Five considerations for choosing an effective SQL development tool

Without the right tools, managing the data that’s flooding into their enterprises at an alarmingly fast rate, is impossible.


Today, most database administrators (DBAs) work in cross-platform database environments, where they must handle complex, heterogeneous databases, multiple platforms and versions and numerous database instances. Without the right tools, managing the data that’s flooding into their enterprises at an alarmingly fast rate, is impossible. This can greatly impact on their productivity.

In fact, the typical DBA manages a terabyte of data or more and up to 35 databases instances at any one time. The DBA must also meet the needs of a team of developers who constantly request for changes and updates to be made in the databases. Despite this overwhelming workload, DBAs are expected to deliver improved performance and data availability to prove their value to the organisation.

The challenges of cross-platform database development and management can lead to significantly increased costs, as IT departments rush to hire new developers to support unfamiliar platforms. But in reality, what DBAs need is enhanced manageability, change management and automation – and the right tools to simplify, streamline and reduce the complexity of their day-to-day tasks. Without such tools, it is not feasible to handle the increasing pressure of new business requirements in the face of limited resources. Eventually, performance and quality will suffer.

Fortunately, comprehensive toolsets are now available to alleviate some of these pain points. SQL development tools can be particularly helpful in cutting costs and saving time in cross-platform environments. The following five considerations can help DBAs choose the right tool for the job:

1)  Does the tool provide a rich user interface?
Database development and management tools must fit DBAs’ way of working, not the other way round. Tools that offer a single user interface, no matter what the target platform, does not require DBAs to familiarise themselves with a new UI, and therefore they can start being productive immediately. This is particularly important when bringing on new talent to take over or assist with existing projects. Additionally, a single user interface can significantly cut down on ramp-up times as well as training costs.

2)  Does the tool have a comprehensive tools menu?
During SQL development, DBAs often need to use numerous tools and data repositories. A tool that can link DBAs directly to other tools help streamline development. Solutions that offer comprehensive menus and let DBAs access other important resources with a mouse click are worthwhile. In addition, tools that offer the functionality that allows DBAs to interface through the menu with database file searches and scripting features, or view visual differences between files and objects, considerably help overcome some of the database development and management challenges. Quick links to other software, such as editing tools, are also handy.

3)  How deep is the tool’s knowledge of other platforms?
DBAs often work with outdated, inflexible tools and therefore spend a lot of time sifting through online documentation for bits of information that can help them use the tools efficiently. This is a waste of time. New tools are available that offer efficient wizards that automatically convert queries into the appropriate format for the target platform. For example, using such tools DBAs can quickly create tables even if they don’t know the right data fields and types.

4)  Does the tool enable code organisation and the application of standards for database development?
To work quickly and efficiently, the ability to organise code is extremely important. Tools that enable DBAs to organise and categorise data sources by platform for easy retrieval are imperative. Some tools today offer customisable ‘bookmark’ features that automatically link to the resources that DBAs need or use most often. Others tools offer filters that help to remove the “noise” and enable DBAs to focus only on the relevant information. Further, some tools also enable fast project creation in a new platform through reverse engineering –they extract procedures from one platform and apply them to the new project, also checking in for changes automatically in DBAs’ chosen version control solution. Such automation makes adapting to new environments much easier and crucially eliminates human error.

5)  Can the tool streamline and improve coding?
DBAs working in cross-platform environments spend a lot of time learning the constructs of new procedural language and understanding the relationships between data structures and how to form queries. Tools that help DBAs understand relationships between foreign and primary keys are tremendous time-savers. Some tools also enable DBAs and developers to drag and drop relationships into SQL windows by defining the meaning of the relationships in the metadata. By bringing this information into the query builder automatically, they can then quickly construct effective queries, even in unfamiliar environments. Such automation enables DBAs to worry less about query construction and focus on writing good code. In addition, tools that also provide validation and error checking for the code being developed are a good choice. Debugging features can save DBAs considerable time and ensure that bad code never makes it past the tuning stage.

In essence, when choosing the right tool to assist with cross-platform database development, it’s important for DBAs to be cognisant know of the options available to them so that they can choose a tool that addresses their key pain points. Further, being familiar with the features that help streamline and automate the more difficult and tedious tasks involved in working with multiple platforms will make life a lot easier, and help them to be more productive and efficient, in turn allowing them to add more valuable to their organisation.

Jason Vokes, is Senior Director Technologies & Marketing International at Embarcadero Technologies

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