Shifting roles

Are autonomous databases a threat or an opportunity for DBAs?

John Pocknell
© Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff (modified)

How will autonomous databases affect the role of data administrators? While the job itself is not going to disappear, the role of the DBA will continue to change and must adapt to AI and machine learning. This article examines what complexities data administrators will have to handle, how the job will shift, and what manual tasks autonomous databases will continue to take over.

As we move towards a more automated world, the impending growth of autonomous databases will impact database administrators (DBA).

Will it impact them to the point that they’ll be out of a job? No. But the role of the DBA will certainly shift as AI and adaptive machine learning enable organizations to automatically self-patch, self-tune, detect anomalies, and optimize indexes much more quickly and efficiently than manual hands-on processing.

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The growing complexity of database infrastructure and the increased variety of database environments has added to the pressure of the already demanding workload that DBAs are faced with. DBAs are tasked with remotely monitoring servers that can now reside in physical and virtual environments, both on-premise or in the cloud.

In addition, the number of platforms that DBAs are now managing is growing, with 70 percent of DBAs now managing 11 or more databases.

The increased complexity and size of database management has led to DBAs spending more time learning new environments and dealing with manual administration activities – much of which is unplanned – to ensure the smooth running of the datacentre.

With the growing number and variety of platforms available, DBAs have less time to focus on what really delivers better performance results. With this in mind, database automation is becoming more valuable and important than ever. Automated databases eliminate a lot of the time-consuming manual work previously carried out by DBAs, work which is essential to eliminating the human error that can occur when managing multiple complex environments.

However, some believe that there is a risk of autonomous databases impacting the DBA role to the point that the role of the DBA will disappear. In order to thrive in an increasingly autonomous world, DBAs must learn how to re-invent their existing roles to prove the value of human interaction in the management of databases.

One reason why we won’t see the role of the DBA go away with autonomous databases is because of the importance DBAs play in ensuring the safety of data. One downside of moving databases to cloud environments is the ongoing concern over the security of personal or sensitive data. Though cloud environments are managed by service providers, ensuring the protection of personal data is not the responsibility of cloud vendors, so companies still have a responsibility to identify and protect personal data in order to be compliant with data privacy regulations.

As more companies have to comply with personal data regulations such as GDPR, DBAs need to be heavily involved in protecting corporate data in order to ensure compliance, and as the need for DevSecOps grows, they will be key to enabling secure processes for provisioning of production data for pre-production testing in order to ensure robust production environments. Data is hugely valuable to companies and if DBAs can position themselves as the thought leaders for database technologies, driving forward ideas that are most appropriate for their applications, they will help shape company strategy and assert themselves in a strategic role.

SEE ALSO: Considering a database migration to cloud? Here is what you should know

DBAs must learn how to embrace the positive effects of incorporating AI technologies and toolsets into their everyday functions. Though the role of the DBA is unlikely to disappear completely, there will be a shift in the responsibilities and core tasks that they carry out on a daily basis.

Adopting new automation solutions and AI and ML technologies will relieve DBAs of monotonous and mundane tasks, shifting them to a more strategic position where they will have more time to focus on adding the most value within organisations and help develop new business initiatives from positions that require sound knowledge and judgement.

DBAs, now free from many of their mundane tasks, will have more time to collaborate with other IT stakeholders and focus on futureproofing their organisations systems and processes.


John Pocknell

John Pocknell is a senior solutions product manager at Quest Software. Based at the European headquarters in the U.K., John is responsible for developing and evangelizing solutions-based stories for Quest’s extensive portfolio of database products worldwide. He has been with Quest Software since 2000, working in database design, development and deployment. John has spent over 18 years (including 12 years in Product Management) successfully evangelizing Toad to customers at conferences and user groups around the world. He blogs and has produced many videos for Toad World, the Toad user community, and has authored technical papers about Toad on the Quest Software website.

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