Microsoft’s SQL Server platform has been on a roll lately, with its smooth and feature-rich SQL 2016 release gaining accolades across the industry, including the DBMS of the Year award from db-engines.com. The company’s increased focus on cloud, strong BI tool set, impressive functionality and emerging cross-platform capability with SQL on Linux has made this RDBMS a staple of database shops around the world.
With SQL Server’s increased stature, the role of the SQL Server database administrator (DBA) is shifting, and the days of playing second fiddle to other platform DBAs are coming to an end. These database pros are accruing new skills, experience and prestige previously associated with their Oracle peers — and finding themselves at the center of the action in an increasingly data-driven world.
Database professionals collect, curate, tune and protect one of the most critical IT assets of a modern organization: its data. Even industries best known for non-technical outputs, such as manufacturing, retail, and healthcare, are deeply data driven: downtime for a database can mean thousands of offline cash registers, or the inability to run a factory production line, prescribe medication, or take website orders.
In a recent Unisphere Research survey, 89% of data professionals confirm the complexity of their database environments has increased over the past five years, while 46% state these environments have grown “significantly” or “extremely” more complex during this time. Two-thirds of survey respondents reported that data growth is increasing the complexity of their jobs, while a majority see the rise of data integration requirements as contributing to the complexity challenge, and close to half cite security issues.
Simply “keeping the lights on” is no longer an option. To address these issues, DBAs are being tasked with more strategic and complex work across a widening technology stack, and as SQL Server itself supports a greater surface area, the professionals who work with it are working across the entire application stack to ensure the stability of the database environment.
Today’s SQL Server DBAs are routinely expected to understand and manage technologies that provide high availability to their workloads, including Windows Server Failover Clusters, SQL Server Failover Clustering, SQL Server Always On Availability Groups and network topologies consisting of highly specialized hybrids of LAN, WAN and cloud entries. DBAs are further expected to be responsible for the security of their data, as well as the adherence of the company to regulatory compliance policies such as HIPAA. And in an increasing number of companies, DBAs need to work with hybrid or public cloud infrastructure that itself changes almost by the day.
The rich online community of SQL Server DBAs offers unprecedented access to experts and information such that any self-directed IT professional can become a valued specialist in the areas most important to their business. With SQL Server itself making strides forward to address top business data trends, any DBA willing to stretch herself is well positioned to build a career solving the problems of today and beyond.