Does the Role of the DBA Need to Evolve?

  • bradmcgehee@hotmail.com (12/12/2011)


    My editorial got edited after I wrote it, and one important part of the message I was trying to get across apparently got deleted. In the original draft of my editorial, I was making the assumption that over a long period of time, 50, 100, 500 years, that the role of DBA administrator would probably go away as software could very possibly take over such tasks. So my question "Will the DBA role evolve naturally from being a "caretaker of data", to "interpreter of data", for the good of society?" is not asking about now, or the next few years, but about the future. The goal of the editorial was to be "whimsical" and "thought-provoking", but that part of the editorial got edited out.

    I guess the data in the editorial wasn't properly safeguarded, eh? 😛

    And, yes, as systems evolve and become more self-correcting, et al, the duties of dealing with them will change. It's been a long time, for example, since I had to administer a Windows for Workgroups 3.11 network on a thin-coax token ring. That set of skills isn't really applicable any more. At the same time, building and administering a more modern network hasn't become simpler, it's just become different. I think database administration will go the same way. Years ago, backup/restore administration, and the details of restoring a database from tape backups of full, diff and log data, to a point in time, was a complex skillset. Now, I generally pick the database in SSMS, right-click, open the restore wizard, pick the point in time in a field, and click "Okay". Flash drives are in the process of eliminating fragmentation (physical and index) as a consideration. But DBAing has become a more complex skillset, not less.

    So, yeah, the skills will change. It's just a question of how much.

    As for 500-year time spans, who knows? 500 years ago was the 1600s. The printing press had revolutionized data dissemination, but it was still primarily being stored (outside the human head) in ink-on-paper, and analysis was a matter of decades of education. Modern ideas of electronic storage and retrieval would have been inconceivable. Not only outside of what could be imagined, but outside of any need that could be imagined.

    500 years ago, Adam Smith was over 100 years in the future, and John Meynard Keynes was over 400 years away. Modern business and government weren't even a twinkle in their fathers' eyes, as it were. And those two (government and modern business) are the two biggest driving forces behind data storage, dissemination, et al.

    So, 500 years from now? I'm sure it will be radically different, but I'm also sure it will still required skilled people somewhere in the mix, not just more automation.

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  • Brad McGehee wrote:

    I was making the assumption that over a long period of time, 50, 100, 500 years, that the role of DBA administrator would probably go away as software could very possibly take over such tasks.

    It's nice to know someone is optimistic about our longer-term prospects, both as IT professionals and as human beings!

    I think the changes you envision might come about sooner than the timescale you suggest; but I also wonder if, for them to happen, the nature of higher education needs also change, so as to encourage the coalescing of what presently seem to be very disparate professions.

    The philosophy of some educational systems, such as that in the US, encourages a broad approach to learning - so that even IT and engineering majors are exposed to some degree to the liberal arts.

    Others, as in the UK and Germany, point the student toward a high degree of specialisation at a fairly early age.

    Although the American educational system has its critics - many of them deserved - I think its concern for producing a well-rounded student actually would better foster the changes you suggest, than some of the other educational approaches.

  • bradmcgehee@hotmail.com (12/12/2011)


    My editorial got edited after I wrote it, and one important part of the message I was trying to get across apparently got deleted. In the original draft of my editorial, I was making the assumption that over a long period of time, 50, 100, 500 years, that the role of DBA administrator would probably go away as software could very possibly take over such tasks. So my question "Will the DBA role evolve naturally from being a "caretaker of data", to "interpreter of data", for the good of society?" is not asking about now, or the next few years, but about the future. The goal of the editorial was to be "whimsical" and "thought-provoking", but that part of the editorial got edited out.

    [IMHO] ....

    That really opens it up a bit. With the exponential advancements in technology, who's even to say how data is stored in 100 years, will databases even be the storage medium or will we have something "Star Trek'ish" like crystals or the like.

