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Management at Scale

By Steve Jones,

Would you like to manage 20,000 databases by yourself? What about 20,000 instances? It's not quite the same thing, but Facebook recently announced that each of their data center operations staff manages 20,000 servers. That's an impressive number, and it comes about because of lots of standardization, specialized design, and lots of automation.

If you watch the video, you'll see that a lot of effort in the Facebook data centers is being paid to gathering and analyzing information. They seem to truly understand that having data about not only their systems, but their processes, is valuable. Maybe more importantly, they understand how to modify the way they work based on data to improve their efficiencies.

We should do the same thing as DBAs. Perhaps even as developers. We should be monitoring our workflow and looking for ways to improve our effectiveness. We should take advantage of the tools that let us manage systems at larger scales. PBM, third party tools for monitoring and alerting, BIML or SSIS patterns and practices, and more. There are a variety of ways in which we can work more efficiently.

I thought the best quote in the article was this one: The emphasis on automation is not because Facebook is interested in unmanned data centers, or having robots operate facilities. It’s because Facebook values its workers". The next quote is “We want to hang onto our talent,” she said. “The way you do that is to give them the opportunity to work on high-value tasks."

Those are powerful quotes, and I wish that was how more businesses viewed their workers. To be fair, most workers haven't proven themselves to be willing to tackle and want the "high value tasks". All too often I find there are too many workers that want to get their job done, without providing more value than they cost. If they did, perhaps we'd have many more companies that would value their employees, and they could manage systems at something closer to Facebook's scale rather than the much lower numbers I've seen in my career.

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