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The Future of DBAs

By Steve Jones,

At SQL Saturday #169 in Denver I sat in on a panel that talked about cloud computing. There was a consultant, a customer, and a Microsoft representative that give different perspectives on what their experiences were with Windows Azure. It was an interesting talk and the more I learn about the cloud, the more potential situations where I think it applies. It's not for everyone, but there are a lot of places where it can work, and I would encourage you to learn more about cloud services and cloud computing.

One really interesting question was asked. Do you know the skills needed for modern Microsoft data centers? Truck driver. A truck driver can drop off a shipping container with servers pre-configured inside and just plug it in to power and network, often with no cooling needed. A fenced in parking lot, open to the atmosphere, makes a nice, inexpensive, low maintenance data center.

That's simplified, but it has interesting implications for networking, hardware, and system administrators, but what does that mean for DBAs? How will our jobs change if these shipping containers run SQL Server services on Azure or AWS? It's a good question, and one that I know worries many people that manage SQL Servers.

On one hand our jobs don't change. We still need to manage the data, enforce quality, design tables and manage indexes. We must ensure the data is available, intact, accessible by clients. We import, export, and even recover it at times. These are all the core skills of a DBA. On the other hand, we have new challenges to manage. Our recovery process will change. We will need to learn how to scale out our data and applications. We will need to better set expectations for performance, and perhaps more closely expand and contract the resources we use to match the demand we receive. In order to do that, we'll also have to better understand the financial costing models that vendors provide, along with gathering more knowledge on the actual value our organization receives from more, or fewer, resources.

The idea of remote computing, whether as hosted VMs or a platform that provides database services, is going to be a part of many of our careers. We might as well embrace it, understand it, and find a way to fit in.

Steve Jones


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