Is the DBA career dead?

With the increased popularity of cloud services, one of the questions that I often receive is: “Is the DBA career dying? What will you do for a living in the future?” In this article, I will give my personal opinion about the future of our beloved profession, and try to calm down those that have already started to look for another career.

The first thing that I want to point out is that when we started to work in IT, we knew that it was a career that is different than most of the other ones out there. Its nature is a dynamic and exciting one that reinvents itself all the time, with technological news showing up every single year and changing the entire landscape. We have chosen a field that pushes us to keep studying, learning and evolving, and this is the kind of mindset I want you to have while reading this article.

The Database Administrator role is not going anywhere. We are not an endangered species and won’t become one in the foreseeable future. Cloud is not our enemy. The data market is just evolving, and the cloud is bringing a lot of new things that will give us more power and more options.

In today’s market we have two very common problems:

  1. Companies can’t find enough people to fill in all positions.

We all know this one. I’m sure we all know several companies that have an open position for months have interviewed dozens of people, and just can’t find anyone that suits the position.

  1. Companies want to keep their costs as low as possible.

Companies want to make money, and we had a big worldwide crisis just a few years ago that we are still recovering from. This means companies are trying to find ways to improve their productivity while keeping their costs as low as possible.

 

In a scenario like this, the cloud offerings come as an aid to both improve our productivity as a DBA, and to help the company save money. Let’s think for a while about how many tasks we perform daily that don’t bring real value to the business. No doubt that when we’re planning the new high availability solution, or doing performance tuning on that slow query we can see the value that it will bring to the company. In the first case, this will guarantee that all applications are up and running at full speed when the company needs it. The latter will make sure that the server is handling the workload, running more sessions at the same time, and making both internal and external customers happy.

But how about the time you spent trying to find more disk space for all your databases? How about trying to find disk space for all your backups because the database has grown too large and we didn’t plan ahead? Then there’s all the time that you spend installing SQL and Windows patches. I know, in some big companies, we have a dedicated SAN admin and the infrastructure administrators that will worry about those tasks, but that’s not the everyone’s reality. The vast majority of small and medium companies have a small team that is responsible for multiple areas. Why? Scroll up and read problems 1 and 2 on my list above one more time.

I’ll wait for you.

Now, let’s imagine another reality. Let’s imagine a world where I receive a disk space alert for my backups. The company has acquired a new company, the database growth was much bigger than expected, and we ran out of disk space. I go to a web portal and a few mouse clicks later I have 1TB of disk available to me. All I have to do is open SQL Server Management Studio and change my backup jobs to use the new storage area. Problem solved in less than 15 minutes.

Let’s envision a world where I can get all those small databases I have that are not too important for the business (yeah, we all have a lot of those, don’t lie to yourself) and move those databases to the cloud, so they don’t use our precious server resources. I don’t need to worry about patching and managing those databases. Wouldn’t that be great? And how about getting rid of the QA and testing servers and replacing them with virtual machines that can just turn off when they are not in use and save money? And those huge tables with hundreds of millions of rows that causes us problems every single day. Wouldn’t it be great if I could replace that complicated sliding window partition solution that we developed to manage historic data, and instead make SQL Server automatically move old and unused data to the cloud, while also keeping the data available for end users in a transparent way?

Cloud is indeed a career shift dynamic, but not one that will kill the database administrator role and destroy families. Instead, it’s one that will make us more efficient, provide us with tools and options to focus ourselves on tasks that bring value to the company. It’s a solution where we can use the existing hardware more efficiently and make our lives easier. Embrace the changes just like we embraced all new technologies that came before it, and use each one as a tool to be successful in your role.

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