The Changing Role of the Modern DBA: Cloud, NoSQL, and Automation

For years, DBAs’ primary responsibilities have been aimed at ensuring that data is safely, securely, accurately, and appropriately stored, managed, and maintained. However, with the rise of new data types and increasing data volumes, data environments are changing, and so, too, are the roles of DBAs.

To be sure, structured data continues to be central to most organizations, but that data is also growing at a substantial rate, requiring DBAs to manage both more database instances and a wider range of relational database management systems. Cloud is also playing a key role in data environments, and that role will continue to expand. Cloud approaches in fact will have the biggest effect on DBAs over the next 3 years.

These are among the findings of a new Unisphere Research survey sponsored by Quest Software that looks at the changing role of the DBA in light of new challenges in database administration (“DBAs Face New Challenges: Trends in Database Administration”).

Cloud, NoSQL, and Automation

Nearly 60% of respondents said they had more than 100TB of structured data under management. That data is spread over many database instances. More than 40% of the respondents have more than 100 database instances running and close to 20% have more than 500 database instances running. A variety of database systems are used to manage the data, including relational systems (led by Oracle and SQl Server), NoSQL, and MultiValue DBMSs.

While the data growth rate, number of database instances, and number of platforms that each DBA must support has not change dramatically over the last 3 years, the database landscape has grown more complex due to the emergence of cloud as a major platform and the foothold gained by NoSQL databases.

The movement of databases to the cloud, combined with the rise of automation has led to speculation that the number of DBAs at companies may decrease in the future, but according to this survey, that does not seem to be the case, at least not yet. More than 60% of the respondents said the number of people with the title of DBA was holding steady, while around 20% said the number of people with that role was increasing.

According to the survey, the same DBAs are responsible for administering on-premises databases as well as those hosted in the cloud. And, to a large degree, current DBAs are also being given the responsibility of managing NoSQL databases, as well.

The growth of the cloud and NoSQL technology has resulted in changes in DBAs’ responsibilities.  Automation is also a factor in changing the way DBAs go about their responsibilities as database vendors, tools vendors, and service providers enable DBAs to accomplish their duties more efficiently, the survey finds.

According to the survey, performance tuning is consuming more of the DBAs’ time while tasks such as verification of backups is taking less time.

Verifying backups and that all database instances are operating are the most automated functions.

Performance tuning, and the cloning and provisioning of databases for test and development require the most attention.

This article is the fifth part of a six-part series by editors of IOUG SELECT and Big Data Quarterly on "The Changing Role of the Modern DBA," with three articles on SELECT and three articles on Big Data Quarterly. 

The first article on the DBA's role in the new cloud era by Joyce Wells is available on the Big Data Quarterly website

The second article on the DBA's role in data security by Michelle Malcher is available at

The third article on the DBA's role in a big data world by Joyce Wells is available on the Big Data Quarterly website.

The fourth article on how the DBA's role is changing with automation by Eric Mader is available at


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