    I would think they'll always be a DBA or something of the sort for maintaining the storage of data, an Analyst to carry out that part and various levels in between. Since most every business is driven by greed and the almighty dollar (Euro), the more a single person can do effectively with less money the better. Rather, that's the mentality I see coming from the "top" down. Isn't that how we got the "Accidental DBA" role in the first place.

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  • A new field of study "Culturomics" and a new job description "Data Scientist"

  • An exponential advance in technology is an understatement. Think of how far we come in just the last 50 years or even five years. Think about how young this World Wide Interweb thingy is. Does anyone remember UUNet? How about Windows NT not being a stable enough platform to build a business application? Twitter is barely 5 years old and built on 140 characters. It is amazing in both its simplicity and contribution to information.

    Look at your parents and think about the technology advances that they have seen. My mother still cries when she has to touch a computer because she is afraid that she will break it. Now consider how your children view technology and the advances in technology that they will see in their lifetime. I am still amazed that I can send an email from my SQL Server and have it show up in three different locations at the same time including my smart phone with a dual core processor. Think for a minute about the complexity of that operation.

    There is one thing that I was taught early in my career from an old DBA, design every database to last thirty years including prototypes. It is that type of long term thinking that helps us out as DBA’s. Developers and End Users want to see the data now. We have to see the data as it will be in the years to come. It is one of the skills that set us apart.

    There will always be a need for the Keepers of Data just as there always has been throughout Human History. We just use new and improved tools.

  • Analyzing business data versus administering it tends to fall under the "Business Intelligence" umbrella in most shops with BA's that specialize in exactly that kind of "slicing and dicing" of data analysis. Now, with that said, do I see DBA's picking up or even inheriting that role as they evolve through the natural course of daily business needs. Definitely. 😀 In my shop I have a saying that says "I draw the line at cleaning bathrooms.":w00t:

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • michael.french 172 (12/12/2011)


    An exponential advance in technology is an understatement. Think of how far we come in just the last 50 years or even five years. Think about how young this World Wide Interweb thingy is. Does anyone remember UUNet? How about Windows NT not being a stable enough platform to build a business application? Twitter is barely 5 years old and built on 140 characters. It is amazing in both its simplicity and contribution to information.

    Look at your parents and think about the technology advances that they have seen. My mother still cries when she has to touch a computer because she is afraid that she will break it. Now consider how your children view technology and the advances in technology that they will see in their lifetime. I am still amazed that I can send an email from my SQL Server and have it show up in three different locations at the same time including my smart phone with a dual core processor. Think for a minute about the complexity of that operation.

    There is one thing that I was taught early in my career from an old DBA, design every database to last thirty years including prototypes. It is that type of long term thinking that helps us out as DBA’s. Developers and End Users want to see the data now. We have to see the data as it will be in the years to come. It is one of the skills that set us apart.

    There will always be a need for the Keepers of Data just as there always has been throughout Human History. We just use new and improved tools.

    "Keepers of Data" used to be called "Librarians" and "File Clerks". Before that, "Storytellers" or "Bards" and "Historians" and "Priests". Before that, "Oog" (I think that was his name, anyway 😛 ). Same societal function, different tools for doing the work.

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
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  • GSquared (12/12/2011)


    michael.french 172 (12/12/2011)


    An exponential advance in technology is an understatement. Think of how far we come in just the last 50 years or even five years. Think about how young this World Wide Interweb thingy is. Does anyone remember UUNet? How about Windows NT not being a stable enough platform to build a business application? Twitter is barely 5 years old and built on 140 characters. It is amazing in both its simplicity and contribution to information.

    Look at your parents and think about the technology advances that they have seen. My mother still cries when she has to touch a computer because she is afraid that she will break it. Now consider how your children view technology and the advances in technology that they will see in their lifetime. I am still amazed that I can send an email from my SQL Server and have it show up in three different locations at the same time including my smart phone with a dual core processor. Think for a minute about the complexity of that operation.

    There is one thing that I was taught early in my career from an old DBA, design every database to last thirty years including prototypes. It is that type of long term thinking that helps us out as DBA’s. Developers and End Users want to see the data now. We have to see the data as it will be in the years to come. It is one of the skills that set us apart.

