If you see a priest outside your cubical, beware! He could
be trying to read you your last rites. If he hasn’t showed up yet, don’t
worry, he’ll be over shortly because the production DBA is dead or will be
shortly. So how do you avoid becoming obsolete?
Please don’t get me wrong. Speaking from the perspective
of an ex-production DBA, I welcome my job’s death and have enjoyed the
transition into my new role. Not that I didn’t enjoy watching my backups and
CPU utilization on a daily basis, but my new role is much more stable, enjoyable
What ever happened to the production DBA? With every
generation of SQL Server, Microsoft makes the management of SQL Server easier
and easier; often deceiving many managers into thinking they don’t need a DBA.
In Yukon, expect much of the same. Gord Mangione, Vice President of SQL Server
at Microsoft was recently quoted in SQL Server Magazine saying "Our goal with
ease of use is to let our DBAs concentrate more on working with the software
developers-to really become guardians of data…"
As each release of SQL Server passes, a DBA mundane
administrative job becomes more obsolete, while the need for a new hybrid DBA
grows. The hybrid DBA’s job first came about in SQL Server 7.0 with the
introduction of Data Transformation Services (DTS) and has grown even more so
with the introduction of XML integration in SQL Server 2000.
In Yukon, stored procedures you will be able to write stored procedures
in almost any programming language under the sun. So are you a developer at that
point or a DBA? My theory is you’re a hybrid.
Shortly after the release of SQL Server 2000, I began to receive call after call
from the development staff I support asking how to use certain features. This
made me feel like a dinosaur quickly since I hadn’t learned XML yet, nor was
it even on my radar. More and more of these types of tasks are being expected of
ex-production DBAs. The second you take one of them on, you lower the risk of
becoming obsolete, and you’re now a hybrid.
The economy isn’t helping the production DBA either. As
the economy worsens, companies can’t afford to have traditional development
and production DBAs separated. Instead, many companies are combining the two
roles into one. I personally welcome this merging. I was accustomed to not
having any input in a project in the beginning and then I was handed the project
in disarray when it was ready to enter the production room.
Nothing is more embarrassing than trying to explain to a new employee
that you didn’t create a database without any relationships in it or
nvarchar(1) fields. You had to just grit your teeth and create a backup plan for
the ridiculous database.
Now, you have the opportunity to get your hands dirty
early. Walk a database up to production and then carry it over the threshold.
Now that you’re a hybrid, you have a vested interest in the project from the
beginning. If you create a crummy database, then you’re stuck with it. You
also may be in charge of training the staff in how to use SQL Server’s XML
features, DTS, and in the future the new stored procedure functionality.
Here are a few tips (in order of importance) to
becoming a hybrid:
- Learn XML – If there is one technology that a DBA must know in the next few
years it is XML. SQL Server and other products of all kinds are integrating
XML into their system. Not being able to speak this language would be
equivalent of not understanding SQL in the next few years.
- Learn VBScript – A hybrid DBA will be expected to know at least one other
scripting language. These scripting languages will be tightly woven into
stored procedures in Yukon and much of SQL Server will go untapped if
you’re not up on these.
- Learn DTS – The minute you cut a 2-week project into 2 hours by creating a DTS
package, your stock rises. Developers will think of you as a peer, not a
I’ll never forget teaching a DTS class a few months
ago to a group of mainframe junkies. A few hours into the class, a
“mainfraimers” changed their Windows theme to represent a 3270 green
screen. I moaned then, but that
mainfraimer was one of my best students as the class went on. He saw then that
his technology was slowly becoming less and less widely used and was seeking new
knowledge. I’m certain there will always be a place for mainfraimers and
production DBAs, but what fun will that be?
So what do you think? Post your opinion of what you've seen
in the DBA landscape at the forum.