The Changing Role of the Modern Database Administrator


As enterprises increasingly implement NoSQL database technologies like Couchbase and Cassandra, and Hadoop database components like HBase and Hive, the responsibilities of maintaining and administering these modern data platforms often get handed to the enterprises’ existing database administrators (DBAs). DBAs previously responsible for relational technologies are expected to work the same magic they did with their traditional Oracle database. Further, companies may deploy multiple NoSQL databases for different use cases, leaving just one or two DBAs to tend to both their relational and NoSQL infrastructure, or the equivalent of having a Subaru technician work on your Ford.


Conversely, some have taken the advancement of both relational and NoSQL database technologies to mean database operations have been reduced to a point-and-click effort. These observers may have a point, as new database technologies have become much more automated. Some even argue that the traditional DBA is dead. No matter your viewpoint, one thing is certain: the roles and responsibilities of today’s DBAs are dramatically shifting. Here are two main ways in which the role of a DBA has and will continue to change in modern enterprise environments.


  • Greater involvement with architecture & planning. Thinking of “old school” DBAs often conjures up an image of someone hunched over a keyboard furiously trying to solve issues over backups, snapshots and slow performing queries. While these functions remain important, today’s DBAs find themselves as concerned with DevOps topics, ranging from capacity planning to application scalability, rather than being just involved with the lower layers of the software stack.


  • Specialization for different database technologies in large enterprises. Companies adding Hadoop-based technologies to their environments often expect their old Oracle DBAs to get these new technologies up and running smoothly. The truth is that Hadoop requires intimate knowledge of the various components of the stack, some of which are still immature and require even more fine-tuning and understanding to get enterprise ready. What it all boils down to is, you can’t hire a DBA to do a Hadoop expert’s job. Along the same lines, you can’t expect your Oracle DBA to learn the ins and outs of your Cassandra or Couchbase database immediately, but through training and practice it can be accomplished.


So, what does this all mean for the current DBA? DBAs are already experiencing the shifting of responsibilities from lower levels of the stack to the DevOps side of operations. DBAs will soon find their backups monitored and defects patched automatically, leaving them to think big picture. Architecture, scalability and getting big data projects production-ready will be the new worries of the modern DBA. These skills will need to be honed by current DBAs and trained for by aspiring ones. Second, we will see much more specialization in big data environments. We already see large enterprises employing DBAs that exclusively work with Couchbase, Cassandra or Oracle as big data projects become mission critical. For small and medium sized enterprises, we may see DBAs wearing multiple hats in terms of their database duties, as most SMEs standardize one or two database technologies for efficiency and have limited resources.


With all this being said, DBAs need not fret about their changing career. Their services are in high demand and growing, with an increase in DBA jobs of 31% between 2010 and 2020 expected. CNN Money would even say being a DBA is one of the best jobs in the country, and for good reason. Further, the sheer amount of data produced every day bodes well for DBAs—someone has to manage the systems that are processing these huge quantities of data . With more data created every two days today than was created from the dawn of man up to 2003, DBAs have plenty of strategic and tactical opportunities to highlight their value.


We encourage you to learn more about how Imanis Data can radically reduce operating costs and maximize business agility for today’s modern data platforms like Cassandra, Couchbase, Hadoop, MongoDB and Vertica. Features such as our metadata catalog, Imanis Data FastFind™ and our flexible recovery capabilities were designed explicitly for the challenges faced by today’s DBAs.

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