Delphix CEO: Why database virtualization matters

Creating a copy of a core database is typically a painful job. The CEO of Delphix, a database virtualization startup, claims it doesn't have to be that way

Certain gaps threaten to derail the notion of a supremely automated IT infrastructure. One of these is a convenient, secure way to leverage the highest-value information owned by a company: typically, its customer and product databases.

In most companies, databases get copied more often than you may realize. Developers need database copies for dev and test, and with internal app dev operations of any size, that may mean several copies. Plus, you need database copies for offline, processing-intensive applications such as business intelligence to avoid slowing the production database to a crawl.

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But standing up database copies and managing them is highly resource-intensive -- something Jedidiah Yueh, founder and CEO of Delphix, recognized years ago. Delphix, which launched just last September at Demo Fall 2010, provides a database virtualization platform that enables customers to create virtual copies that require a fraction of the storage space and human labor that full, conventional copies demand.

I interviewed Yueh last week when he visited InfoWorld's offices. I began by asking him what prompted him to start Delphix, which -- in its scant 12 months of existence -- already claims to have 30 Fortune 500 customers.

Eric Knorr: You have a unique product, so maybe you could begin by telling us how you came up with the idea.

Jedidiah Yueh: Let me give you just a little bit about my background, because it relates to why we started the company. In 1999, I founded a company called Avamar. We pioneered data deduplication. That was really about the backup and recovery industry. The idea at Avamar was strip out all the redundancy in tape backups and pack it down onto the disk.

The challenge that we saw in the deduplication space was that databases would overrun our footprints. Databases are like brain surgery versus general-purpose surgery. You have to have very customized technology sets to attack the challenge in relational databases. So we knew we had a problem.

When I started talking to customers, to try and understand the challenges of the database world, it really wasn't data protection that was driving all the redundancy and IT complexity. It was just the nature of maintaining applications sitting on a production database.

For every production database, businesses will on average create 9 to 10 development, testing, QA, and staging environments for all kinds of different projects, whether it's to customize your application or to upgrade your database in order to do break/fix analysis, or to drive data before you go into a data warehouse, or to drive data into a BI deployment.

All of those needs of a business -- and they're myriad -- require the creation of a duplicate environment because you can't load everything onto production. Production is keeping your business afloat.

So there were really two kind of main challenges that were revealed in those discussions with customers. One was all those redundant copies of production database environments, up to 10 on average. The second one was that there was a lot of complexity in IT around dealing with these copies of data.

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