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The Robot DBA

By Steve Jones,

This is the story of Manna, the manager of a fast food restaurant. It's a great read, and perhaps a little shocking. Manna is a piece of software, reading sensors, reacting, and letting employees know what to do with a synthesized voice through a set of headphones that the everyone wears in a fast good restaurant. In this tale, Manna evolves into a software system that is spread throughout many industries, essentially displacing managers and many workers at all levels in all industries. With the ability of these different "Manna" variants to communicate and negotiate contracts among themselves, the US devolves into an Orwellian nightmare place to live.

It's a science fiction story, but the fears that it evokes are similar to those I've heard expressed from many people in the IT field across my two decades in this industry. A friend of mine left IT a decade ago, while working as an Exchange admin for a company with 50,000 mailboxes. He was sure in 5 years his job would be automated and eliminated. I knew a few people that moved out of DBA work in the early 2000s, after Microsoft released SQL Server 7 and 2000, with some marketing messages that the products didn't require a DBA. A few years ago I heard a few people arguing that PowerPivot would kill most BI development jobs because it was so easy for end users to build their own analysis applications.

The one constant in all of those stories is that they never came true. I hope that Manna never comes true either, but I'm not worried. I'm very confident that if there's one truth to all the computer development we do, it's that we make constant mistakes and there is very little chance that we will be able to automate any significant percentage of IT jobs away.

We do build better software, and we do allow an administrator to manage many more systems than in the past, but we also seem to constantly eliminate most of the efficiencies in two ways. One is by adding many more systems and applications, and the other is by introducing more complex systems that create new problems that need to be solved.

The bar for IT knowledge needed is always being raised, but I just can't see us getting to the point of having automated or robot DBAs running SQL Server in my lifetime.

Steve Jones


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The podcast feeds are available at sqlservercentral.mevio.com. Comments are definitely appreciated and wanted, and you can get feeds from there. Overall RSS Feed: or now on iTunes!

Today's podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at www.everydayjones.com.

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