By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


In some ways, data has become just as much a colleague to federal IT managers as the person sitting next to them. Sure, data can’t pick up a burrito for you at lunchtime, but it’s still extraordinarily important to agency operations. Data keeps things going so that everyone in the agency can do their jobs – just like your fellow IT professionals.


Unfortunately, as my colleague Thomas LaRock wrote last year, too many people still treat data as a generic commodity instead of a critical component of application performance. But applications are at the heart of just about everything government employees do, and those applications are powered by databases. If there’s a problem with an application, it’s likely due to an underlying performance issue with the database it runs on.


As data and applications continue to become more intertwined, it’s time to get serious about employing strategies to ensure optimal database performance. Here are five tips to get you started:


1. Integrate DBAs into the IT mix


It may seem incredible, but to this day many agencies are still arranged in siloes, with different teams shouldering separate responsibilities. As such, despite their importance to network and application performance, many DBAs still operate in their own bubbles, separate from network administrators and IT managers. But, IT and DBA teams should work together to help ensure better application performance and availability for everyone’s sake.


2. Establish performance baselines before you start monitoring


Your strategy starts with monitoring for performance issues that may be causing problems with an agency’s applications. Before you even begin this, you’ll need to set up baselines to measure against. These baselines will allow you to track the code, resource, or configuration change that may be causing the anomalies and fix the issues before they become larger problems.


3. Start monitoring — but take it to the next level


Take things a step further by digging deeper into your data. Use real-time data collection and real-time monitoring in tandem with traditional network monitoring solutions to improve overall database performance, and maintain network and data availability. Incorporate tools with wait-time analysis capabilities to help identify how an application request is being processed, and which resources that application may be waiting on. This can help pinpoint the root cause of performance issues so you can see if they’re associated with your databases.


4. Then, go even further — into your application stack and beyond


Applications are co-dependent upon each other. When one slows down or fails, it could adversely affect the entire stack. Therefore, you’ll want to use monitoring solutions that provide visibility across your entire application stack, not just sections or individual applications. This includes software, middleware, and, especially, databases. This type of monitoring can help you zero in on potential issues wherever they may reside in your organization, and make it much easier to address them to minimize downtime and keep things rolling.


5. Don’t stop — be proactive and continuously monitor


Proactive and continuous monitoring is the best approach, and must involve software and teamwork. Start with deploying solutions that can automatically monitor applications and databases 24/7. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and appreciates end-user expectations in regards to page load and response times. Know that the work the team does impacts the entire agency, and can directly influence – positively or negatively – their colleagues’ efforts toward achieving their agencies’ goals.


Databases and applications will continue to play a part in these efforts, and you’ll be working alongside them for as long as you’re in federal IT. They might not be able to chat with you over a cup of coffee, but they’ll always be there for you – until they’re not.


Don’t let it get to that point. Do whatever it takes to keep your databases and applications working just as hard as you.


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