Accelerated cloud adoption means many of the tasks traditionally assigned to the database administrator can now be done at the click of a button.
But while the traditional DBA role may be on its way out, there’s a growing need for the Digital Database Administrator or DDA, the next generation database curator who is also a cloud specialist and strategist.
Taking over the burdens of database administration
For traditional DBAs, cloud redundancy and new tools have alleviated the burden of laborious mundane tasks and the challenge of motivating for more resources. Cloud technology affects the DBA’s job in the sense that cloud, with self-managed databases, makes the traditional tasks of performance tuning and optimisation, monitoring, and managing storage, database backup and recovery, and planning capacity, redundant. The technology now manages virtually all of these tasks. The cloud has given DBAs simple dashboards, scalability and redundancy. It has also made many DBAs question their relevance in a cloud era.
SQL Server guru Brent Ozer in an interview1 with A Cloud Guru early 2021 had an interesting reply to the question: “what does a DBA role look like in 2025?”. He believed that the job would not change much, saying most companies were still mulling over their cloud journey, and that 2025 is around the corner. Ozer said the DBA would still be looking after data spread across stored various platforms – and all of those need their own administration, fault-finding, and to be performance tuned. His view was that it would take longer for the role to change – maybe in the next 10-15 years.
Mr. Ozer makes a good point, but what was again interesting is that this Q&A eventually ended with the topic of the cloud. As a trusted advisor and lifelong partner of businesses, iOCO sees the cloud changing everything – fast. We are hard at work getting our squad of traditional DBAs cloud ready now, as our customers rapidly evolve their infrastructures.
We believe there is an important role for a new type of DBA in a cloud first world. This new role, the DDA, will draw on the expertise of the traditional DBA to manage and curate databases; but it will also require new cloud skills. The new DBA will focus on performance and optimisation, how to spec instances in the cloud, and will be responsible for managing costs. They will need to prepare data management plans; looking at where to host it, compute instances, microservices built around it, compliance, plus the big question around security.
The cloud addresses and also changes myriad traditional DBA tasks:
– Automated Monitoring, Performance Tuning and Optimisation
Cloud brings with it its own built-in monitoring – a crucial task of today’s DBA. However, the DBA has to master the purpose and functions of a variety of cloud-provided monitoring tools and combine them in such a way to get real-time performance analysis of application databases. All these monitoring tasks require hands-on knowledge and skills regarding the monitoring configuration as well as the tools offered by the cloud service providers.
There are not many options for performance tuning on-premise and once the hardware is synced for the workloads, the DBA’s job is done. Cloud is very different, and the DBA has to assess and optimise various instances. Different pieces of the data pipeline run on different computing hardware and the DBA’s job is to ensure that every piece is optimised, and the data is delivered to data consumers as and when they need, without disruption.
– Capacity Planning
Determining and managing business’ production data requirement as demand fluctuates, is one of the key tasks of the DBA. The task involves adjusting hardware and software capacity in line with the organisation’s demands, but doing it this way is expensive and ineffective as the database consumption is on average much lower than the allocated resources in the on-premise data centre.
The cloud offers tenants scalability and flexibility as the capacity provisioning is done automatically to meet demand, with organisations paying for utilised resources only.
A new dimension to the role of the DBA is the responsibility to ensure ongoing optimal resource availability in the cloud, quite different from the on-premise model where the organisation pays for unused resources. The DBA now needs to keep track of consumption, always seeking opportunities to save the customer some money.
– Backup, high availability and recovery
The cloud removes a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to backup and recovery of data. With the cloud, unlike the on-premise data centre, backups are done to various locations. Different availability zones or even regions can be used to ensure availability of business-critical data. Fail-over between zones are handled automatically.
In contrast with on-premise storage solutions, cloud can enable the DBA to optimise storage requirements. The DBA will, however, have to understand the storage offerings and infrastructure and how to optimally configure them to save the business money.
Today’s DBA is at the centre of disruptive concepts like the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Web 3.0, and decentralisation of systems and data. The DBA needs to face the challenges these disruptive waves introduce, and more specifically what cloud brings to the table. Cloud offers a variety of database, new data types and emerging applications.
The DBA must reshape the traditional role into being agile and innovative, focus on cost and efficiency for customers, and maintain secure, reliable and scalable data solutions. They will have to become familiar with hybrid cloud and multi-cloud approaches.
To be ready to take on their new responsibilities, traditional DBAs should be upskilling themselves now. What’s more, they need to be leaving their comfort zones and exploring technologies outside of their stack. If you have been a Microsoft DBA for years, the natural transition might be Azure. Ideally, DBAs who also gain AWS skills will be even more valuable – particularly in a hybrid cloud environment.
For those who are able to ride the wave and adapt, do the online courses, write the exams and become certified, we foresee a promising future.
iOCO is at the forefront of upskilling and empowering our people to become the new DBAs, with multiple certifications. Our people are excited by the opportunity to challenge themselves and grow, leave the mundane work behind and become part of the world of cloud.