The Data platform has evolved – so too must the DBA.

This blog post is around the changing landscape of both SQL Server and the people who are our trusted guardians of it – DBAs.

If you have been involved with SQL Server in the past 5 years, you will have seen some fantastic changes within the product. Where once we worked on SQL Server—we now work on a Data Platform. Microsoft has evolved the name of the SQL Server platform for very good reasons.

These days data exists both on-premises and in the cloud—data is being retrieved from Big Data running on Kubernetes clusters, it is being consumed by open source services that are interfacing with cognitive intelligent applications and data is being used with AI and Machine Learning models to provide predictive analytics. Our usage of data has also changed dramatically in the past 5 years, and with it, our administrative guardians of that data, the DBA, must also evolve with these changes

This article will help the reader who is trying to determine what they need to do to remain relevant—and more importantly—employable.

Embrace DevOps and Automation:

Automation will kill the DBA” this statement is wrong – automation will enhance the DBA. Deployments that were manual and disjointed can now be automated and by utilizing DevOps principles like Continuous Integration (storing the database model/code in source control and automating the building and testing of it) and Continuous Delivery (automating the repeatable, reliable release of that code through consistent environments).

There are open source (free) tools for automating a lot of manual database processes and tasks, for example https://dbatools.io which is a community-driven project helping DBAs work better. By automating a lot more it means DBAs will have more time to be proactive, to tune their systems more and to have time to upskill for the evolving platform that they manage.

Consider the Cloud as your next Server and Skillset:

Cloud-based computing has revolutionized industry and the same can be said around database management. No longer do DBAs need to be tethered to their infrastructure, looking at what security patches need to be applied or how to manage on-premises capacity constraints within their database ecosystem.

Cloud-based databases are shifting DBAs from hands-on guardians of databases to value-drivers for their businesses. I use the term value-drivers because cloud computing does cost money, where provisioned incorrectly it can cost a lot, and if DBAs have the skills to tune databases then that compute cost can be reduced.

The changes that the cloud brings are:

  • More higher quality deployments, less weekend work
  • More automation, less hands-on work
  • More data enrichment, less database maintenance
  • More growth in data, less resource constraints

The growing importance of cloud-based data and databases frees up DBAs from mundane, tasks, and provides more time to work directly with the business on ways data can be applied to market driven needs. The cloud also opens the door to DevOps; through the use of consistent tooling and automated processes, the work of DBAs, developers and operations teams are synchronized to deliver value at a velocity the business requires.

Lastly, by embracing the cloud and what it has to offer, DBAs have the greatest ability to advance and extend their career opportunities that they’ve had for the past 25 years.

Understand How The Platform is Evolving:

If we look at Big Data clusters—these are typically run on the Linux platform or on containers within a Kubernetes cluster. These clusters need to be provisioned and how they integrate together needs to be understood by all involved. What this means is DBAs need to become more general technologists. DBAs need to understand how SQL Server will run in a container, they need to look at how R, Python, Bash and PowerShell are languages they need to know in conjunction with T-SQL. The role of the DBA now encompasses more intelligent tooling that can manage and report on data infrastructure and processes across a wide variety of platform technologies. Hint: SQL Server doesn’t just run on windows server anymore…

Conclusion:

Data has never been more important to organizations, and no individual has a better understanding of how to manage and ultimately harvest that data than the DBA. However, with the evolution of the Data Platform to be more self-autonomous, DBAs will be under increased pressure to prove their value. Whether that is learning open source tools, big data clusters, cloud technologies, or performance monitoring processes, that is up to the DBA. The DBA has to evolve, like all professions that have with the introduction of cloud and automation, but the role itself is unlikely to ever disappear—the name could even evolve to become “Data Platform Engineer”.

If you are going to PASS Summit this November, then I feel the following sessions would greatly help you on your evolving career path within the Data Platform:

Journey to the Cloud: Planning the First Steps

Best Practices for Branching Database Code in Git

SQL Migration to Azure: Best Practices, Accelerators, and Production Case Studies

Should I Move My Production SQL Server Workloads to Containers?

How to Deploy SQL Server Containers on Kubernetes in Azure

Introducing SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters

This blog post is a reproduction of an article I wrote for PASS:

https://www.pass.org/PASSBlog/TabId/68281/ArtMID/99177/ArticleID/692/The-Data-platform-has-evolved-so-too-must-the-DBA.aspx

You’re keen about data and haven’t heard about PASS?

You should join it – it has a LOT of free resources and is free to join:

https://www.pass.org/

Joining revolutionised my career and life.

Yip.

 

One thought on “The Data platform has evolved – so too must the DBA.

  1. Nice post Hamish, I think you’ve hit on a few critical points there.
    The evolution of the “DBA role” is inevitable.
    When I first took notice of Cloud about 6 years ago I used to view “PaaS Databases” as a neutron bomb (ie leave the infrastructure, but wipe out everything else) – but fast forward to today and whats really happened is an expansion of the scope of the DBA role – and multiple splits into the creation of new roles like the Data Engineer, Data Architect, etc.
    By anecdotal example – a search of a common job site shows me 300 DBA roles, and 3000 Data Engineer roles!
    One thing’s for sure is that at the current rate of evolution the roles we’ll see in 5 years wont have even been invented yet!
    If interested – I blogged on a similar topic a few years back – https://mrfoxsql.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/what-exactly-is-the-data-platform-nowadays/

    Liked by 2 people

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