Traditionally, IT organisations manage their infrastructure on-premises, and infrastructure DBAs are responsible for maintaining data integrity, availability, and reliability. A large proportion of their time would be spent on tasks like patching, upgrades, capacity planning, user management, monitoring and troubleshooting. Infrastructure and application support teams would often be physically separated, sometimes across the globe, and interact mostly via tickets between queues. Many organizations feel this culture of teams working as separate entities is no longer effective in the changing IT industry.
Cloud is accelerating change
Today, IT is increasingly leveraging the Cloud. This move towards Cloud hosted services has implications on the traditional job roles that were established in company data centre environments.
Databases are now offered as Cloud managed services, self-provisioned from a catalogue of solutions. The control and flexibility over features and customisations are limited. With our traditional infrastructure DBA hats on, we may feel incapacitated or disarmed. But a change in mindset opens up a vast range of opportunities for DBAs to explore.
Databases in the Cloud are no longer considered as pets for the DBA to nurture, cuddle and put a bow on. Rather, they are like cattle in a big herd – treated generically and managed at scale. Pets often need special treatment and are difficult to replace. As DBAs, we felt comfortable knowing that we were heavily depended on as specialists in their exact needs (except for perhaps when we were being barked at at 3am!).
What does this mean for the DBA?
After years in the IT industry, it feels unnatural to accept that being an expert in a single technology may no longer be the best path. Having a range of skills and knowledge of multiple technologies is now increasingly valuable. The rise of NoSQL databases to address changing business needs – social, mobile, global access requirements, means that many organisations have hybrid database estates. Cloud makes this more accessible and therefore DBA skillsets are broadening to support the new landscapes. DBAs are expected to understand the range of services on offer and advise on what solutions would be most appropriate and cost effective. Knowledge of the whole stack is important for this process. DBAs are relied upon to guide organisations on their Cloud adoption journey, with data being at the heart of the design and migration decisions. DBAs may be finding their job titles changing to Cloud Architect or similar, reflecting the broader range of skills and responsibilities.
In the Cloud, managed services free up DBAs from simple, repeatable operational tasks and therefore allow them to concentrate on optimisation and innovation. Since Cloud pricing models are pay-per-use, organisations are moving from mostly CapEx to OpEx, and therefore finding ways to increase efficiency and free up resources yields immediate cost savings. Cloud is accelerating the DevOps movement, both in making automation tools accessible and driving the culture of a shared responsibility amongst teams for delivering solutions. DBAs who embrace DevOps processes and tools, and understand how to integrate databases into these, are in high demand.
Data as a strategic asset
Cloud is shifting the focus from the database to the data itself. As a result, Database Administrators may consider themselves more asData Administrators/Architects/ Engineers. Big Data, AI and analytics are helping organisations to gain deeper insights and extract more value from their data. This had unlocked a realm of opportunities for DBAs to be involved with. Understanding how to process data in Hadoop, and analyse it using R, for example, are valuable skills for a DBA to acquire.
The changing nature of how data is created and consumed in today’s world is of course changing the role of a DBA. There are a vast range of technologies being integrated into the DBA toolkit for organisations to successfully leverage Cloud. With data at the heart of business decisions, DBAs are importantly positioned to bridge the gap between IT and business and should certainly embrace these changes if they have not done already.