits, you need extra skills on hand as any outages can cause significant issues for the business if an outage occurs and sales are lost. There is a huge amount of research available about how much an IT outage can cost an organisation. Estimates range from £70,000 an hour to over £40 million in a year.

Consultancy on Demand from Triton Consulting allows you to purchase a block of consultancy hours to be used as and when needed. For example, one of our experts could join your team for a day to run through the Black Friday readiness checklist. That same consultant could come back to work with your team over the Black Friday weekend to ensure that things run smoothly.

Find out more about our Black Friday services.

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Five go to IDUG

It’s a full house! We’re delighted to announce that all five of Triton’s IDUG team have had their presentations accepted, four as primary speakers and one as a co-speaker.

Here’s what you have got to look forward to:

Award winning speaker, Julian Stuhler, will be taking a look at DevOps for Mainframe in his engaging presentation – Cloudy with a Chance of DevOps – A Survival Guide

Overview
As large enterprises continue their headlong rush into Cloud Computing and the DevOps movement continues to gather momentum, traditional DB2 job roles are being forced to adapt. This presentation will provide a brief overview of these two increasingly important IT trends, and examine how they are directly impacting DB2 developers, DBAs and systems programmers. From cloud-oriented application design to fully automating DB2 schema changes, some practical guidelines are offered to help current practitioners thrive in this brave new world.

 

Highly experienced DB2 for z/OS Consultant, James Gill will be walking us through a technical introduction to Configuring AT-TLS encryption of DDF traffic.

Overview
This presentation will cover concepts including; how to configure encryption on z/OS and how DB2 uses this and how to configure the clients that will use it.

 

Damir Wilder, one of our talented DB2 LUW and RemotedBA Consultants will be taking us through – SQL Tuning Basics: Simple Steps to SQL Sufficiency

Overview
The purpose of this presentation is to give an overview of methods used in everyday SQL tuning of transactional databases, when an SQL query or a Batch job is underperforming and a quick solution is required. Describe generally available tools in DB2 that can assist in the daily SQL tuning and/or SQL performance problem detection. Describe how to find out what is happening right now in a database. Describe how to gather historical performance data for a database. Describe how to analyse locking issues. Describe how to identify the hottest tables and SQL queries in a database. Show several real-life scenarios of poorly performing SQL and what was done to improve it.

 

Sticking with the DB2 LUW theme, experienced IDUG speaker, Mark Gillis will be giving a fascinating presentation entitled – HTAP : are we there yet?

Overview
From DB2 LUW V10.5 onwards, the focus has been very much on OLAP functionality: BLU acceleration and all that that entails. However, the days of segregating OLAP and OLTP have probably largely passed and customers want a single database to service all their requirements. Light speed response for OLTP transactions, equally performant OLAP functions to crunch massive volumes of data into digestible Business Intelligence with 24×7 availability for both are a demand, not a request. Can DB2 currently deliver this? If not, will it be able to in the near future? How close are we to the genuine Hybrid database?

 

In a twist to our regular presentations, Paul Stoker will be presenting alongside Lloyds Banking Group in their user presentation – Modernizing the Mainframe – Making DB2 z/OS Agile

Overview
Demands on DBAs for change is higher & faster than ever before. DBAs are coming under pressure to adopt to Agile Development, DevOps & RESTful APIs to name a few. Our presentation discusses our real-world experiences of leveraging DB2 z/OS tools to meet the needs of an increasingly agile engineering environment from a DBA perspective. We discuss decisions made & lessons learnt whilst designing & building applications using RESTful APIs, JSON, XML, Stored Procs & how we manage the associated artefacts.

This year’s IDUG conference will be held in beautiful Malta on 4th-8th November. There will be three expert panels on DB2 for z/OS, DB2 for LUW and application development. In over 100 hours of one-hour technical sessions, attendees will experience the latest in DB2 technologies, networking opportunities and top-notch technical content.

To find out more and book your place visit – https://www.idug.org/emea2018

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Dr, Dr, my data is corrupt!

Five signs that you need a Remote DB2 support solution!

We speak to our very own in-house Dr about the signs to look out for which can tell you that it’s time to start thinking about a remote DB2 support solution.

“In my time as Head of Managed Services at Triton I’ve seen many different types of customers with different issues and priorities for their DB2 database management but there are five key triggers to look out for. If any of these apply to your organisation then it really is time to book an appointment with the DB2 experts!” Dr Iqbal Goralwalla, Head of Managed Services, Triton Consulting and IBM Gold Consultant.

