Embarcadero Technologies DBArtisan 5.01
by John Churchill
April 13th, 1999
DBArtisan has for some time now been the preferred database front
end for administrators and developers working with Oracle, SQL Server and Sybase
relational database systems. Anyone who has used it in their work will tell tales of how
it reduced the amount of work for a complicated migration to a trivial level, how it made
administering a jungle of servers a simple task, and how one of its obscure features
turned an impossible task into an everyday process. DBArtisan is truly the Excel of the
database administration world, and now it's even scriptable through an exposed object
I tested version 5.01 of DBArtisan, released just a couple of
weeks after 5.0 due to some hush-hush quality problems. The tool is customized with DLLs
for one of four different brands of RDBMSs: Oracle, SQL Server, Sybase, and with this
version, IBM's DB2 Universal DataBase Server. If you want to run the tool against more
than one brand, you must purchase a license for each.
The Ultimate Administration Tool
DBArtisan was designed to replace the
bland, feature-light admin tools that normally come with a RDMBS, as well as the toolchest
of scripts that most experienced DBAs, especially consultants, cart around with them from
one assignment to another. Many of these things are obvious from the moment you first
start using the product. For example, DBArtisan makes it easy to construct a series of SQL
code in its color-coded editor, step through it line by line and run it against several
target databases simultaneously. The result set of any query is presented neatly in an
adjustable column and can be copied and pasted right into Excel.
Effortless Object Moving
While this user interface candy makes
DBArtisan a breeze to use, the real power lies in the powerful migration, reporting,
searching and scripting features. Moving tables and schemas from one database to another
is a breeze, and the product will let you preview the code before it actually gets
executed. You can actually pick a piece of text from an application and, not knowing which
server is holding it, let DBArtisan search every database until it can find it in a field.
If this isn't enough, the program even exposes a set of OLE objects so that its parts can
be scripted from any other VBA application.
Perhaps the greatest feature that alone makes the purchase price
manageable is the ability to move an entire database from one server to another, even if
the servers are running different brands of databases. DBArtisan will let the user select
which objects to migrate, then copy them over piece by piece until the entire server is
reconstructed, schemas, indexes, users, data and all. To be sure, there are a number of
situations where the product fails, particularly when permissions are intertwined and they
can't be reconstructed in the same order they are being read. DBArtisan also has some
show-stopping problems with DB2 that need to be worked out, but this was not surprising
considering how IBM has changed the product over time. As with any database administration
tool, it is best used by an expert so that they can smooth out the bumps when they occur.
All this praise does not mean there are no flaws to this
software. The screen is very cluttered and is nowhere near as customizable as a Microsoft
Office application. With toolbars and tabs all over the top and bottom of the screen,
opening an ISQL window means having only about ten lines to look at on an 800x600 screen.
Embarcadero made up for this by placing a "full screen" button on the top bar,
which gives the user access to 30 lines. The ability to select any font on the system
would have made this even more bearable, but unfortunately the user is only allowed to
select from four bulky ones. The reporting features, while a nice addition, are barely
customizable and I personally did not find them adequate for my documentation needs.
I also did not find a few features I
was hoping for in this release. For example, a graphical query building tool like that
found in Powersoft's PowerBuilder would have been a greatly welcome addition. Also, the
ability to take a sampling of a table's contents would also help to diagnose problems, a
feature that comes with IBM's much less capable UDB administrator. Understandably,
Embarcadero must draw the line on features that are already implemented in some of their
other products such as Rapid SQL and ERStudio to prevent cannibalizing sales of those
products. Still, even with all three installed I would have preferred they operated all in
the same application space instead of having to switch between them.
Even with database vendors packing more features into their stock
administration tools, DBArtisan takes the cake when it comes to making even an
intermediate-level DBA operate like a real expert. No one who does this for a living
should be without this extremely valuable software.
- The best administration tool around
- Exceptional value for DBAs
- Considerably more stable under NT than earlier versions
- Some syntactical problems with DB2
- Uncomfortable to use on screens smaller than 1024x768 resolution
Platforms supported: Oracle 7.x & 8.x, Sybase System 10.x
& 11.x, Microsoft SQL Server 6.0, 6.5 & 7.0, IBM DB2 Universal Database 5.x
Pricing: $995 per user per database platform
Embarcadero Technologies, Inc.
400 Montgomery Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94104 U.S.A.