COVID-19 Accelerates Change for DBA Roles

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COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on organizations of all types. Recently, John Pocknell of Quest Software, talked with DBTA about trends in database management before and after the new crisis-forced shift to remote work and how DBAs' roles are being affected. As part of his responsibilities as senior market strategist at Quest Software, Pocknell looks at emerging challenges and speaks to customers to understand where future problems and opportunities may lie ahead to help map Quest's database solutions to those needs. Before the crisis, DBA roles were undergoing radical change and that is only accelerating, Pocknell says.

Three Trends in Database Administration

John PocknellRemote Work. Before the COVID-19 crisis gripped the world, there was already a trend away from having to work in an office, said Pocknell. And while there are a lot of companies that believe that the IT operations team needs to be in the building, in reality, he said, a lot of computers and related equipment are often located in heavily air-conditioned areas of buildings and no one was sitting in there with the computers. "Everyone is working semi-remotely anyway—so they are in the building but not where the computers are."

Managed Services. There has also been a trend toward managed services. "There are actually a lot of  DBAs that work at organizations that provide services to companies that have IT and want to lower their cost base because running a data center with lots of computers, lots of hardware, and a whole team of DBAs is very expensive, not to mention the environmental footprint."

Cloud Adoption. As a result of these trends, Pocknell said, Quest is seeing a shrinking of on-premise data center operations and reduction of onsite DBAs, which ties in with the rise of cloud adoption. Nonetheless, he said, many companies still want DBAs who are familiar with their environments and can offer recommendations on new technologies and trends, putting the DBA in a unique role of trusted adviser.

The New Emphasis on WFH Puts Focus on Collaboration

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for accelerating many of the changes to DBAs roles that were already in play, said Pocknell.

"If you are working as part of a DBA team in an office, everybody has a clear idea about their own and each other's roles and responsibilities," he observed. "DBAs who are part of a cross-functional group—as we are seeing more and more of with the rise of DevOps culture—may be distributed across a whole host of different projects. In these scenarios, they are providing expertise and guidance, making sure that they balance the needs of the other teams to advise them on what is necessary to protect the business data."

Those aspects of the job won't change with increasing WFH scenarios but what is changing with DBAs increasingly working remotely is how everyone continues to stay connected and organized, said Pocknell. Another big challenge that Quest has been seeing is maintaining effective command and control of databases, said Pocknell. A typical large company might have hundreds or thousands of databases all over the place and the last thing a business wants is any reduction of service levels across all those different environments.

As a result of both of those, he said, Quest is seeing a rise in the use of collaboration and notification tools such as Slack. "Slack is very popular and we use Slack here at Quest. It is very good for collaboration and also allows for notifications." One of Quest's monitoring tools actually uses Slack, he added, so that if someone is monitoring a database remotely and an issue occurs, the person can be notified. "These sorts of collaboration and notification systems are being used more often."

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