Support for multiple platforms, multiple RDBMSs, and multiple releases of each RDBMS

Platinum Technology's Desktop DBA 4.0 is 32-bit database administration software that runs on Windows 95 and Windows NT platforms. Because prices start at $995, you might be reluctant to purchase a product that appears to offer little more than the built-in database administrator (DBA) utilities that ship with database products from Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft, Informix, and IBM. However, this product's advantages are that it supports multiple releases of these relational database management systems (RDBMSs), it supports forward and backward migration via drag-and-drop operations, and it provides a fast DBCompare utility.

The Role of the DBA
DBAs used to be responsible for the physical well-being of a production database system such as order entry, inventory, and accounting. Large organizations had many DBAs, such as the "Oracle DBA" or the "order processing DBA." DBAs created the database; handled user access and privileges; were responsible for backups, reorganizations, and disaster recovery plans; monitored their system's performance; and kept the database well tuned.

In the past few years, however, we've started to see decentralized, departmental RDBMSs. Usually, the driving force behind this development has been speed: Without corporate IS involved in the process, departments can create their own client/server or data mart applications with relatively inexpensive NT versions of the major RDBMSs. Often, the person who installed and set up the RDBMS also wrote the application. But most applications had both client and server components, so specialists emerged. The back-end administrators performed traditional DBA tasks and wrote (created, tested, and tuned) server-based SQL stored procedures. Front-end administrators typically used tools such as Visual Basic (VB) or PowerBuilder and didn't know much about RDBMSs.

DBA and SQL programmer utilities began appearing to cater to these diverse markets. In 1992, Datura shipped Desktop DBA, an easy-to-use Windows tool for administering either Sybase or Microsoft/Ashton-Tate SQL Servers and performing routine DBA tasks--tasks that the DBA otherwise had to perform from a command line. Pointing and clicking in Desktop DBA is much easier than invoking stored procedures--with all the right parameters--from the operating system command line, and the product included graphics to illustrate remaining space in your database and log devices.

With five years and 50,000 DBAs of experience and a new, deep-pocketed owner (Platinum Technology), Desktop DBA now offers support for multiple platforms, multiple RDBMSs, and multiple releases of each RDBMS. The Windows 95 and NT versions of Desktop DBA 4.0 shipped in February, and the Motif versions should be available by the time you read this article. Platinum will continue to support and upgrade the current 16-bit Windows version, Desktop DBA 3.4.4, and might port the software to Win32 environments to support new interface features such as the DBMS Explorer.

Why Desktop DBA?
Desktop DBA faces its strongest competition from the RDBMS vendors. Microsoft, for example, ships different (incompatible) versions of graphical DBA tools with different versions of SQL Server (4.21, 6.0, and 6.5). Although Sybase bundles a 32-bit SQL Server Manager with System 11, you'll pay extra for advanced utilities such as Sybase's SQL Enterprise Manager, Sybase IQ, and Replication Manager (Desktop DBA supports both Sybase IQ and replication). Oracle began shipping Oracle Enterprise Manager with Oracle 7.2 (for a description of Oracle Enterprise Manager, see "Exploring Oracle7 Server for Windows NT," December 1996), and IBM and Informix bundle GUI DBA tools with their products.

Why bother with Desktop DBA when you can get DBA tools for free from the vendors? First, as far as I know, the newest DBA tools from Sybase, IBM, Oracle, and Informix run on only Windows, not Motif. Second, Desktop DBA offers better backward compatibility than any of the vendors' tools.

For example, with Desktop DBA 4.0 for SQL Server, you can administer any Sybase or Microsoft SQL Server on the network: Sybase SQL Server 4.9, .10, and .11, and Microsoft SQL Server 4.2, 6.0, and 6.5. You can move data or objects among the versions and upgrade or retrograde--Desktop DBA takes care of tricky details such as data type mapping.

If you're a multi-RDBMS, multiplatform shop, Desktop DBA offers a centralized console for managing multiple servers and their databases, including Oracle, Sybase and Microsoft SQL Servers, XDB, DB2 Common Server (AIX, OS/2, NT, HP-UX, Solaris), and both Informix SE and Online servers. Desktop DBA includes better data import tools than the RDBMS (SQL Server users are united in maligning SQL Server's crude bcp utility, and Oracle's import tool doesn't win any ease-of-use contests, either).

With Desktop DBA, you can import or export not only entire databases or their structures, but also single or multiple tables. The software automatically creates target tables during import if the table doesn't exist. When importing legacy data, you can customize both field and row delimiters.

Even if you don't need the support for diverse databases, Desktop DBA's features are bound to touch a nerve. The product's DBMS Explorer makes seeing table names, column names, and data types easy and even lets you edit, delete, or rearrange them, as shown in Screen 1. You can examine table structures and add, delete, or reorder columns (using drag-and-drop operations). You can manage users, including cloning them and dropping all nonsystem objects associated with a given user; compare databases, based on their system catalogs; use Desktop DBA's SQL Scripts editor to write or edit SQL associated with Data Definition Language (DDL), stored procedures, triggers, and so on; and view the results in another pane.

Installation
Installing Desktop DBA 4.0 is straightforward. You can install the main program files on a local or network work-
station, but you need sa/SYS/DBA privileges to install the server components.

Once you supply a SQL Server name, logon, and password, for example, Desktop DBA installs several stored procedures on each server administered. When you run Desktop DBA the first time, you'll see an icon for each server you've installed. If you need more servers, you can add them from Desktop DBA's Server menu. To its credit, Desktop DBA also has a complete uninstall routine.

Beginning with Desktop DBA 4.0, Platinum includes a viewer copy of Platinum's InfoReports and some starter reports, hoping to entice you to purchase Platinum's InfoReports Server. Desktop DBA 4.0 also ships a CD-ROM with documentation in Adobe Acrobat Portable Data Format (PDF) format, but the same documentation is also available as online Help.

SQL Scripts
Desktop DBA simplifies managing SQL Scripts, whether they're DDL or scripts associated with stored procedures. When you choose Scripts from the main menu (an option that you can disable from Options, Preferences), you see the SQL Scripts window. From this window, you can open and edit an existing script or stored procedure (as shown in Screen 2) , or create a new script. You can run scripts directly from the SQL Scripts window; the results window displays "Working" until the scripts return your results. Desktop DBA comes with a handful of useful SQL starter templates, or you can create templates.

Desktop DBA shines as a DBA tool and the product provides adequate support for SQL programming. Although other multi-DBMS packages exist, you can't go wrong if you invest in Desktop DBA.

Desktop DBA 4.0
Contact: Platinum Technology * 630-620-5000 or 800-442-6861
Web: http://www.platinum.com
Price: Starts at $995