Is DBA career dead?

With the everyday increase in popularity of cloud services one of the questions that I receive often is: “is DBA career dying? What will you do for 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 already started to look for another career.

The first thing that I want to point out is that when we started to work with IT we knew that it was a career different than most of the other ones out there. A dynamic and exciting one that re-invent 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, evolving and this is the kind of mindset I want you to have while you read this article.

The Database Administrator role is not going anywhere, we are not an endangered species and we will not be in the foresee 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, 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. That means companies are trying to find ways to improve their productivity and keep their costs as low as possible.

In a scenario like that the cloud offerings come as an aid to both improve our productivity as a DBA and to help the company to save money. Let’s think for a while, how many tasks we perform daily that doesn’t bring real value to the business? No doubt that when we are planning the new high availability solution or doing performance tuning on that slow query we can see the value that this will bring to the company. In the first case will guarantee that all applications are up and running at full speed when the company needs and 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 that you spent trying to find more disk space for all your databases? Trying to find disk space for all your backups because the database has grown too large and we didn’t plan ahead well. How about that time that you spend installing SQL and Windows patches? I know, in some big companies we have a dedicated SAN admin and we have the infrastructure administrators that will worry with those tasks, but that’s not the reality of everyone out there. The vast majority of small and medium companies has only a small team that is responsible for multiple areas. Why? Scroll up and read the problems 1 and 2 of 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. So I go to a web portal and a few mouse clicks later I have 1TB of disk available for 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 imagine 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 and 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 replace them by virtual machines that I 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 be great if I could replace that complicated sliding window partition solution that we developed to manage historical data and instead make SQL Server to automatically move old and unused data to the cloud, while keeping the data available for end users in a transparent way?

Cloud is indeed a career shift thing, but not one that will kill the database administrator role and destroy families. But instead one that will make us more efficient, that will provide us with tools and options to focus ourselves in tasks that bring value to the company, to use more efficiently the existing hardware, to make our life easier. So 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.

Author: Felipe Ferreira
SQL Server Consultant, Data Platform MVP, speaker, nerd, skydiver, student pilot, a little crazy.. That's me :)

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