The Changing Life of the DBA (VIDEO)

 Video produced by Steve Nathans-Kelly

In a presentation at Data Summit 2019, Quest Software's Jason Hall talked about how the need to manage multiple platforms simultaneously has complicated the jobs of database administrators.

The role of a DBA has changed significantly over the past few years. The continued adoption of open source databases, cloud and/or hybrid architectures, and non-relational data sources have added significant complexity to the modern data center, all while organizations strive to become more agile through DevOps.

Hall reflected on these trends and how they've impacted DBAs, and what needs to change to ensure success in today's DataOps and DevOps world.

It might not have been easy years ago, but it was manageable, said Hall.

Fifteen years ago, if someone were an Oracle DBA, most of their organization's data would have lived in Oracle, and the person would have a lot of experience and comfort with the Oracle infrastructure, he noted.

“Now, that same DBA is being tasked with managing three, four, five different data platforms. Each with different sets of capabilities, each with different ways to manage the system, each with different options around HADR, each with their own security challenges,” said Hall.

According to Hall, DBAs often say, “'I'm a database administrator, and my organization's given me these different systems to manage, assuming that just because they're a database, they have to be managed in a similar way.' And that's just simply not the case.”

And, with the newer methodologies such as DevOps and DataOps, there is a "fail fast, fix fast" principle which is inconsistent with many DBAs’ values, said Hall.

“This isn't just a DevOps philosophy, but it certainly has perspectives there. The whole idea is if something's going to fail, let it. That's okay. Failure's okay. As long as if something fails, you can fix it as fast as possible. ‘If I push out a change into production, and it fails? That's okay. I just need to be able to back that out quickly with as little impact to our end users as possible.’”

However, that principle doesn't really resonate with DBAs, he said. “DBAs are notoriously risk-averse. They're notoriously careful, right? And they do everything in their power to keep things from failing. So this whole idea that failure is okay, is tricky.”

Moreover, there is the whole idea of DBAs now having to manage changes to their system all the time, outside of the comfortable change control window, added Hall.

“I talk a lot about sharing of information. DBAs have always been very protective of their database servers. And there's this constant fight between DBA and developer about who is wrong and who is causing the problem,” said Hall.  "In order for DevOps to be successful, you really have to have a shared open line of communication between all the different stakeholders in a database environment. So we, as DBAs, can't be as siloed and as protective of our data and our infrastructure, especially when it comes to system performance and health.”

DBTA’s next Data Summit conference will be held May 19-20, 2020, in Boston, with pre-conference workshops on Monday, May 18.

Many presenters have made their slide decks available on the Data Summit 2019 website at

To access the full presentation, go to