The DBA Dilemma: How Many DBAs Does It Take to Manage an Infrastructure?

  • Rodney Landrum

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1898

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item The DBA Dilemma: How Many DBAs Does It Take to Manage an Infrastructure?

  • Elliott Whitlow

    SSC Guru

    Points: 102296

    I think this depends greatly on the infrastructure you have in place. If you don't have a good infrstructure the number of servers that any single DBA can handle is greatly diminished. Just think about patching, how many servers can you patch at once manually? I can think of all kinds of monitoring that you might need.. But just off the of my head..

    1. Services running, SQL and Agent.

    2. Services active, SQL responds to logins, Agent is running jobs.

    3. Errorlog is monitored for issues.

    Any other thoughts?

    CEWII

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    Elliott W (10/26/2009)


    I think this depends greatly on the infrastructure you have in place. If you don't have a good infrstructure the number of servers that any single DBA can handle is greatly diminished. Just think about patching, how many servers can you patch at once manually? I can think of all kinds of monitoring that you might need.. But just off the of my head..

    1. Services running, SQL and Agent.

    2. Services active, SQL responds to logins, Agent is running jobs.

    3. Errorlog is monitored for issues.

    Any other thoughts?

    CEWII

    I agree, this does tend to depend in what shape your infrastructure is in to begin with. Automated morning reporting on nightly backup routine status, errorlog checking, failed jobs, blocked or blocking processes, phyical disk alerts, etc. goes along way here to extend this number of servers a DBA can easily handle, at least it does for me anyway. Also, now with the release of SQL 2008 the DBA now has at his disposal two new features known as CMS (Central Management Servers) and PBM (Policy Based Management) that allow the DBA to deal with and maintain multiple db servers as a collective unit or group. Instead of having to deal with each of them individually. But of course, you need to get all of this in place first, and that can take some time to do. Not to mention that you might have to put out some major fires beforehand and get your infrastructure under control even before implementing automation and central management. However, the nice thing about this needed front work though is once you got it setup and organized once, then you are golden. Your daily admiistrator life immediately starts to get better, trust me. Adding servers to this mix after that point is a piece of cake. It is definitely worth the effort IMHO. It just all depends on what shape your production db servers are in and this tends to varies widely from company to company in my past experience. 🙂 I have seen some DBA's that have not got the 10 db servers that they are reponsible for organized and automated, and they end up chasing their tails all day long never really getting much accomplished. Then I have seen other DBA's that got 50+ db servers nice and automated, centralized, and organized and manage them quite well, with plenty of time to spare....and not to mention what your boss will think come evaluation time...

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

  • SQL_EXPAT

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2708

    I have a team of 4 DBAs - 2 SQL and 2 Oracle. We manage administer:

    270 SQL Servers -dev, test, UAT and production

    70 Oracle on Linux servers - dev, test, UAT and production

    So, thats 135 servers/SQL DBA and 35/Oracle DBA.

    The only we we can achieve this is by working 24x7 and not taking any sick days or vacation :-D.

    But, seriously, we achieve this through standardising on builds, monitoring scripts and alerting. Most of our servers are exactly the same in configuration. When we perform tasks we always do it on server groups not individual servers. Strict change management also helps here.

    We're helped to a degree by a seperate infrastructure team who builds the servers and a tier 1 support team who respond to alerts. Also, many of our servers are commodity, 'scale-out' servers so even the databases are exactly the same.

    Oracle DBAs perform secondary support to SQL and Vice Versa.

    Its pretty tough and we could do with a couple more DBAs but the budget aint there. Its the 'new normal' i.e. doing more with less.

    In a previous post at a gaming company who solely used SQL Server the ratio was 10:1 - we had 10 DBAs and about 120 servers to manage. In hindsight this was overkill and I only realise now how much you can save by standardisng kit and unifying your processes instead of adding more and more DBAs.

    thanks

    SQL_EXPAT

  • WayneS

    SSC Guru

    Points: 95341

    I assume you're counting a server as an instance of sql server? Thus one physical computer might have several sql servers?

    Wayne
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server 2008
    Author - SQL Server T-SQL Recipes


    If you can't explain to another person how the code that you're copying from the internet works, then DON'T USE IT on a production system! After all, you will be the one supporting it!
    Links:
    For better assistance in answering your questions
    Performance Problems
    Common date/time routines
    Understanding and Using APPLY Part 1 & Part 2

  • SQL_EXPAT

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2708

    In my post I'm referring to physical servers. We only ever install 1 instance of SQL Server per server. Oracle is a little different.

    Another thing I must mention is that many of these servers are DR servers. All of our live servers are mirrored between sites either through using Database mirroring, log shipping or running LIVE/LIVE.

    thanks

    SQL_EXPAT

  • jjarupan

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1167

    It is depending on the company.

    My past experience was monitoring 40 servers by myself(in Healthcare Industry), now ~ 300 servers all over US (in Financial service) by only 2 DBAs but mainly all maintenance job monitors by myself the other is senior DBA ( mainly in Application).

    For monitor ~300 servers, it is very easy by a script and let it pages us when it has the problem.

