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The New DBA Reality

Sloane Stricker | | August 16, 2011

The Database Administrator is one of the most difficult positions to fill and retain. DBAs must be able to react, communicate, and plan across many different business functions. They are not easy to find and are often shockingly costly as a percentage of IT payroll. Prior to the evolution of today’s comprehensive systems and greater reliance on data by 24×7 consumers, most DBAs functioned as “basement DBAs,” meaning that they generally were out of sight and out of mind, working on mainframe tasks associated with loading tapes, maintaining DASD, and running backup job

That was 20 years ago.

In the current IT landscape, DBAs must understand an ever-expanding scope of hardware and applications, which includes web servers, middleware, and relational data models. They must deal effectively with new data/indexing schemes, application loads, clustering software, and replication techniques. Proficiency in networking, operating systems, storage area networks, and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations drives their value as DBAs. They also face constant change in encryption, multiple scripting languages,data retention, spatial data types, and third-party applications. Finally, they must know data warehousing, business intelligence, advanced performance tuning, high availability, code propagation, auditing, heuristics, and I/O layouts, among others. The likelihood of finding one individual with expertise in even a few of these key areas, much less all of them, is very low.

Since the DBA is often the first point of contact for system performance issues, they must be adept at problem solving, communication, collaboration, project management, process adherence, and even financial analysis. With the broadening and deepening of the job description of the average Database Administrator, they must demonstrate vertical platform expertise and horizontal functional expertise as shown in the diagram below.

What challenges do you see facing your DBAs and DBA managers?

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