To support scientific and engineering research, this research laboratory must keep its HPC clusters highly available at all times—a tough challenge for its lean database administration team.
The laboratory uses IBM Data Server Manager to help developers optimize database queries with a few mouse-clicks, saving time for DBAs and giving them better tools to monitor database performance.
MonitorsDB2 availability, allowing scientists to drive cutting-edge research
Eliminatestime-consuming DBA work and keeps HPC databases running smoothly
Helpsdevelopers build more efficient queries and improve utilization of HPC resources
Business challenge story
Keeping vital research tools online 24/7
This IBM client, a major government research laboratory, helps researchers in universities, industry, and other laboratories perform experiments that may be too large or too complex for their individual institutions to tackle alone.
A database administrator (DBA) at the laboratory explains: “Our high-performance computing [HPC] environment is what makes all this work possible. Members of the research community write proposals and receive awards of computing time on our resources.”
As its database layer, the HPC environment runs IBM DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows databases—a configuration that offers leading-edge performance with highly efficient power, cooling and floor-space requirements.
“We work with massive datasets, and we run 48 different IBM DB2 database instances across the cluster,” the DBA continues. “We have a mandate to deliver at least 95 percent availability for our HPC supercomputers, which can be a tough challenge for our lean team of DBAs.
“We write most of our software tools in-house, which makes monitoring particularly important: unlike enterprise software, our code hasn’t already been tested by hundreds of other organizations, so there’s a much higher risk of defects that could cause problems for the supercomputer.
“Our developers are highly skilled, but they’re not database experts—and, as a result, our DBAs were spending a significant amount of their time fixing query performance issues. These efforts were preventing us from focusing on our primary role of keeping the databases running smoothly, so we were keen to find a way to help our users fix their queries for themselves.”
Empowering developers to optimize their queries
To solve the challenge, the laboratory deployed IBM Data Server Manager—a simple, smart and scalable solution that reduces the burden of database administration tasks for expert and novice users alike.
“We had already been using a performance management tool to help our developers with their queries, but it lacked important capabilities such as configuration management and change tracking,” recalls the DBA. “The tool also depended on Adobe Flash. Because many of our developers were running Linux and preferred not to install Flash on their workstations, uptake was extremely low.”
He continues: “When we saw a presentation for IBM Data Server Manager at an IBM conference, we immediately recognized its potential to transform our approach to query management. It gives us a one-stop shop for monitoring database changes and query performance. Developers can log in via a web browser to see all the queries running in their DB2 environments, regardless of which operating system they are using. This helps them identify which queries are slow, and fix problems quickly. Better still, the solution is covered by our existing IBM DB2 Advanced Enterprise Edition licenses, so we knew we could deploy it at minimal cost.”
In just one week, the laboratory rolled out IBM Data Server Manager in its HPC environment. In less than two months, every developer on the cluster had embraced the solution to manage and optimize their queries.
“We have multiple versions of IBM DB2 running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux on IBM POWER®-processor based systems and Intel-based systems in our environment,” explains the DBA. “IBM Data Server Manager can handle any combination of IBM DB2 database versions with no trouble at all. In fact, we had the platform up and running in 20 minutes on day one.”
Pushing back the frontiers of scientific knowledge
Today, the laboratory empowers its developers to solve common query performance issues themselves, which frees its lean DBA team to manage the platform effectively and keep availability high.
“When our developers log in to IBM Data Server Manager, it gives them automated recommendations that help them optimize their SQL code in a few clicks,” says the DBA. “It’s very easy to use, and because the front-end of the solution is based on HTML5, there are no other dependencies: our developers can access the insights on any operating system that has a modern web browser.
“Whereas in the past our users were only able to see simple information about whether queries were running or not, they can now drill down to find the precise part of a query that is causing a performance issue.
“In one case, a developer found a query that was adding and deleting millions of database rows. IBM Data Server Manager helped him understand what the query was doing, and enabled him to fix it himself without assistance from our DBAs.”
The DBA also believes that the solution is delivering valuable insights to his own team: “With IBM Data Server Manager, our DBAs get a single, granular dashboard view with all the management information we need. We can now see at a glance if database connections or secondary log pages are being used in an unusual way that might indicate a problem, which helps us pinpoint issues faster.”
He concludes: “To help our labs drive cutting-edge research, it’s essential that we keep our cluster online 24/7. Thanks to IBM DB2 and Data Server Manager, we can take the pressure off our DBAs and help them deliver high availability for our HPC environment.”
About A government research laboratory
This large laboratory conducts research on behalf of government departments, industry and academia.
- DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows
- IBM Power Systems running Linux - Red Hat
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