    Big problem always comes from a disk problem, need to change server and pretty much we have all backup files and some database files to recover.

    Backup, Update stats,DBCC, shrink the file, restart service etc, all done by jobs by the server itself or from monitoring server.

    All can be done by set one computer as monitoring server.

    All update can be done automatically by the network process.

    IMHO, reply to the question, How many DBAs Does it take to manage infrastructure? It should be 0 (zero) in nearly future.

    No need DBA for infrastructure in the future.

    (Some Company still needs Database Developer for the future).

    It is possible, let Network guy install server and SQL server. Monitoring Server can detect the new server, install all jobs automatically by itself.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715968

    We had a similar setup to AJs when I was at JD Edwards. Production instances, almost all 1 instance / physical server, were in the 200-300 range. Two DBAs.

    We also helped support some development environments at times as well. We weren't slammed most of the time, but it was constant tinkering, monitoring, making sure that the stuff we'd set up to alert us ahead of time was working. And of course, something is always broken with 100s of instances.

  • Patrick Cahill

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5394

    We only have 8 sql servers and 2 dba's. We would be better off with only 1 dba and 1 database developer. I am a little bored with so little to maintain. I came from a shop with 50 sql servers with 2 dba's and 4 database developers, this was much better. Right now my biggest challenge is to stay busy and keep learning new stuff.

  • Elliott Whitlow

    SSC Guru

    Points: 102296

    I read one person suggest having one server monitor them all, which in general is good, BUT, you still need to have something monitor the monitor server, at least a little bit.

    I mean if you regularly get notified of things and then all of a sudden don't, you might not notice it for a while, even if the secondary monitoring is just are the services running and responding should be probably good enough..

    I keep reading this in the posts..

    Bad/poor/no infrastructure and change control = Lots of DBA bad days..

    CEWII

  • kwitzell

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2462

    I am the DBA for about 25 servers which are a combination of production and test systems some of which are physical machines and some are in a virtual environment. Seven of these servers are Oracle database servers and four are used in two SQL Server clusters. I was the first, and have been the only DBA here and learned everything I know over the last ten years from the 'school of hard knocks' and through Oracle and Microsoft training classes. I was hired as a systems analyst and took the DBA postilion when the position was created. Fortunately, all of our applications are 'canned' so I do very little developer related work and perform mostly production DBA tasks. I could use some help 'cause I don't always get to check all my servers every day, but there is no way they will hire another DBA here (we are a local government). It is not all that bad, while I am on call 24/7, I have gotten things to the point where I don't get called much at all and as long as I stay on top of things I get very few 'surprises'.

  • skelly-806234

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 151

    There's no way you can come up with even a ballpark number of DBA's per server. With the right tools, a well set up infrastructure, reliable networks and well written applications, a single DBA could support a very large number. But if the network is flaky and the apps are dodgy, and there's no investment in monitoring and response tools, even a single server can become a handful.

    I think a better question would be to ask what a DBA needs to be able to manage a large number of servers well?

  • Elliott Whitlow

    SSC Guru

    Points: 102296

    skelly-806234 (10/27/2009)


    There's no way you can come up with even a ballpark number of DBA's per server. With the right tools, a well set up infrastructure, reliable networks and well written applications, a single DBA could support a very large number. But if the network is flaky and the apps are dodgy, and there's no investment in monitoring and response tools, even a single server can become a handful.

    I think a better question would be to ask what a DBA needs to be able to manage a large number of servers well?

    I think you might have a point there..

    CEWII

  • TravisDBA

    SSCoach

    Points: 15780

    skelly-806234 (10/27/2009)


    There's no way you can come up with even a ballpark number of DBA's per server. With the right tools, a well set up infrastructure, reliable networks and well written applications, a single DBA could support a very large number. But if the network is flaky and the apps are dodgy, and there's no investment in monitoring and response tools, even a single server can become a handful.

    I think a better question would be to ask what a DBA needs to be able to manage a large number of servers well?

    I absolutely agree. It all depends on the factors you state....Even one critical db server can be a constant handful if it is just a design nightmare...A lot depends on what you as the dba inherit when you take on the new job and the environment...and a lot of times the people that created the entire mess in the first place are long gone anyway so you are stuck with cleanng it all up and getting it organized and automated...So the sooner you get started the better your daily life is going to be in the long run...

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

  • Rodney Landrum

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1898

    the last post was a very succinct and accurate analysis of what a lot of DBAs face. I know I came into a SQL infrastructure left by the previous DBA. His last day was Friday and my first day was Monday after. There was little doucmentation, a mix of third party and internally developed applications, no standard monitoring and many dev teams all deploying code in different and non-standard ways. Space was a constant issue and still is in many ways because there was little capacity planning. When you take it all in, the DBA may not have the ultimate say on how changes will be implemented. They can offer advise, code review, standards and best practices but often, unless coming from higher up, it falls on deaf ears. Many SQL developers do not want DBAs to review their code. Many do however, and it ultimately ends up at that, a team effort where everyone offers their knowledge to the betterment of the processes and people that you see everyday. The alternative is to be a consultant I presume. I don't know if I want that. Too much dang travel.

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