Virtualized Database Survey Results

Survey Results

Virtualization is now ubiquitous for x86 servers, but what about databases? To find out, SolarWinds ran a THWACKRegistered survey April 2020 to see the level of virtualized databases within our user community and other characteristics related to their database environment.

The results were on target with virtualization overall, with 87.8% of respondents saying their databases ran in virtual machines.


Figure 1 - Percent of databases running in a Virtual Machine (VM)—SolarWinds THWACK Survey

When it came to which hypervisors were used, VMware was by far the most used with 90.1% of respondents. Microsoft Hyper-V was a distant second with 28.3% followed by Azure VM at 22%.

The next category in the survey was interesting when it came to the most virtualized databases. This was not only due to Microsoft SQL Server being the most virtualized at 93.3%, but the number of open-source databases running in a virtual machine (VM). MySQL was the third-most virtualized database platform, no surprise given its growing popularity. PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and MariaDB ranked ahead of IBM DB2 and SAP ASE (Sybase), showing the growth of open source.


Figure 2—The most virtualized database platforms—SolarWinds THWACK Survey

The next most telling result from the survey were the percentage of virtualized databases, with the number of respondents who had 100% of their databases virtualized at 25.1%. The results for the percentage of virtualized database instances is as follows:

  • 100% of databases virtualized: 25.1%
  • 76-99% virtualized: 27.8%
  • 51-75% virtualized: 23.3%
  • 25-50% virtualized: 20.6%
  • 25% or less virtualized: 3.1%

The results of the SolarWinds THWACK survey are very close to the various industry estimates of 90%+ x86 server virtualization—most database instances run on virtual infrastructure.

Now, I must share the part of the survey I found disappointing, but in fairness this survey was available to all THWACK members. The next question was if the respondent was using SolarWindsRegistered Database Performance Analyzer (DPA) for performance management and monitoring of their virtualized databases.


Figure 3 - Percent of respondents using SolarWinds Database Performance Analyzer

I sneaked in one question that didn’t have anything to do with virtualization, but it was on my mind based on all the customers I’ve talked to. The question was around the DBA to database instance ratio, which seems to be growing. Having talked with a couple of customers whose DBA to instance ratio was 1:200 or more, I wanted to see what I could find from our THWACK community.

While the database to DBA ratio was less than 1:25 for 55.2% of the respondents, the ratio was astounding for the other 45%.

  • 11.7% were responsible for 26 – 50 database instances
  • 13% were responsible for 51 – 100 database instances
  • 8.5% were responsible for 100 – 150 database instances
  • 2.7% were responsible for 150 – 200 database instances
  • 9% were responsible for 200 or more database instances


When it comes to application performance problems, all roads tend to lead to the Database Administrator (DBA). For wrong or right, “the database is the problem,” and the DBA has to quickly find the culprit to performance issues. Since many variables can affect database performance, from poorly written SQL and T-SQL to resource constraints, the addition of virtualization can make it more challenging for the DBA to find the root cause of performance degradation. The goal of this study was to validate that most database instances are run in virtual machines. I’d like to thank the hundreds of THWACK users who participated, and I look forward to everyone’s comments regarding this survey.


Top Comments

  •  If you already have several Solarwinds modules, the cost to convert to the subscription model is way too high.  We got a quote and it was like buying all the products again just to convert the license.  Ridiculous.

  • Thank you so much  -- I admit I've had my head down for the last year and haven't been keeping up with licensing costs and elements since our proof of concept in early 2019. I greatly appreciate the in-depth reply.

    At the end of the day, the decision to go with DPA or not lies with our database administrators. But knowing these additional options are out there is really helpful. We could theoretically get by with 2 licenses - One for Microsoft/MySQL and the other for Oracle EE. By looking at a subscription model, we wouldn't need to lock them in.

    I don't deal with sales either, but I can bring this to their attention.

  • Hi  ,

         Let me respond to your post since I'm part of the DPA product team and pricing is near and dear to my heart. I must preface this reply that I'm not in sales and I cannot speak for sales.  That said, I'd like to cover the following points.

    1) SolarWinds recently rolled out subscription pricing, and being the transparent company that we are, you can see the new subscription prices along with our perpetual licenses here.  Subscription pricing has lowered the entry cost for DPA to USD $1,111.

    2) With regards to the 400 instances spread between prod, dev, and test, we have many customers who only monitor their prod instances because that's what they most care about the most. When it comes to dev and test, DPA licensing is unique (I worked at a DPA competitor who tied their license to the server) in that you can move them around.  If there are non production instances that you want to monitor for a specific point in time, this is a nice feature.

    3) DPA pricing vs. the industry. In my role I look at the "list price" and "street price" of the competition. I then look at the value and competitiveness of DPA against the competition. At this point in time, especially with the introduction of DPA subscription pricing I feel DPA is a great value for what we provide. We have some competitors that don't even come out with yearly feature releases, and quite frankly some vendors seem to not invest in their products very much. DPA has consistently delivered two new feature releases every 12 mos. And I can tell you, what we have planned over the next 18 mos is probably the most exciting set of new features we have ever planned -- and 2019 was a banner year for introduction of new features like anomaly detection, index recommendations, RESTful API, drag and drop email alerts and many more. 

    4) SAM (Server and Application Monitor) and DPA are meant to complement each other, not compete or overlap. Where SAM has support for over 1000 applications, it is meant to provide system level metrics and basic database health. DPA, however, is focused on the DBA who needs deep database metrics to pinpoint the root cause for performance issues.  Hence, a "DPA light" isn't in the cards because it would "water down" our development road map that is planned for DPA and would created overlap with SAM - neither of which we want to happen.

       I'm glad that you think DPA is a fantastic tool. Our CSAT and renewal rates prove that DPA is one of the most well liked and used products in the SolarWinds portfolio.  Feel free to reach out to me directly if you want, or reach out to sales if you want them to quote your environment using the new lower subscription pricing. And thanks for sharing your opinion on THWACK 

  • I'm going to be blunt: The licensing is probably the #1 reason why we don't have DPA. We evaluated it with the rest of Orion, to see if it would help... and we found it would be useful, but it would just cost too much to deploy it.

    Our particular environment has MS SQL, Oracle Sql, MySQL, and a smattering of PostgreSQL.. and this is just our central administration, to say nothing of our IT partners out in the university. When it came time to monitor our instances in Orion, my DBAs gave me a list of over 400 instances, spread between Dev, Test, and Prod standalone and cluster environments. on about 70 different VMs and physical servers.

    The common solution I've heard from Solarwinds is to buy a couple licenses for each flavor, and then just move them to whichever database needs analysis. I even saw a posting on Thwack that would use Orion alerting to automate moving the licenses. That seems like quite a bit of work! And that's compounded by the fact that such a model is reactive. Rather than having DPA running when something strange happens, you have to point it at the database after the fact.

    So in essence, this means DPA as a tool would need to be deployed by our 4 DBAs pretty much on a daily basis to different machines, in order to hunt down problems as they occur in our environment.

    I need to stress: This post isn't me complaining about the licensing or the product. I personally believe DPA is a fantastic tool! It's just that it is such a fantastic tool that it's outside of our budget. A budget that's currently being hurt hard by the state of the world, to make matters worse.

    Maybe if AppInsight for SQL provided a "DPA Lite" mode? And then you could click a button and say "configure DPA here using Orion credentials" or something? (Of course I'd also love AppInsight for Orion SQL, but that's just me. )

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