The Limitations of Single-Tasking

Friday 22nd February 2019, 3:10pm

You may not want to hear this, but one company database almost certainly isnít enough.

As simple pleasures go, that refreshing morning shower has to be right up there. Or at least it is until someone switches on the washing machine, flushes the loo, or starts the dishwasher.

Blinking the soap out of your eyes under the dribble that has just replaced your power shower, you may ask yourself why combination boiler designers havenít yet cracked the conundrum of meeting competing demands.

For business managers, exactly the same question should pop into your head when it comes to the performance of your database.

Big computers and combi boilers have a lot more in common with each other than metal casings. Both systems deliver a flow. With the boiler, itís water; in computing, itís processing power. Whatever power your system has, it canít all go everywhere at the same time. When extra demand is introduced, the pressure Ė and therefore the efficiency Ė of the flow reduces. Thatís physics.

In business, thereís a word for this syndrome. Contention.  Contention is the hidden hazard of creating a single database solution and expecting it to perform multiple tasks with equal efficiency. We humans joke about how good we are at multi-tasking, but in reality all that happens when we try to do that is that we handle each newly-added task in a progressively less efficient way. Itís the same with databases. Expecting one to handle a load of different jobs is a bit like expecting the CEO to run an entire company single-handed.  

So, whatís the answer?

The creation of discrete, specialised and tightly integrated, intercommunicating databases is what you need.  Itís far better to have one fast and responsive database for, say business reporting, a separate one thatís dedicated to answering analystsí bigger questions, another for marketing campaign selections, and so on. This will give your techies the freedom to apply the right amount and the right kind of power to any given situation, without stealing precious processing resource from other business tasks.  And ensuring each database is connected will keep all your data in sync.

Switching from a single-database setup to a retrofitted multi-database solution will quickly pay for itself in terms of operational benefits, especially now with the growth of cloud computing. The process involves identifying the jobs that your business has to do and then creating dedicated systems for those jobs. If you have a Ferrari and a tractor, you wouldnít use the Ferrari to plough a field, nor would you take a tractor to a trackday.  Futureproofing and adding more systems as your business grows is easy once the requirements have been identified and the right resources put in place.

Once upon a time, companies could get around conflicting demands for computer time by running power-hungry operations like reports after hours. But in todayís global business environment, there are no after hours. For many organisations, their approach to database management simply hasnít kept up with the new Ďalways-oní society.

If your company has tens of thousands of customers, you may be able to get away with a Ďone database fits allí arrangement. But if your customer count is already higher than that, or you have aspirations in that direction and your campaign selections are already taking Ďforeverí to complete when youíre running that weekly report for your manager, then this represents a real risk to your business.

Having a chat with someone like Optima is certainly something you should be considering. They can help you to realign your database expectations Ė and relegate blinking through the shampoo into a long-forgotten memory.