The Role of the DBA in 2024: Evolution, Adaptation, and Innovation

The excitement of technological evolution is an irrefutable component of any IT or data worker team, where emerging trends and the latest and greatest solutions keep these personas on their toes. However, with this excitement comes considerable complexity; the DBA is faced with a rapidly changing landscape that only promises to continue to reiterate itself.

Janis Griffin, senior technical consultant at Quest Software, and Paul Lewis, chief technology officer at Pythian, joined DBTA’s webinar The Role of the DBA in 2024: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities, to identify the ways in which IT decision makers and database professionals can meet the demands of their adaptive ecosystems with ease.

Griffin explained that today’s data environment—which generates about 2.5 quintillion bytes worth of data each day—is not only massive in volume, but also massive in the demands being made of it. With needs for higher quality data, real-time response, robust security, trackable changes, and more, DBAs—and the wide variety of database platforms available to them—are left with a considerable workload.

Ultimately, Griffin boiled down the top skills necessary for DBAs today, including:

  • Database design and modeling
  • SQL proficiency
  • Data security and encryption
  • Performance tuning and optimization
  • Cloud database services and architecture
  • Big data technologies and NoSQL databases
  • Automation and scripting skills
  • Backup and recovery techniques
  • Knowledge of database management systems (DBMS)
  • Data warehousing and ETL processes

These hard skills—which are further multiplied by the myriad of soft skills also demanded of DBAs, including stress management and resilience and continuous learning and professional development—are as far-reaching as they are non-negotiable. Griffin pointed to a single concept as a key solution in navigating the DBAs’ ever-complicated workload: automation.

Automating as many processes for the DBA as possible, without sacrificing quality, performance, or security, is the ultimate practice that will propel modern database success. Quest offers a wide variety of automation solutions spanning AD security and recovery, data governance, data operations, data protection, data migration/consolidation, unified endpoint management, and unified identity security that can alleviate the heavy burdens weighing down DBAs.

Additionally, offering solutions that empower better modeling, orchestration, deployment, and observability, Quest aims to let DBAs thrive in modern tech landscapes, not drown in it.

Lewis affirmed Griffin’s points, adding that the role of the CIO has shifted to leading the charge of digital transformation in their enterprises. This means that they must strike a critical balance between the organization’s business goals and existing and new technologies. He further offered these statistics:

  • 67% of CIOs say that new revenue-generating initiatives are among their job responsibilities
  • 44% of CIOs are prioritizing efforts to align IT initiatives with business goals
  • 34% are leading change efforts across their organization
  • 22% are assisting in the creation of new go-to-market strategies and technologies

Despite the fervent need to adapt to new technologies and standards of business, resources for doing so grow thinner and thinner. The rapid change of technology further compounds this issue, leaving many data professionals at a loss for where to even begin transformation.

Lewis explained that digital transformation does not necessarily mean more—it should mean better. To achieve this “better-ness,” acknowledging that digital transformation requires the dedication of every business unit to act as a stakeholder for change with the CIO as its leader is key.

The role of the DBA is intertwined with data monetization, embedding security, and building on cloud, according to Lewis. It also requires a reexamination of database management as data source enablement. Where database management drives reactive decision making and data silos, data source enablement focuses on value creation versus IT infrastructure uptime/availability. Data source enablement also:

  • Allows data to be any variety, volume, velocity, veracity, and value
  • Considers integration, accessibility, and observation as key functions
  • Manages databases, data lakes, and data warehouses as a single platform, complete with federation and multiple access points
  • Embeds security in a zero-trust design

DBAs as the “Data Source Enabler,” according to Lewis, involves the following responsibilities:

  • Relying on automation and AI for routine tasks, such as performance tuning, backup and recovery, and database monitoring.
  • Leading data integration and platform engineering work associated with source and target data platforms.
  • Ensuring databases are secure from unauthorized access and that data handling practices comply with relevant regulations, including implementing advanced security measures such as encryption, access controls, and data masking.
  • Being at the forefront of digital resilience, making sure that data is available for core systems via data redundancy, backups, archives, etc.

For the full, in-depth webinar of The Role of the DBA in 2024, you can watch an archived version of the webinar here.