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Don't Get Left Behind

By Brian Knight,

Do you consider yourself solely a SQL Server production DBA? You know, the DBA whose job is to make requested changes in production and fix problems if they occur. If so, watch out. That hearse outside your cube may be for your career soon. Much of this is market forces and a lot of this is the manageability enhancements in SQL Server 2000 and in the new release of SQL Server (code-named Yukon).

Consider this, the SQL Server 2000 and Yukon make supporting SQL Server even easier and requires less business understanding to support an instance of SQL Server. This is great for business and the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the database but bad for the production DBA. Since you will not need to have intimate knowledge of the database anymore to be a production DBA, the DBA job could easily be done by recent graduates desperate for a paycheck in the tough economy or by overseas workers who are paid a fraction of what their US and European counterparts.

So how do you get your career off of the impending life support? Time to adapt and to become a hybrid DBA that can act as a development and production DBA. With the next release of SQL Server, you will need to have a clear grasp of the .Net technology to truly utilize all the features of the product. You'll also have developers approaching you to do so very crazy things in stored procedures now that T-SQL has been extended to support compiled languages like C#. You will need to be the gatekeeper to the database server and understand what they're trying to accomplish and advise.

In the new world, you have the opportunity to get your hands dirty early. Learn the business and application. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Learn CLR - A hybrid DBA will be expected to know at least one other programming language. These 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.
  3. 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 road block.
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 and rewarding. The bottom line is it's much harder to lay off or contract overseas a DBA who is the complete package and knows your business and can support it after it leaves development.

Brian Knight
SQL Server MVP

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