Enterprise Data Modeling Tools
What are the best choices available?
Issue: 13.3 (May/June 2015)
Author: Craig Boyd
Author Bio: Craig Boyd is currently a data architect for a growing consumer lending company. But in his 18 years of IT experience, he has been everything from a PC Technician, iSeries System Administrator, iSeries Programmer, Sr. Technical Lead, Data Modeler, and Oracle DBA. He lives in the great state of Texas with his wife and two kids.
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Excerpt of article text...
In the last series we spent a lot of time working through refactoring an existing database. We did not talk much about the tools that would help us with accomplishing this task. In this article we are going to take the time to discuss various tools that would help in refactoring and documenting a database.
The first question you need to ask yourself is, to what degree do you plan to model the database? If you are truly going to model and document a database working through the various kinds of models (conceptual, logical and physical) then you only have three choices available: Computer Associates' ERwin, Embarcadero's ER/Studio, and SAP's PowerDesigner. All three tools are very good at what they do and, like any niche set of software, each one has its own unique quirks. All three of the tools are also not for the financially faint of heart. A single license that will work with all the databases they support starts in the $3,000.00 (USD) range and rapidly goes up from there depending on what features you want to add. As a long time user of ERwin and recent user of ER/Studio, I can confidently recommend either of these tools. From speaking with some of my peers who use PowerDesigner, they say the tool has a steep learning curve, but, to them, is far better than the other two. I have played around with the trial edition of PowerDesigner and I can certainly agree with them on the steep learning curve part, but I am skeptical of their other claim. There is a fourth tool available from IBM called Information Architect. I have had to evaluate this tool many times over the years and I can honestly say that each time I have evaluated it, I have seen improvements. The first version of this tool was nothing short of terrible. I don't mean terrible like "oh this is a hard and buggy tool to use." I mean "this tool is so hard to use and buggy that I would rather change jobs or careers than use this steaming pile of 'software.'" So when I say it is "better," I mean that with all the improvements they have implemented I
mightbe able to use the tool on a daily basis, but only under heavy use of various anti-depressants. In case some of you have missed the message I am trying to send, let me be perfectly clear: stay away from Information Architect even if they are giving it away for free. Which they actually had to do for the first two years of the tool's release. Now they charge for it, but usually the charge is either nominal or thrown in for free when you buy one of their DBMS solutions. For the remainder of this part of the discussion, I am going to limit the tool discussion to ERwin and ER/Studio.
Here are the features you get with these two tools that are needed to model a database:
- Reverse engineer any of the supported DBMS' from an existing database.
- Forward engineer to any of the supported DBMS' (generate DBMS specific DDL)
- Comparison tools (model to database, model to model, and in ERwin's case database to database)
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