The DBA’s Dead, Long live the DBA!

In the 15 years I’ve been working as a DBA I’ve heard many stories about my chosen career.

Back in 2001 I was told on a Microsoft training course in Sydney that the receptionist would be the DBA within 5 years yet I’m still here. Oracle’s ‘self-managing’ database would also put me out of a job, I’m still working. The “Cloud” will take over the world, no not yet.

No-SQL, Big DATA, in-Memory databases. All of these are changing the landscape of databases. A lot has changed in 15 years, I no longer care if I have data on one drive and indexes on a separate. I don’t need 15 drives to comply with the OFA. Many of the hardware limitations of old get sorted out with SSD and SAN cache. Storage tiering moves data to the fastest storage available with no input needed by the DBA. Sure there is still some tuning and poking around that’s needed but not to work within the limitations of the hardware. Generally the number of databases under management of a single DBA has increased.

So what does a DBA do now days? Sitting at the Café drinking a decaf soy chai latte? Not last time looked.

There are two key things a DBA looks after

Recoverability

Imagine your CRM system being offline for a whole day. By today’s standards that is unacceptable, 30 minutes is about the outside limit for a core corporate application without significant explanations needed. Keeping critical systems available for all users in the business is paramount. Systems that used to impact a few people now are used for communicating to your customers or suppliers. The Machine 2 Machine processes now mean not having your database available could translate to lost revenue. Redundant servers, databases, application servers are now expected as opposed to the luxury they used to be. More tools are available, not just from the database perspective, to utilise these redundancy features. Fail over to secondary sites is vastly simpler, what used to be a number of hours process can be done in minutes and databases start re-syncing in the reverse direction happens automatically.

The Data

Every time you want to look at the data in some way that’s not possible from the application, you call the DBA. If you’re seeing something ‘strange’ and can’t understand it, you call the DBA. If that report “isn’t quite right” you call the DBA. When you want data from three different systems in the one report to provide to the board, you call the DBA.

The DBA has now morphed to something between a Business Analyst, a Database Developer and a Data Architect. We have to understand the business requirements and also the data within each database under our management. It’s a fascinating job that is ever changing. I could still be called a DBA in another 15 years time. But the work I am actually doing will not look anything like what I am currently working on. What will I be doing in 5 years time? Who knows but I’m holding on for the ride, it’s going to be fun.

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