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The Need for DRE

By Steve Jones,

"Today's database professionals must be engineers, not administrators"

That's a quote from an interview at O'Reilly on Database Reliability Engineering. I don't want to quibble about whether those of us working in technology are engineers in name or not, but in function, I do think the world is changing to one where we need to do more than be caretakers of systems. We need to be actively involved in ensuring we have very reliable, well-designed systems that use the best practices and patterns of highly available and reliable database systems.

There is advice to learn and work closer with developers. I like that, and I do think the idea of learning to script and automate tasks is important, perhaps more important all the time, for data professionals. Some of the advice to look towards the quick moving, limited lifetime of many software components today doesn't make sense. A database, at least some parts of a database, don't fit within that model. There are valid reasons why a datastore must provide some stability and persistence for an application and won't fit within a model of multiple systems. Or at least not practically within a model.

However, there is good advice in the piece to learn more about different types of database services and patterns, and consider other ways of implementing datastores other than a RDBMS. I wouldn't necessarily abandon a RDBMS for some NoSQL store just because developers think it's easier, but I would consider whether I actually need to very tight coupling between different parts of the database and complete consistency. I think there are a fair number of domains where a CQRS pattern or some distributed store would work well. The move to microservices might be an enabler for your business if you consider the advantages for OLTP type transactions.

The flip side of all the power that many stores provide is that many also make reporting and aggregating information more difficult. I would venture that in many cases, a data warehouse (perhaps even a RDBMS-based or columnar store) is necessary, along with the ETL process necessary to keep it up to date. These aren't simple processes, and take resources to build. For most of us, because we don't work at extreme scales, I'm not sure it's worth leaving a relational platform, but I do think that we can learn to evolve and enhance our relational databases faster with DevOps ideas and techniques.

 
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