Database Administrators Expand Their Horizons

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Database administration today is more than running and ensuring the performance of a single set of homogeneous databases. Many DBAs are now tasked with managing multi-vendor environments, and handling a variety of data types. In addition, enterprises are looking to DBAs to guide their organizations into the worlds of big data analytics, cloud, and social. DBAs are playing greater roles in development, quality assurance, and big data analytics. However, they still have to worry about their more traditional, routine DBA tasks. Increasingly, DBAs are turning to strategies such as database automation to be able to concentrate more on the big picture of moving their enterprises forward.

These are the key findings of a new Unisphere Research survey of 300 data managers and professionals conducted among readers of Database Trends and Applications. The survey, which was sponsored by Dell Software, included responses from data professionals across a range of industries and organization sizes.

Seventy-five percent of respondents’ organizations had between one and 25 people with the specific title of DBA, and 15% had more than 25 people with that title. Nearly half of the DBAs manage more than 25 database instances each, and nearly 10% have responsibility for managing more than 100 database instances. Seventy-two percent report that the number of database instances each DBA has to manage is growing. The most popular database brands include Microsoft, Oracle, and MySQL.

Unstructured data is also becoming part of DBAs’ jobs. Roughly two-thirds affirm that their volume of unstructured data is growing, and 40% report this growth ranges between 10% and 50% a year. About 10% calculate that their unstructured data stores are expanding at a rate of more than 50% a year. Thirty-three percent simply did not know how fast this type of data was growing. The sources of this data include internally generated documents (50%), email (36%), and machine-generated data (31%).

In the future as Hadoop and NoSQL make inroads in the enterprise, DBAs are likely to be the ones responsible for this non-relational infrastructure. Hadoop is being used by 15% of respondents’ companies and another 5% are currently deploying it. NoSQL technology is being used at 10% of respondents’ companies and approximately 12% are currently deploying it. Of the respondents that had deployed Hadoop or NoSQL technology, 68% indicated that the DBAs responsible for managing relational systems are also responsible for non-relational systems.

Managing unstructured data isn’t the only challenge DBAs face over the coming months and years. In terms of the data itself, the overall growth of data (structured and unstructured) is seen as the leading challenge (cited by 66%). Incorporating cloud is the leading data management challenge on the horizon (44%), followed by the need to learn new technologies as the top database administration challenge (54%).

Figure 1: Top Challenges Facing DBAs in the Next 3 Years


The overall growth of data (structured and unstructured)...66%

Improving data security...55%

Implementing databases running on cloud...37%

Data Management Infrastructure

Incorporating cloud technologies...44%

Improving overall system performance...39%

Automating more tasks associated with database management...39%

Database Administration

The need to need to learn new technologies...54%

Shrinking IT budgets...49%

The need to manage more databases per DBA...46%

It’s not that traditional DBA responsibilities are going away anytime soon. The most important responsibilities for DBAs at this time include maintenance, such as backup, alerts, integrity checks, defragmentation, etc., cited by 70%, and performance (system and data availability, diagnostics, optimizing and tuning, 

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