DBA, database developer, analyst, SQL grunt, or whatever your title may be, there is no question that your role will be evolving in the next few years.
I read a couple of posts from Jason Massie about the Death of the DBA (part 1 and part 2) earlier today, in which he predicts a diminishing market for database administrators, and SQL DBAs in particular. These posts are not the first references to the “cloud computing” initiative stealing away market share from hard-working DBAs, and to some extent I can agree with this. Opportunities for the “typical” install-backup-restore-defrag DBA will be reduced in the future, though it could be argued that this has already begun. The stereotypical introverted techie who works best while locked away in an isolated server room can make a good living right now, but it is this type of position that could be in jeopardy due to cloud computing or similar automation.
Tomorrow’s database professional must know not only the technology but the business that requires it. DBAs cannot afford to be agnostic about the data stored on their systems; he or she must understand not only the technical objects and methods, but has to grasp the big picture of what the data and metadata collectively represent. This new generation of database professionals must have an understanding of the organization’s objectives, and must have at least a familiarity with – and just as important, an empathy for – users at every level, from data entry clerks to CXOs. Top-notch database gurus will have to perform as well in a boardroom as they do in the server room.
I think you’ll find that the role of the DBA is not dying, but will certainly be forced to evolve. There will not be a shortage of opportunity for those who understand the business as well as the technology and can translate (sometimes ill-defined) business needs into intelligent system objects and functionality.