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The State of Database Management: Transforming the Role of the DBA

Another aspect of becoming a data subject matter expert is to ensure that the data is documented, including developing and maintaining metadata. Metadata can be business-oriented, such as useful definitions and descriptions of all data, or operational, including provenance and lineage details on where the data originated and how it was captured. Knowing what data you have, where it is used, and why it is important is crucial for most organizations. As such, DBAs are increasingly being tasked with implementing and helping to maintain a data catalog, which extends the concept of metadata capture and management through automation and modern discovery techniques.

More Focus on Security

Securing and protecting data have always been components of the DBA’s job, but this is becoming more of a priority as data moves to the cloud and data breach attacks continue unabated. This means that DBAs must be more aware of data protection methods and work with business SMEs to determine the best tactics to use to protect each piece of data based on business needs, regulatory requirements, and sensitivity.

For example, encryption is being used more commonly to protect data in transit, as well as at rest. This requires an understanding of how encryption works for each platform and DBMS being used. Data masking is another technique that is increasing in usage, especially for test data, to ensure that personally identifiable information is protected.

If you analyze the data on data breach attacks, there are about a dozen new public data breaches revealed each and every week. And the database is the top target for attacks because that is where the data is.

Protecting sensitive information across highly distributed infrastructures can be a challenge, and DBAs are an instrumental component in ensuring that proper authorization and controls are in place to comply with corporate, governmental, and industry regulations and guidelines. While DBAs are not responsible for knowing who should have access, they must be capable of both applying proper database security controls and monitoring for security breaches.


Finally, the ability to embrace and implement automation, especially for mundane, manual processes, is more crucial now than ever before. Although automation has been the “holy grail” for database management and vendors for years, most shops are not anywhere close to being a “lights-out” 24/7 database environment that does not require human presence. But as more DBMSs are added, data growth continues, and organizations refuse to spend more, the automation of tasks to enable DBAs to keep up with the workload is no longer optional.

As AI and machine learning capabilities mature and get embedded into DBA automation tools, DBAs can offload some forms of performance management, change management, and database provisioning to the tooling. The technology is not yet robust enough, but DBAs and their organizations must be preparing for and investing in automated intelligence to take advantage of it as it matures.

What’s Ahead

The role of the DBA is changing dramatically. It is imperative that both DBAs and organizations that employ them are cognizant of these changes and nimble enough to adapt to the changing realities.

The era of the single-DBMS DBA is over. The amount of data we store and manage will keep expanding. The march to the cloud will continue, but we still need on-prem skills too. And DBAs need to be more security-focused and closer to the applications than ever before.

DBAs aren’t going anywhere, but they need to be adaptable and receptive to change. That is, DBAs must be constantly learning. And organizations must continue to support DBAs as a critical requirement of operating in the data age.

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