IDERA ER/Studio Review

It is recommended for those with the resources to maintain it.

This review comes from the point of view of a technical tools administrator who is only an occasional data modeller at this stage.

We're using Embarcadero Repository Server with ER/Studio, Team Server and the Data Lineage Tool, on in-house servers. Trialled on workstations from 2013 (XE3), first installed in Development server environment in August 2014 (XE5), went to Production in December 2014. Currently up to XE7 in Dev, XE6 in Prod.

We installed with onsite assistance, and had a quick and effective response from the developmentĀ team when the onsite Embarcadero resource requested a workaround for our non-standard MS SQL server port.

Licensing for Repository Server is a bizarre chain of:

  • Install Embarcadero License Center on hosting server (only needed once, at first installation)
  • From purchase order, get login details for Maintenance Delivery Portal website
  • From Maintenance Delivery Portal, get login details for License Hosting website
  • In License Hosting site, give hosting server details, get licence config files
  • Log into Embarcadero License Center, apply server licence file
  • Create user accounts in ER/Studio, give users user licence files

It's fiddly but manageable with a tech to guide you through it, or when referring to your own documentation for subsequent installations/upgrades.

Team Server involves an odd hybrid method in which serial numbers are extracted from Delivery Portal and applied directly to Team Server, user accounts are sync'd from ER/Studio and then granted the right to use a licence seat. We still haven't got team server working. Took several months just to understand the licensing (limited to Repo users, not the read-only free-for-all we'd been given to expect), several more to get models properly sync'd from the repo, and still can't get anything to actually load for those who do have viewing rights. They say an upgrade should fix it, but that's been delayed by repository upgrade problems.

The Data Lineage Tool likewise was a nightmare to get licensed and a nuisance to try to use.

After installation and licensing, the product itself is fairly stable. Larger models make Repo Server a bit slow and Team Server struggle to sync properly. Administration mostly involves adding/removing licences and occasionally re-starting the services, unless something goes properly wrong.

Documentation tends to range from pointless to incomprehensible. It does have specific instructions for various straightforward situations (where's the button that does X?). Information about anything more complicated is mostly absent, vague or contradictory. This goes for both the wiki and the PDF manuals. Careful and thorough reading can make things worse, as some paragraphs appear to contradict each other (and advice from Support). To further complicate matters, the names of products/features/actions are inconsistent - some have changed over time with upgrades and some are internally inconsistent - e.g. the toolbar button and menu item for the same function may have completely different text labels.

Dealing with Support has been frustrating. Recurring problems have included:

  • Responding to very specific questions with vague references to irrelevant documentation
  • Providing internally inconsistent, conflicting or even counter-productive advice
  • Requesting screenshots/troubleshooting tests that have already been provides
  • Not responding at all for a week or two (and only then because we prodded)

However, they've recently been making a good-faith effort to improve this service. They set up a meeting to discuss our specific needs, and what we as a major customer would like to see in upcoming releases. And they set up a conference call to discuss our open support requests and the support issues in general. The only communication lag since then has coincided with the USA's Thanksgiving holiday, which is understandable.

Overall, the product is very powerful and versatile for the task it's designed to do. They seem sincere about taking feedback and improving both product and service. For all the pain of licensing and maintenance, ultimately it's probably worth it.

I can't recommend Team Server as we still haven't got what we paid for. But I would definitely recommend ER/Studio as long as you can afford it, have someone available for ad-hoc systems administration, and are prepared to actively chase up Support requests if necessary.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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