The role of the DBA (database administrator) is an important and mostly misunderstood role in many IT organizations.
Those of us who have held the position appear to some as geeks who speak another dialect. The language of buffer cache hit ratios and access paths.
The database represents that world between the logical and physical, between hardware and software and just like our parents let the VCR time clock flash until we stopped by to reset it, organizations believe the database to be a black box best left to the experts. I agree, but not blindly.
The major database vendors (Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft) have invested greatly over the past decade to improve the manageability of the relational database.
The goal is to increase the ratio of DBAs to databases supported, thereby lowering the total cost of ownership for a database.
The problem is that some DBAs and consultants that provide DBA services want you to believe nothing has changed.
They say that even though all of this built-in self-tuning functionality is in the database software, it is optional and not intended to replace standard DBA activities.
They will make statements like "automation features are aimed at shops that do not have the manpower or expertise to manually perform the tasks."
As an IT manager, you must see the absurdity in such statements. Why would anyone want to perform a task manually when it can be done through automation?
Personnel costs in 2006 are estimated to be almost 47 percent (56 percent if you count professional services) of the average data center budget, making it easily the most expensive single category.
We should expect to see those percentages trend downward, perhaps by as much as 10 percent, over the next eight to 10 years specifically as a result of automation.
The database vendors have made a good start, but it is up to IT management to demand that DBAs begin to exploit these features.
Over the past two years, the idea of outsourcing the DBA position has become a popular topic of interest, first with business owners looking at budgets and finally with DBA managers under pressure to reduce costs or deal with reduced staff and turnover.
Clearly we are in a period where dramatic change is occurring with respect to how organizations value IT operations and its impact on the bottom line.
Of course, regardless of the huge savings that companies are promised by exploiting cheaper, non-U.S.-based labor, many studies continue to indicate that the promised savings never do materialize.
Could it be that organizations are treating a symptom and not the cause? Could the DBA who refuses to exploit automation features be in essence hastening their own demise?
We shouldnt place all the reticence to exploit automation features solely on the shoulders of the DBA.
The database vendors also play a role in this as they are caught in the throws of this market transformation.
Lets face it: Relational databases have not been the easiest thing to manage, which is why DBA skills were highly sought after for the past two decades.
Because of its perceived complexity, database vendors often leveraged the DBA community as the inroad to getting installed.
An organizations choice of database software often came down to just a few factors, not the least of which was the recommendation of the DBA or the consultant hired to take on that misunderstood, yet crucial role.