 

1. Continually struggling with competing priorities for your IT budget
2. Feeling the strain of 24/7 support
3. Overworked DBAs
4. Struggling to find DB2 skills
5. Feeling insecure about the future

Each organisation is different and their specific reasons for choosing a remote database support solution will vary but there are many common themes. The need for quality support and technical excellence is of course paramount.

1. Continually struggling with competing priorities for your IT budget

“No prizes for guessing that cost is a major factor for many organisations that choose remote database support. However, it’s not as clear-cut as you may think.” Says Iqbal

When we looked at this issue more closely we discovered that under the umbrella of “Cost” there were many other factors at play. It is often the perception that organisations need to cut cost and so will simply choose to reduce headcount by outsourcing large chunks of business processes in a bid to save money. This may be the case for some IT and business processes but when you look at more niche IT services such as database support this is rarely the case, especially in the midmarket sector.

It is especially difficult for small teams to cope at busy times of the year or holiday season.
We have also seen some organisations using DB2 only for a niche part of their overall IT infrastructure. It is often difficult to make a business case for employing a full time DB2 DBA in this instance and so the organisation is forced to rely upon existing Oracle or SQL Server DBAs. This can become a problem if any serious DB2 support issues arise.

In both of these scenarios, by utilising an external support provider, organisations can benefit from additional DBA support far more cheaply than if they had to employ another permanent member of staff. This combination of in-house and external support works well for many organisations.

2. Feeling the strain of 24/7 Support
“The demand for 24×7 services can put a huge strain on overstretched DBA teams. Have you felt the strain? Our customers have found that working alongside a partner who can provide 24×7 DBA cover with contracted response times down to one hour provides the insurance they need.” Says Iqbal

High or continuous availability (24×7) is a common requirement for today’s “on demand” IT systems and this can put pressure on small or overstretched DBA teams. Teams can have difficulty providing cover for holiday, sickness or maternity and paternity leave. Adding to this, the increasing requirement for systems to be available 24×7 with DBA cover required at all times, the pressure on small DBA teams is clear.


3. Overworked DBAs

“I think anyone who has worked in a DBA team can identify with this one. Overworked DBA teams may not have time to proactively monitor the database. Instead, only reacting once a problem has occurred and business users are already feeling the effects.” Says Iqbal

Expert DBA skills are often needed on different projects and so DBAs can find themselves spending more time on non-core functions. This means that the vital monitoring and management of the database can be sidelined.

Don’t forget! It is important when taking out a remote support contract, to check whether the service provider can offer the option of proactive monitoring. This takes away the concern of problems cropping up unexpectedly and more often than not potential issues are noticed and dealt with before users are even aware of an issue.

4. Struggling to find DB2 skills
“Is searching for DB2 skills becoming a problem in your organisation?” Asks Iqbal.

We work with organisations who do not have any DB2 skills in-house and organisations who have skills in-house but access to those skills is limited.

Some organisations may have inherited DB2 systems through expansion or acquisition and do not have the skills in-house to support it. Whilst their own IT team may be able to cope for a while, if any real issues come up, a support organisation with DB2 expertise will be needed.

We have also seen customers facing the need to replace a DBA quickly but who have struggled to find a new individual with the required level of skills. Bringing in a support organisation is a useful way to plug this gap fast with the assurance that you will be getting the highest level of DB2 skills.

5. Feeling insecure about the future
“This one is slightly less obvious but important nonetheless. If your organisation is in the process of changing it’s strategic IT direction then this is one to look out for.” Says Iqbal

An “insecure future” may not be the most obvious reason but sometimes organisations are unsure of their strategic IT direction, particularly the choice of database platform. Investing in permanent staff to support and maintain a database that may not be in the long term plans for the business does not make financial sense. Finding a provider who can take control of ongoing database maintenance until a final decision has been made is a good way around this problem.

Organisations face many challenges in delivering a stable, efficient database infrastructure. Budget pressures, demands for higher availability and increasing workloads can all mean that pressure is building on IT Management to find a cost effective and reliable way of managing the organisations’ DB2 infrastructure.

RemoteDBA from Triton Consulting provides the highest level of stability for business critical operations. Our clients receive a superior level of personalised care – day or night – from our team of highly experienced DB2 professionals.

 

Remote DB2 Support Infographic

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Download the Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Remote Database Support white paper.

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