    There will always be a need for the Keepers of Data just as there always has been throughout Human History. We just use new and improved tools.

    "Keepers of Data" used to be called "Librarians" and "File Clerks". Before that, "Storytellers" or "Bards" and "Historians" and "Priests". Before that, "Oog" (I think that was his name, anyway 😛 ). Same societal function, different tools for doing the work.

    No, it was "Bob". It always comes back to Bob in the end... and the beginning. That and sheep.

    However, up until recently with us and File Clerks, I'd slightly disagree with the statement. These were the keepers of stories and morals. Even Bards chose and wrote their songs for political statement instead of strict information. I might be picking at the threads of the argument though, you're correct in general.

    To the point: No, I don't think DBAs as guardians of data will become the interpreters. There's too many 'experts' out there, alongside real experts, who will be the ones to interpret our safehouses of information. We'll become the equivalent of the "Chosen Guardians at the gates to the Library of Babylon" or some such. We're not there to help you make sense of it, though we can try. We're there to make sure it's undamaged when you're done for the next person.


    - Craig Farrell

    Never stop learning, even if it hurts. Ego bruises are practically mandatory as you learn unless you've never risked enough to make a mistake.

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  • Evil Kraig F (12/12/2011)


    GSquared (12/12/2011)


    michael.french 172 (12/12/2011)


    An exponential advance in technology is an understatement. Think of how far we come in just the last 50 years or even five years. Think about how young this World Wide Interweb thingy is. Does anyone remember UUNet? How about Windows NT not being a stable enough platform to build a business application? Twitter is barely 5 years old and built on 140 characters. It is amazing in both its simplicity and contribution to information.

    Look at your parents and think about the technology advances that they have seen. My mother still cries when she has to touch a computer because she is afraid that she will break it. Now consider how your children view technology and the advances in technology that they will see in their lifetime. I am still amazed that I can send an email from my SQL Server and have it show up in three different locations at the same time including my smart phone with a dual core processor. Think for a minute about the complexity of that operation.

    There is one thing that I was taught early in my career from an old DBA, design every database to last thirty years including prototypes. It is that type of long term thinking that helps us out as DBA’s. Developers and End Users want to see the data now. We have to see the data as it will be in the years to come. It is one of the skills that set us apart.

    There will always be a need for the Keepers of Data just as there always has been throughout Human History. We just use new and improved tools.

    "Keepers of Data" used to be called "Librarians" and "File Clerks". Before that, "Storytellers" or "Bards" and "Historians" and "Priests". Before that, "Oog" (I think that was his name, anyway 😛 ). Same societal function, different tools for doing the work.

    No, it was "Bob". It always comes back to Bob in the end... and the beginning. That and sheep.

    However, up until recently with us and File Clerks, I'd slightly disagree with the statement. These were the keepers of stories and morals. Even Bards chose and wrote their songs for political statement instead of strict information. I might be picking at the threads of the argument though, you're correct in general.

    To the point: No, I don't think DBAs as guardians of data will become the interpreters. There's too many 'experts' out there, alongside real experts, who will be the ones to interpret our safehouses of information. We'll become the equivalent of the "Chosen Guardians at the gates to the Library of Babylon" or some such. We're not there to help you make sense of it, though we can try. We're there to make sure it's undamaged when you're done for the next person.

    Keep in mind that, in Celtic society and a number of related cultures, "Bard" and "Lorekeeper" were both the same job. They memorized geneologies, histories, treaties with other tribes/nations, marriages, et al. Most pre-literate cultures have a similar job, just the title changes.

    In that way, these people were "keepers and guardians of data". They just memorized it instead of writing it down. Since these are pre-literate cultures, writing it down wasn't an option, and memorizing makes more sense in that context. (Socrates worried that literacy would be a curse on Greek culture, since it seemed to ruin young men's ability to memorize the kind of vast amounts of data that he was accustomed to.)

