The Evolution of the DBA
Recently, thereâ€™s been a couple of great posts about the Death of the Database Administrator, including a response by Steve Jones and a several reactions by the staff of SQL Server Pro; the central premise behind the supposed demise revolves around this one major thought:
The evil cloud has reduced the need for internal systems infrastructure, including database administration. Itâ€™s a storm of needs for faster development (agility) and the rise of hosted services; who needs a database server, when you can rent space on Azure? Please note that Iâ€™m not specifically anti-cloud, but Iâ€™m casting it as the villain when careers are on the line.
Furthermore, in shops where the cloud is banned (e.g., financial services), developers are using tools like Entity Framework to write SQL for them. Tuning SQL thus becomes an application change as opposed to a stored procedure change; DBAâ€™s who do performance tuning have to focus on index maintenance and hardware acquisition. Code tuning is now part of the development domain, and the career of the pure SQL developer is gasping in comparison.
Like all great controversial statements, thereâ€™s an element of truth; the cloud, agile approaches, and new technologies are reducing the need for traditional database administrators, but I think weâ€™re a long way away from pulling the plug. However, I will say that over the next decade, these trends will probably continue to grow, eating away at the availability of jobs that do strict database administration (and the SQL developer will probably expire altogether). But not yet.
What this does mean is that if you are intending to be employed 10 years from now, and youâ€™re a database administrator, youâ€™ve got two choices to make today:
- Master a specialty. If youâ€™re planning on consulting for a living, this is a great choice. Get so intimate with the database product of your choice that you become the go-to person for problem-solving. Companies that have large installations of SQL Server will need secondary support as the product becomes easier to maintain (and big problems get obfuscated by GUIâ€™s).
- Expand your horizon. Instead of focusing on super in-depth mastery of your database platform, broaden your perspective; if youâ€™re a SQL Server guy like me, start learning a little bit about SSRS, SSAS, and SSIS (if you donâ€™t already know it). Spread out into Hadoop, and NoSQL; dabble in MySQL and SQLLite. Understand what the cloud can do, and where it makes sense to use it.
So go deep or go broad, but go. I wouldnâ€™t start quaking in my boots just yet about the demise of your career, but change is coming; those who adapt, survive.
For me? Iâ€™m going broad. Iâ€™ve built a home-brewed server, and downloaded a copy of the HortonWorks Hadoop Sandbox. Stay tuned for my adventures with Hadoop.