Evaluating DB2 Tool Vendors

By | In DB2 | September 01st, 2015

Although the most important aspect of DB2 tool selection is functionality and the way it satisfies your organization’s needs, the nature and stability of the vendor that provides the product is also important. So, of course, you will need to be sure that the tool you are evaluating meets your functional specifications.

And in this day and age you should really do the investigative work required to find out the real level of support for DB2 V11 that is in the GA version of the tool. Most vendors implement new versions of DB2 in stages, so be sure that any new DB2 features you plan to use first are supported within the tool.

Moreover, you should also investigate the vendor offering the tool (or tools) under consideration. Keep in mind that older does not always mean better — and newer does not always mean more innovative. It depends (doesn’t it always). You need to investigate the vendors thoroughly and the following list of questions can help:

1. How long has the vendor been in business?

2. How long has the vendor been supplying DB2 tools?

3. Does your company have other tools from this vendor? How satisfied are the users of those tools?

4. Are other organizations satisfied with the tool you are selecting? Obtain a list of other organizations that use the same tool and contact several of them.

5. Does the vendor provide a 24-hour support number? If not, what are its hours of operation?

6. Does the vendor have a toll-free number? If not, how far away is the company from your site? You want to avoid accumulating long-distance charges when you are requesting customer support from a vendor.

7. Does the vendor provide Web support? The Web support should be in addition to phone support, not a replacement.

8. Evaluate the response of the technical support number. Call the number with technical questions at least four times throughout the day: before 8 a.m., around noon, just before 5 p.m., and again after 9 p.m. These are the times when you could find problems with the level of support provided by the vendor. Was the phone busy? Were you put on hold? If so, for how long? When you got a response, was it accurate and friendly? Did the person who answered the phone have enough technical knowledge to be useful?

9. How knowledgeable are the technical support representatives who answer your test calls? Do they know their products inside and out, or do they struggle? Do they know DB2 well (such as a former DBA) or are they unseasoned?

10. Will the vendor answer DB2 questions free of charge in addition to questions about its product? Sometimes vendors will, but they don’t advertise the fact. Try it out by calling the technical support number.

11. Does the vendor provide a newsletter? How technical is it? Does it provide information on DB2 and the vendor’s tools or just on the vendor’s tools? Is it printed and mailed, e-mailed, or available over the web?

12. Does this vendor supply other DB2 tools your organization might need later? If so, are they functionally integrated with this one? Does the vendor supply a full suite of DB2 products or just a few?

13. Does the vendor integrate its tools with other tools? For example, can a product that analyzes databases to determine whether a REORG is required integrate with your shop’s job scheduler?

14. Does the vendor provide training? Is it onsite training? DB2 training and product training?

15. Are installation, technical, and user manuals provided free of charge? Are the manuals available in both hard and soft copy? Will the vendor deliver additional documentation or error-resolution information by overnight mail? e-mail? fax?

16. How are software fixes provided? Electronically? By tape? On the Web? Is a complete reinstallation required? Are fixes typically accomplished using zaps? Does the vendor support SMP/E?

17. How many man hours, on a short notice, is the vendor willing to spend to solve problems? Is there a guaranteed time limit?

18. Is the vendor willing to send a representative to your site to do a tailored product presentation? How knowledgeable is the rep?

19. Is the vendor an IBM business partner? How soon will the vendor’s tools be modified to support new DB2 releases and versions? Does the vendor participate in IBM’s Early Ship Program (ESP) for new DB2 versions and releases?

20. Have the vendor’s tools been recently reviewed or highlighted in industry publications or blogs? If so, read the articles.

21. Have the vendor’s tools been assessed by industry analyst groups (e.g. Gartner, Forrester, etc.)? If so, read the reviews.

22. Will the vendor assist in developing a cost justification? Most tool vendors are more than willing to provide cost justification to help you sell upper management on the need for the tool.

23. Does the vendor provide sample JCL to run its product? Can any needed JCL be automatically generated by the product? Are templates provided to tweak the JCL to your shop standards?

24. Does the vendor charge an upgrade fee when the processor is upgraded? How flexible are the contract terms and conditions? Do they offer usage-based licensing? Other terms?

26. What guarantees are available from the vendor against it being sold or going out of business? Will the vendor supply (or escrow) the source code for the tool, or perhaps offer a money-back guarantee?

27. Is the vendor willing to set a ceiling for increases in annual maintenance charges?

28. Does the vendor supply DBA tools for other DBMSes used at your shop? Can the same tool, using the same interface, be used to manage multiple databases across multiple operating systems?

29. How does the vendor rank enhancement requests?

30. What is the status of the vendor? Have recent business down turns resulted in lower market share? If so, what is the company doing to regain its position?

31. Did the company recently undergo a layoff? What is the retention rate of their development and support staff?

32. Are there any outstanding lawsuits? Have recent events resulted in downsizing? What are their plans to reverse this trend?

You might also want to follow the vendor on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to determine how it interacts with customers and to follow the issues it deems to be important.

Use these questions to provide a basis for evaluating DB2 tool vendors. You can judge for yourself which criteria are most important to your organization.

This post was originally posted on Craig Mullins’ blog.

Craig Mullins
Consultant at Mullins Consulting, Inc
Craig S. Mullins is working with Datavail and its DB2 practice to expand offerings. He is president and principal consultant at Mullins Consulting, Inc. and the publisher of The Database Site. Mullins has 30 years of experience in all facets of database management and is the author of two books: “DB2 Developer’s Guide” currently in its 6th edition and “Database Administration: The Complete Guide to DBA Practices and Procedures,” the industry’s only guide to heterogeneous DBA.

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