Altova's DatabaseSpy version 2010 is a curious blend of tools, capabilities, and features that target developers and power users. Curious because the tools come at a great price—just $189 per license, and target all major databases on the market today—yet DatabaseSpy lacks any of the tools DBA's need to manage servers, databases, security, and other system-level requirements.

In other words, DatabaseSpy is an inexpensive, powerful, multiplatform, database-level management solution. And that, in turn, means that evaluating its value and benefit must be contrasted against both different audiences (DBAs vs developers and power users) and against different types of environments (heterogeneous or SQL Server only).

For Heterogeneous Environments

For DBAs, developers, and power users operating in a heterogeneous environment, DatabaseSpy is worth a look. At the database level, it offers a great set of features, including the ability to script objects, query (and export) data, and create objects, such as tables, views, and sprocs and queries via designers or via script. It also provides some unexpected features in the form of visual schema and data comparison tools.

The big win that DatabaseSpy provides is a homogenized interface and toolset that can connect to all major modern databases. For developers and power users, this offers a great way to tame some of the complexity that they might need to deal with in a heterogeneous environment. Moreover, DatabaseSpy's schema and data comparison and synchronization across multiple platforms is something that even DBAs can benefit from.

For SQL Server Only Environments

For organizations that predominantly use SQL Server, DatabaseSpy's benefits will largely depend on audience or job description. For example, I've never been fond of Visual Studio's support for SQL Server development, and I think that many developers using SQL Server would prefer DatabaseSpy's UI and features over the paltry tools provided by Visual Studio. And, at $189 per license, the additional tools (such as change script management, schema and data comparison, and code formatting and editing capabilities) are a great buy. Likewise, although there will be some learning curve involved, business users might also prefer using DatabaseSpy in many cases.

But for DBAs who manage only SQL Server deployments, DatabaseSpy will fall flat. In addition to not providing any server or database management tools or capabilities, DatabaseSpy's tree-view shows only one database at a time and doesn't provide any tools for managing anything other than Tables, Views, Sprocs and UDFs, and XML Schemas.

In terms of managing XML Schemas, I was hoping that DatabaseSpy would be a great way for SQL Server DBAs to pick up some cheap tools to allow more powerful editing capabilities and options. But although is provides some XML editing capabilities, schema management is handled by XmlSpy Pro, which costs an additional $499. Moreover, DatabaseSpy doesn't extend any of the functionality provided by XmlSpy, which offers native support for connecting to and managing XML schemas defined in SQL Server. Consequently, not even DatabaseSpy's XML features provide much benefit to DBAs, leaving DatabaseSpy pretty much a non-starter for SQL Server DBAs.

Altova DatabaseSpy 2010
PROS: Provides a great set of standardized features for interacting with a wide range of database platforms at the database level. Offers great tools and options for developers and business users, especially in heterogeneous environments.
CONS: No support for core DBA tasks such as server and database configuration and file or security management. UI feels cluttered at times (possibly just the default font size), and there's a slight learning curve involved. XmlSpy Pro ($499) is required for some advanced XML modification and interactions.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
PRICE: $189 per license
RECOMMENDATION: DatabaseSpy 2010 offers a compelling set of capabilities for developers and database power users at a great price. DBAs in heterogeneous environments will be able to take advantage of a homogenized set of tools at the database level, but they can't use DatabaseSpy for common DBA tasks and management.

CONTACT: Altova • 978-816-1606 • www.altova.com

 

DatabaseSpy isn't for most DBAs. But its small price tag and great feature set make it a compelling consideration for developers and power users. Moreover, because it is so heavily database centered, DBAs can use DatabaseSpy to help grant developers and power users access to a database without as much worry that people will poke around where they shouldn't (though that's no substitute for proper security). Consequently, even though DatabaseSpy is missing DBA-specific tools, it's well worth a test drive. For what it offers, it's well executed and feature-rich.