Ready or Not, Microsoft Expands DBAs Role

Opinion: Emphasis on integration and coding in SQL Server 2005 forces database specialists to learn programmers' tricks.

Microsoft hates DBAs. Ask anyone. OK, ask anyone who is a DBA, especially those who dont really support SQL Server.

I have attended my share of IOUG and IDUG conferences in my day. I always enjoyed the performance-related presentations where one could debate the relative impact of locking scenarios and dynamic versus static SQL, or indexing strategies.

Then I attended my first SQL PASS conference about four years ago. It seemed all they talked about was development issues. Where were all the performance geeks, I wondered?

Certainly the answer must be that Microsoft hates the DBA. Then came the CLR. Microsoft was now going to enable developers to run business logic within the database written in any .Net-approved language. Didnt Microsoft know that most DBAs have no clue about most programming languages? How did they expect the DBA to tune and troubleshoot stored procedures and triggers written in languages they cannot understand?

Why is it that almost every demo Ive seen for SQL Server 2005 (referred to as Yukon for most of the past four years) focused on integration with Microsoft Visual Studio or how easy it is to build ETL scripts using data transformation services. Do you think it could be because Microsoft hates DBAs?

To be sure, Microsoft has added a whole plethora of neat, DBA-friendly features in SQL Server 2005. They have added database mirroring, which makes fail-over scenarios not only easier and faster, but cheaper as well because it is bundled with Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition.

It also includes snap shot isolation which appears to be similar to Oracles Undo Tablespace (remember rollback segments) but the read-consistent image is totally managed by the database in the TempDB. They have added online index build and even table and index data partitioning. A bunch of other things for recovery and database integrity, not to mention security. Heck, they have even redone their enterprise manager console to make it look and feel more like Visual Studios IDE. Of course, why would they do this?

/zimages/2/28571.gifWhy arent you archiving? Click here to read Charlie Garrys column.

Perhaps all of this simply reflects Microsofts history as a database vendor. Perhaps their approach simply reflects their unique consumer base. After all, SQL Server has moved into the enterprise data center through the back door. It has seeped in over time like the mess you see in most peoples offices. Well, mine anyway. One day we looked around and noticed it was everywhere. Indeed, I suspect there is not a single Fortune 2000 company that isnt using SQL Server somewhere.

Developers were the early adopters. The DBAs shunned it. Called it a toy, certainly not worthy of their attention. No wonder Microsoft hates DBAs. Perhaps because of its fan base, Microsoft has emphasized what you could do with the data in a database rather than what the database needs for an administrator to keep it running efficiently.

Of course any vendor can go too far. It is difficult to satisfy both. The developer cares more about what cool, complex logic they can write as a stored procedure in C# than they care to consider if that business logic should even run on the database tier.

As for the DBA, perhaps its just time you faced the fact that a new generation of skills is a must. The DBA will have to pick up more and more developer skills. That will, no doubt, be a painful transition for many DBAs. Many will fight the change. They will try and put up roadblocks to developers using anything but the procedural SQL code they already know. It wont work for long, but they will try.

DBAs have complained for years about the poor code developers foist upon them. Well folks, now is your opportunity to step up and show them how its done. Microsoft has provided the means, now its up to the next generation of DBAs to adjust to this newly expanding role.

This role change will not stop with SQL Server, but certainly that community is much farther down this path than DBAs who primarily support other database platforms. For this very reason, DBAs with SQL Server experience may see their demand and salary increase faster than other platforms as companies begin to crave the value of the DBA/developer.

But of course thats only speculation on my part. I could be wrong because everyone knows that Microsoft hates DBAs.

Charles Garry is an independent industry analyst based in Simsbury, Conn. He is a former vice president with META Groups Technology Research Services. He can be reached at

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