Review: DBArtisan XE

All enterprise database platforms ship with their own set of management tools—for example, SQL Server ships with SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). However, these tools are specific to each vendor’s database.

In organizations where multiple database platforms are in use, this usually means there are multiple sets of database management tools in place, which requires employees with multiple skill sets or the use of different personnel to manage each of the different databases. In addition, a new breed of cloud-based databases such as SQL Azure is beginning to emerge, and they have their own special management requirements. Embarcadero Technologies DBArtisan XE tackles the problem of heterogeneous database management with its latest release, which also includes the ability to manage SQL Azure databases.

DBArtisan XE

PROS: Manages all popular database platforms; multiserver management capabilities; able to manage SQL Azure databases; excellent database search and compare capabilities
CONS: Somewhat expensive; no IntelliSense
RATING: 4 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at $4,995 + $1,249 for required maintenance.
RECOMMENDATION: If you’re in a heterogeneous database environment or you’re getting into SQL Azure, you should strongly consider adding DBArtisan XE to your database management tool chest.
CONTACT: Embarcadero Technologies •

DBArtisan XE is a multi-platform database management tool that provides the ability to manage all of the major database platforms including SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, Sybase Adaptive Server, and MySQL. In addition to database management, DBArtisan XE provides a SQL development IDE that works with all of the different data platforms that DBArtisan can connect to.

The SQL development window enables you to create, save, and execute SQL code. It also provides full support for SQL debugging. For less experienced users there’s also a graphical query builder. DBArtisan XE also offers a set of database analysis tools that enable DBAs to monitor performance as well as perform capacity planning, trend analysis, and storage analysis.

Traditional Install: 1; Cloud-Based Install: 0

Installing DBArtisan XE proved to be more troublesome than I expected. Embarcadero Technologies has pioneered an “install-less” type of technology as a part of its All-Access XE product, which was supposed to provide cloud-based access to the different products in the All-Access XE tool set. Although it seemed to be a good idea, I was never able to get DBArtisan XE to run from the cloud-based All-Access XE toolbox. I switched to the more traditional download and installation process, which worked flawlessly. After completing the 115MB download, the installation required me to enter a product registration code in order to complete the setup program.

After the installation completed I needed to setup data sources for the servers that I wanted to manage. Using the Discover Datasources wizard, I was able to quickly add all my running SQL Server instances. There is also an option to manually set up the data sources as well. The data sources are highly configurable. You can set up multiple groups of servers and groups can contain other groups. Each data source contains the basic server identification and authentication information.

Multiserver Management

DBArtisan uses these data sources to connect to each of your database servers and it permits you to connect to multiple database servers simultaneously. The Datasource Explorer is DBArtisan’s primary management interface. You can see DBArtisan’s Datasource Explorer in Figure 1.

DBArtisan XE’s Datasource Explorer lets you navigate through the different database objects on each database, as well as drill down to the details of each individual object. I found Datasource Explorer to be very responsive—noticeably faster than the native SSMS. The tabbed interface made it easy to switch between multiple different management tasks.

However, being familiar with SSMS, I found Datasource Explorer to be harder to work with. It doesn’t have the same style of interface as SSMS and I found it a bit difficult to get used to, though after some time I did get more familiar with it. However, when connecting to Oracle, which I’m not as familiar with, I found Datasource Explorer to be much easier to work with than the native Oracle Administration Assistant for Windows. The built-in iSQL Editor lets you write and execute SQL queries on the different platforms supported by DBArtisan XE. It was easy to work with, and although it lacked IntelliSense, it did provide the ability to edit and save result sets.

One of the features I really liked in Datasource Explorer was the Database Search Wizard, which can find database objects in one or more database servers. This is really handy when working with multiple databases and for finding objects in databases with lots of objects. I also liked the VisualDiff feature, which lets you quickly compare different database objects.

Another feature that I found handy was the ability to import and export data directly from Datasource Explorer without needing to use another tool. Like SSMS, Datasource Explorer also lets you retrieve and edit data.

Soaring in the Clouds

A significant new feature in the DBArtisan XE release is its support for managing SQL Azure databases. This is important because native SQL Server tools offer limited capabilities for managing SQL Azure. DBArtisan XE is able to connect to SQL Azure and manage SQL Azure databases just like on-premises databases. It also has built-in knowledge about the limitations of the SQL Azure platform and the data types that it supports. The built-in migration tools really helped move data from my local SQL Server instance to SQL Azure.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found DBArtisan XE a great choice for heterogeneous management—and if you’re working with SQL Azure, it’s almost a must-have. DBArtisan XE helps bridge the skill gap between platforms by providing a similar look and feel for the different platforms DBAs must work with.


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