DH2i Takes On SQL Server Consolidation Challenge

Startup led by former HP PolyServe staff uses virtualization-like techniques to stack up SQL Server instances on a single host, cutting core-based license costs.
DH2i's Don Boxley, co-founder and CEO of DH2i, says his young firm has solved two persistent problems in database systems management. It can move a running database system around without disrupting operations for end users, and it can encapsulate and stack a set of SQL Servers, each operating independently, on a single server to achieve a higher server utilization rate.

Whichever way you want to look at it, these two things have been difficult to do heretofore, and the enterprise data center still tends to be littered with single servers running one database system at a time, frequently at a low CPU cycle utilization rate.

DH2i upgraded its core system Sept. 24, the DxConsole 2012 Release 2, a product that typically retails for $10,000 per CPU, with claims for its added intelligence, greater scalability, and better performance. There's little customer testimony on the record yet for this novel product and no expert reviews.

Nevertheless, Boxley is a former HP product marketing manager in Ft. Collins, Colo., who's taken on the task of establishing DxConsole. His partner, co-founder and CTO of DH2i is O.J. Ngo, the developer behind HP's former PolyServe product, which consolidated SQL Server instances onto fewer servers. PolyServe has been phased out recently by HP, so DH2i has a potential, instant customer base of PolyServe customers looking for someplace to go. Likewise, DxConsole is a revamped PolyServe done right, says Boxley in so many words.

[ Want to learn more about DH2i's purpose? See DH2i Rolls Out Enhanced Application Virtualization, Load Balancing. ]

One key metric to watch when evaluating DxConsole is whether it can save a firm on both the number of physical servers devoted to database operations and the number of operating system and SQL Server licenses required. For example, Microsoft switched its SQL Server pricing model from CPU-based to a per-core basis with SQL Server 2012. If you can run four or eight copies of SQL Server on the same server that currently hosts one copy, you've reduced your Windows and SQL Server licenses accordingly.

DxConsole is actually made up of modules managing different aspects of a running database system to accomplish such a feat. The DxMotion module is the rough equivalent of VMware's vMotion, moving a SQL Server instance while it's running to another physical host. It can do so, says a product demonstration on the DH2i website, "in less than 30 seconds."

Likewise, DxMotion can be used, through an administrative console, to stack instances upon a single server, through a simple drag-and-drop technique. The DxConsole sits atop a shared pool of storage, governed by a single file system, so a given instance's storage can follow it around.

Boxley explained that DxConsole knows how to read the connection stream between, say, an accounting application and the database system and substitute a replacement name for an SQL Server instance in the connection stream. Then when it moves to a new host, it knows how to modify the connection stream to direct its former traffic to the new location.

DH2i calls this maneuver "virtualizating" the database instance, but it's more of a virtualization-like maneuver. There's no virtual machine or hypervisor involved or software-run substitution of the x86 instruction set. Instead, it's a graceful, sleight of hand maneuver, provided it works as advertised.

The DxConsole works with a set of SQL Servers, up to 50 instances, running on a server cluster and providing scale-out capabilities across more server nodes, as well as server consolidation. The DxConsole lets the administrator set policies, such as "move this instance when its traffic uses up more than 70% of the assigned memory," and the underlying system will find a better server in the cluster for it.

Boxley said both PolyServe and DH2i customers "love SQL Server and run an average of 40 instances of it." So an administrative system that works on the principles of pooled storage, shared data, and flexibly placed SQL Server instances has a lot of potential for them.

Then again, DH2i is a young company with seven employees. It's rich in SQL Server expertise, short on customers. It will have about a dozen at the end of 2012, with several of them major users of SQL Server, said Boxley.