    You're probably thinking of the (much later) Feudal-period "bards". Same job title, but more entertainer than keeper of lore. That's a post-literate development. I was refering to the older job. By the time the job had changed, the Church was the primary keeper of records, and everything was pretty much being written by them. Though accountants had also taken some of the role by that time, of course. But many accountants were illiterate, and operated on semi-written records (hash marks and logos instead of written numbers and words).

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
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  • GSquared (12/12/2011)


    You're probably thinking of the (much later) Feudal-period "bards". Same job title, but more entertainer than keeper of lore. That's a post-literate development. I was refering to the older job.

    Dead in the black, you're right. I'd forgotten it was used as a descriptor of the Loremaster as well. Oops? :hehe:


    - Craig Farrell

    Never stop learning, even if it hurts. Ego bruises are practically mandatory as you learn unless you've never risked enough to make a mistake.

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  • Well, by hiring contract, I always support the 24x7 database operations. The DBA role is only for database maintaining and for helping of the data analyst and application programmers, be Web or be Desktop or be Server Programmers, whoever want to access to a database. This is the "caretaker" role. However, with the adoption of the Business Intelligence wave, DBA are certainly implied into Data Analyst teamwork. But, DBA must maintain the essential principles, and to avoid increase the complexity in a well-formed complexity named "databases" world, where companies will grow more and more and the efficient of engines may be altered. The natural evolution could address to the incorporation of new techniques to decrease the database management, and to aid of discovering and understand new data analysis methods.

  • Evil Kraig F (12/12/2011)


    GSquared (12/12/2011)


    You're probably thinking of the (much later) Feudal-period "bards". Same job title, but more entertainer than keeper of lore. That's a post-literate development. I was refering to the older job.

    Dead in the black, you're right. I'd forgotten it was used as a descriptor of the Loremaster as well. Oops? :hehe:

    Evil Kraig, I love your two sigs. The one person that I can think of that was extremely infamous for using both of these deceptions to his extreme advantage was Hitler. In the end though lies, deception, and manipulation only works just for awhile. 😀

    "Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"

  • TravisDBA (12/13/2011)


    Evil Kraig F (12/12/2011)


    GSquared (12/12/2011)


    You're probably thinking of the (much later) Feudal-period "bards". Same job title, but more entertainer than keeper of lore. That's a post-literate development. I was refering to the older job.

    Dead in the black, you're right. I'd forgotten it was used as a descriptor of the Loremaster as well. Oops? :hehe:

    Evil Kraig, I love your two sigs. The one person that I can think of that was extremely infamous for using both of these deceptions to his extreme advantage was Hitler. In the end though lies, deception, and manipulation only works just for awhile. 😀

    Thanks for the compliment, appreciated. I have a number of other examples that if you'd like we'll discuss via PM. The only thing the other examples I have would do, at least in general, is start a flamewar.


    - Craig Farrell

    Never stop learning, even if it hurts. Ego bruises are practically mandatory as you learn unless you've never risked enough to make a mistake.

    For better assistance in answering your questions[/url] | Forum Netiquette
    For index/tuning help, follow these directions.[/url] |Tally Tables[/url]

    Twitter: @AnyWayDBA

  • Role of DBAs

    Four roles are listed in first Chapter of Professional Microsfot SQL Server 2008 Administration: Production DBA,Development DBA, Business Intelligence DBA & Hybrid DBA. For smaller organzations, Hybird DBA is very popular which has title as Program Analyst. If a program analyst can do some of DBA functions, why hire a DBA?

  • Kevin Mao-243787 (12/13/2011)


    Role of DBAs

    Four roles are listed in first Chapter of Professional Microsfot SQL Server 2008 Administration: Production DBA,Development DBA, Business Intelligence DBA & Hybrid DBA. For smaller organzations, Hybird DBA is very popular which has title as Program Analyst. If a program analyst can do some of DBA functions, why hire a DBA?

    why build a home by hiring anyone else besides a general contractor? They can do some of the same duties?

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