Cloud Opens Up New Worlds for Data Managers

A shifting environment—from batch-oriented databases housed in server rooms to digital, software-defined data centers powering analytics-driven business decisions—has led to a dramatic expansion of the DBA or data management role.

DBAs are looked to for advice and guidance in developing the overall data management infrastructure, including when to move data to the cloud. Moreover, with the growth of the DevOps approach to application development, many DBAs are more deeply involved with application and database development.

These are some of the findings of a recent survey of more than 200 DBAs and data managers, which uncovered a rapidly evolving landscape in the data management field. The survey, conducted by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., in partnership with Quest, represents a wide range of industries and companies of different sizes.

There are a number of technological factors reshaping data managers’ jobs. Cloud technology plays a significant role in hosting databases, and that role will continue to grow, the survey shows. Currently, slightly less than half of the respondents support at least some databases in the cloud, and another one-third of respondents anticipate using databases in the cloud within the year. At the same time, 81% report that the same DBAs responsible for managing relational database management systems on-premises are also responsible for managing relational database systems in the cloud—meaning there is plenty of opportunity ahead for this job category.

We are still in the early stages of moving relational databases to the cloud, however. More than two-thirds of the respondents have supported relational databases in the cloud for less than 2 years. Those companies moved to the cloud for a variety of reasons, with one-third seeking increased flexibility, and another 30% hoping for lower costs. Interestingly, only about 20% moved to the cloud to support a new use case, which is often the reason for integrating a new RDBMS into the overall infrastructure.

The organizations that have moved to the cloud are managing a significant amount of data there. The move to the cloud is not a marginal or trivial element of their data management environment. Even so, on-premises database systems in most cases still account for most of the data under management. (See Figure 1.)

While there are many exciting new technologies and challenges emerging in data management, over the next 3 years, the ongoing employment of cloud platforms is poised to command the most attention. In terms of overall data management, the move to the cloud was cited by around 50% as the top challenge for DBAs in the near future, followed by increased automation (41%). Along the same lines, the cloud was overwhelmingly tapped as the technology trend that will have the most impact on database administration over the next 3 years. (See Figure 2.)

For the working DBA, however, the biggest challenge over the next couple of years is one with which most of them are very familiar—how to manage more databases per administrator. The rise of non-relational technologies also is seen as an issue for at least 40% of respondents.  (See Figure 3.)

Currently, most DBAs are responsible for managing multiple database instances, with 10% of the respondents indicating that DBAs in their organization manage more than 100 database instances. In most settings, the number of database instances individual DBAs manage is increasing. (See Figure 4.)

The movement of databases to the cloud, coupled with increased automation of the functions historically associated with database administration, has led to speculation that companies may be able make do with fewer DBAs in the future. That does not seem to be the case, at least, not yet, the survey also found. More than 60% of respondents said the number of people with the title “DBA” is holding steady, while around 20% said the number of people holding that role is increasing.

Other technology developments are also propelling data managers into new roles within their organizations. NoSQL platforms represent a smaller but important slice of the data management infrastructure, the survey found. In fact, to a large degree, current DBAs are also being charged with the responsibility of managing NoSQL databases as well. Database management tools have reduced the time some DBAs must invest in some routine operations, allowing them to expand their roles in other areas.