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Current DBA Trends: Adapting to a Data-Driven and Hybrid Environment

Author: Eric Russo | | March 23, 2023


Organizations today have high expectations for their data and DBAs:

  • Agility. Organizations want innovation and speed in both infrastructure and code. With the rapid changes in technology, they need faster deployment.
  • Cost-Efficiency. In the wake of COVID, staffing reductions, and economic headwinds, many organizations need to do more with their current resources.
  • Reliability. Companies are looking for round-the-clock, 24/7 uptime, along with high availability and disaster recovery.
  • Scalability. Organizations need to scale up and down rapidly based on demand, economic landscapes, and business disruptions. The more time it takes to scale down, the more they spend on unused services. This is closely related to their need for cost-efficiency: companies only want to pay for what they’re using.
  • Security. A large part of the DBA landscape today revolves around keeping data secure. Compromised data hurts efficiency, profits, and customer trust.

There is also a shift in database administration as organizations have more options in how they want to be involved in the management of their systems. They are no longer restricted to on-premises infrastructure – the cloud opens up many doors.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Database as a Service (DBaaS) have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years. Gartner reported they had their highest spending growth in 2022, and end-user spending is expected to reach $600 billion by the end of 2023.

These services mean that DBAs no longer have to handle many tasks that previously took up a significant amount of their time. Jobs such as OS patching, database software installation and upgrades, database backups, disaster recovery, and more can be handled automatically.

Every company is a data company today. Because data is king, there’s a lot of diverse data architecture that brings in many data sources. Data lakes, data warehouses, and similar structures are all about capturing as much data as possible in various ways, which leads to heterogeneous database ecosystems.

Businesses no longer rely on a single database technology to move them forward. They leverage mixed data sets, types, and architectures that can get complicated as they grow.

While the cloud is clearly the future, it’s not necessarily a clean migration. Many organizations still have legacy applications in a monolithic state and hybrids as they move towards the microservice model. On top of that, there’s also the question of which public cloud(s) to use.

So what does this mean for DBAs? They need to be experienced in many technologies. Companies no longer have a homogenous single database environment. DBAs need to have multiple tools to support the full data ecosystem.

The Shift to a Proactive and Strategic DBA Role

“In my role as a senior DBA at Datavail, I’m out in front of the customer. I talk to my customers at least once a week and they call me regularly all the time. We’re strategically designing new solutions, standing up servers, creating disaster recovery environments, moving data – you name it, there’s always a project. Most of my time is spent listening to the customer, putting plans together, and then translating that into something the rest of the DBA team follows.” – Justin Azevedo, Senior SQL Server DBA, Datavail

In the past, DBAs were reactive. They had to be alert, on call, and ready to move at any minute. It requires large teams to manage the databases for large servers.

That’s not where we are today.

Some DBaaS offerings advertise that you no longer need DBAs to support the environment. This could not be further from the truth, but the DBA role does look significantly different in these environments.

When organizations adopt the cloud, they quickly realize that they still need the expertise of a DBA. The companies don’t know what the architectural needs are, how to optimize the database, or how to do the kind of maintenance, forward-thinking, and provisioning that needs to come as a strategic DBA.

Organizations may spin up massive cloud database instances to try to address performance issues, but end up with cost-prohibitive services. DBAs in the cloud can focus on tuning the existing system instead of paying a public cloud provider more money for an ever-growing instance.

Where you used to have teams of people dealing with infrastructure, alerts, and managing the hardware limitations of a database, DBAs now play a strategic role. They are architectural consultants that focus on growth, scale, and design.

DBAs influence long-term data strategies. That is where their role is most needed: preparing for technology migrations and focusing on the future. While the cloud dramatically reduces the need for large teams, DBAs play a much more instrumental role in organizations’ long-term growth.

Learn more about the past, present, and future of DBAs in our latest white paper.

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