Database Administration : Dead or Alive?

I get this type of question a lot at the moment. It’s not surprising as I’ve done a few things of late that seem to have got people a bit riled up.

  • During my cloud database talks I’ve been saying things like, if you think a DBAs job is just to install, backup and patch the database, the cloud has taken your job.
  • I happened to mention the Oracle Cloud Apps DBA role does not exist. I thought I made it clear what I was saying, but a number of readers thought I was saying they shouldn’t go to work next week as they’ve been fired.
  • I’ve recently been doing some sessions with a title beginning with “Making the RDBMS relevant again…”, which suggests maybe it isn’t currently relevant.

I’ve been doing Oracle database development and DBA work for nearly 22 years. In that time the job of an Oracle DBA has changed a lot. Despite this, having people who understand what is going on below the surface has remained in demand. If you keep trying to be an old-school DBA you are going to find yourself in a very dark place very quickly. If you keep your ear to the ground and try to move with the times there will always be a role for you. Good people always land on their feet.

The way you move depends on your interests and the demands of your company. Some will move closer to an architecture role related to the infrastructure, which is pretty important when dealing with the cloud services, docker, DevOps, continuous deployment etc. Some will align themselves more closely to development, which is of greater importance in the new world. Others will completely move away from RDBMs into other technologies related to data or elsewhere.

The next question is typically, “When?” I’m not saying we should all run around screaming and pulling out our hair, but we should also not turn a blind eye to the way the world is changing. I can pretty much guarantee there will be comments by people telling me I’m wrong and the DBA role will exist forever, to which I will reply, “Denial is not just a river in Africa!” 🙂

Some companies, especially those that are more development led, will transform rapidly. DevOps, continuous deployment and technologies like Docker have the power to transform a company rapidly, whether on-prem or on the cloud. In all cases, someone needs to help build and maintain the layers that contain databases and app servers, and that could be you, but I don’t see the same volume of work we currently have, because if done properly it should be a build once, deploy many approach. For some companies that are into automation, this is already a reality. Very soon it will be true for much more of us.

Some companies will be slow in moving forward and their staff will wonder what all the fuss is about, until they apply for their next job and realise there isn’t one for them!

Having said all that, I did an “unconference” session at OOW in 2007 called “The Oracle DBA… A dying breed?” and we’re still here now. The important point is you need to take responsibility and shape your own destiny. Don’t sit idly by an watch the world take your job. It’s easier than ever to learn new things and prepare for the future, so do it! 🙂