Exploring the Modern DBA

The modern enterprise environment grows in complexity by the second—whether through the ever-increasing generation of data, the constant introduction of new data types and applications, or the continuous rise of database deployments. DBAs, responsible for the management of these factors, certainly have their work cut out for them.

To explore how DBAs can effectively address this myriad of challenges, experts joined DBTA’s webinar, “The Role of the DBA in 2023: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities,” identifying the methods and strategies for overcoming the growing pains of a constantly evolving data environment.

Eric Russo, SVP of database services at Datavail, explained that the database challenges today divide into a few categories:

  • Agility and innovation (speed of deployment, both in infrastructure and code)
  • Cost and efficiency
  • Reliability
  • Scalability
  • Security

The cloud and databases have evolved, Russo explained. Their needs revolve around hybrid cloud and multi-cloud approaches, microservices, diverse data architecture, databases on containers, and the move to open source databases, such as MySQL and PostgreSQL.

As these components change, so does the role of the DBA. Russo pointed to the “DBA of the Future,” who does the following:

  • Works in multiple cloud platforms
  • Is skilled in provisioning cloud databases, infrastructure needs, working in agile DevOps teams, as well as containers
  • Obtains and maintains certifications to stay competitive in the market
  • Focuses on their companies or customer’s goals and helps to attain them using cloud native tools
  • Is flexible enough to learn and move to the next cloud innovation

Julie Hyman, product management director at Quest, began by dispelling the myth of the “disappearing DBA,” arguing that, “DBAs are the guardians of the data kingdom, charged with the critical task of ensuring that data is available, reliable, and secure. Their expertise and dedication are the backbone of any successful data-driven organization.”

Though critical, agreeing with Russo, the role of the DBA has drastically changed from its monitoring, tuning, and optimizing database configurations tasks of the past, explained Hyman. Today, DBAs are responsible for on-prem and cloud-based relational and non-relational databases, managing those databases, with an emphasis on automation, observability, big data, AI, and ML.

Mastering new skills has surfaced within this transformative period; knowledge of cloud computing DBaaS, automation tools and techniques, data security best practices, DevOps methodologies, and big data technologies are extremely relevant for the modern DBA.

Hyman offered a few tenants to guide a DBA in selecting the most beneficial solutions and tooling:

  • Tools that can work with all data environments
  • Addresses observability use cases
  • Supports SSDL and data governance
  • Incorporates NLP, predictive analytics, and ML into toolsets

Scott O'Leary, solutions engineer at Monte Carlo opened with two statistics based on Monte Carlo market research and Crowdflower reports: 30-50% of data engineering time is spent on data quality issues, and 80% of data science and analytics teams’ time is spent on collecting, cleaning, and prepping data.

This information reveals that data quality incidents are detected reactively as opposed to preemptively, allowing days to weeks to pass before incidents are detected and resolved. Ultimately, this results in a 12-27% negative revenue impact from poor data quality.

O'Leary explained that this boils down to a workflow issue; an inability to see downstream, predict the ways in which data will break, and know if data is bad or who to ask for help result in data downtime and negative business impact.

The solution manifests as data observability, which O'Leary divided into five pillars that define its methodology:

  • Freshness
  • Volume
  • Quantity
  • Schema
  • Lineage

With a data observability platform, such as Monte Carlo’s, the DBA can automatically detect and alert as soon as data incidents occur, accelerate time-to-resolution, understand downstream impact, and recognize points of data breakage.

For an in-depth discussion of the modern role of the DBA, you can view an archived version of the webinar here.