Success from Loyalty

By Charles Garry  |  Posted 2005-06-30 Print this article Print

This means that Oracle, IBM and Sybase owe much of their success to the DBA and have counted on those strong loyalties to maintain their grasp within an account. Its no wonder they are unlikely to come out and announce that their database doesnt need a DBA anymore.
On the other hand, Microsoft has taken the road less traveled (at least by the other major vendors) of selling its SQL Server database to smaller enterprises or departments within larger enterprises.
These are the groups that did not have the manpower or expertise to manage the database manually. In other words, Microsoft had to build its database for a different audience. Now that the IT organizations are truly devaluing IT operation roles (DBAs included), its no wonder that SQL Server has become the fastest growing relational database. The perception is that it is easier to manage. Indeed, many DBA groups within organizations have only just begun to pay attention to the vast amount of SQL Server usage within their organization. This perception has also expanded out to the third party tools market where the traditional vendors (CA, BMC) have failed to find much demand for tools that were readily scooped up by DBA managers to support Oracle and DB2. Now all the database vendors are in alignment concerning automation because the growth market for them is the same one Microsoft has been cultivating, the small to midsize business (250-1000 employees) that in the U.S. alone represents an estimated $54 billion in IT spending this year, including $18 billion in software. Lower total cost of ownership is crucial to this market, but its also crucial to the large enterprise customer. Its time for the DBA to embrace self-tuning features or risk becoming extinct as a new generation of DBA is born. The next generation will again be highly sought after, not because they can write a script counting indexes that are never used but because they provide high-value expertise in areas such as data movement and reuse, data security and encryption, and data availability within a service-oriented architecture. Click here to read more about IBM launching a new outsourced-services offering. They will understand the business value of data archiving, and they will understand how real-time analytics can successfully accomplished and maintained. In short, they wont be worried about day-to-day minutia that many of todays DBAs feel comfortable with. Database software is simply too complex for most of us to grasp all of the possible implications of the most minor change. In other words, the DBA is guessing most of the time. Yes, some of that guessing is highly educated; some, however, is based on knowledge that may have been relevant in a prior release but is no longer. Some are even based on pure urban legend without taking into context the capabilities of the current hardware, optimizer changes and workload patterns. Now the database vendors provide you with the tools to let the database manage itself. We should let it try, after all, most companies would pay big dollars for an expert from Oracles development team to come and figure out how to squeeze even 10 percent performance improvement out of an important SQL statement. Why not then allow the knowledge that the developers built into the database (and used by consultants anyway) do the job? Now, we are not suggesting zero supervision, but certainly we should strive to raise the ratios of DBAs to instances managed so that we can lower operational (and low value) tasks. Organizations that want to leverage these self-tuning features and automate lower-level DBA tasks must start by evaluating their own database management process maturity. After all, automation has existed via third-party tools for more than a decade, but little of that functionality was ever fully used. The reason is that the organizations own processes were poorly documented and not repeatable. This is crucial in taking advantage of any automation. It is my belief that some organizations will look to outsource jobs rather than take the time to consider how they organize their support staff to enable improved process maturity. Certainly an organization can always hope that the outsourcer has mature and repeatable processes. Read more here from columnist Jeff Angus about outsourcing. Of course the outsourcer will be the only one that benefits from that (at least from a cost savings basis). So if you are a DBA or DBA manager and you want to make a positive impact on your organizations IT operations and bottom line, begin the task of evaluating how to better organize your DBA staff. Identify which processes in use today are best practices document them and standardize on them. Most importantly, use that as the basis to take full advantage of the databases self tuning features. Believe me, there is plenty of other work that must be accomplished, and the DBA is the role most capable of tackling these new challenges. Charles Garry is an independent industry analyst based in Simsbury, Conn. He is a former vice president with META Groups Technology Research Services. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.


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