Redgate, the Cambridge UK based software company that develops trusted SQL Server tools, has launched the beta of its new database cloning tool, SQL Clone. The release marks a step-change in database provisioning by enabling databases to be cloned in seconds while saving up to 99% of disk space.
The new technology resolves a long-standing issue in software development, where developers need copies of production databases for use in development and test environments. Typically, this involves database administrators having to provision a copy of the database for each request, which takes up valuable time as well as disk space.
The result? Teams end up working on outdated versions of the database in a shared environment, rather than having the freedom to work on isolated local versions that can be created – and deleted – in seconds.
Given the growing size and complexity of databases, this has been regarded as a problem that simply has to be worked around. SQL Clone changes the landscape completely by enabling developers to have their own local copy of the database, and testers to have realistic versions of what the production database actually looks like.
Instead of spending hours provisioning different copies of the database for development, testing or diagnostics, SQL Clone creates a single data image of a live SQL Server database or backup, which is used as the source data from which the clones are derived. Clones can then be created almost instantly, time and again, with each clone taking up only about 40MB, even for databases of 2TB in size.
The clones work just like normal SQL Server databases and can be connected to and edited with any program. They can thus be used for accurate development and testing, or to diagnose issues in production, with developers having a realistic server environment and data set that doesn’t waste disk space.
While SQL Clone is a new approach to replicating databases, it uses the virtualization technology built into 64-bit Windows, which is already tried, tested, and trusted. “That’s probably its biggest advantage, even at beta stage,” says Richard Macaskill, Product Manager. “This isn’t new technology, it’s a new way of using the technology already out there.”
The magic comes when developers make changes to the cloned database. Data is accessed from the original data image, and changes are saved locally. Nothing actually touches or affects the original database or backup file and the data image is also immutable. Instead, changes made to clones are stored in a local differencing file where the clone is located.
“That’s where SQL Clone comes into its own,” adds Richard Macaskill. “It means that, rather than developers having to share a copy of a database – with all the overhead and friction that entails – they can work with the database as they do with code, free to experiment, reverting changes at will, and sharing work when it’s ready.”
The development team at Redgate is now enhancing the tool so that when it’s fully launched, users will be able to automate jobs using PowerShell.