The original article focuses on technical (hard) and non-technical (soft) skills you will need to survive as a DBA. This excerpt will focus on the technical side of the job.
Evolving relational database technologies will influence the technical skills you will need to succeed as a DBA. There are two predominant trends that are changing the face of database administration:
- Increased functionality: The functionality (and often the complexity) of the software expands significantly with each new release. DBAs are constantly faced with a myriad of new features and technologies to learn. DBAs must welcome these changes and embrace any opportunity to learn something new.
- Increased automation: The simple, administrative and repeatable tasks of the traditional DBA are becoming more automated as database vendors continually try to create and market the "self-managing" or "self-healing" database. Toolsets like Oracle's OEM are becoming more robust and new features like self-managing tablespaces, undo segments, automated backups, etc. are making physical database maintenance more automatic.
While automation and functionality may be forcing the typical DBA out of his/her comfort zone, the expanding technologies will ensure plenty of good work and job security for the foreseeable future. Highly skilled DBAs will always be in demand; all DBAs should strive to stay ahead of the technology curve. Here are some specialized areas that you may want to focus on now:
- Compliance management (Sarbanes-Oxley, auditing, security, etc.): Compliancy issues will continue to dominate public businesses and are even now spreading into the private sector.
- Best practice frameworks (IT Service Management, ITIL v3, ISO 20000, etc.): ITIL is becoming the most widely accepted framework. ITIL focuses on IT service delivery and support including the help desk, incident management, change management, problem management and service-level management.
- Data management (data modeling, archiving, data mining, retention strategies, consolidation, etc): The amount of data in organizations is growing rapidly as is the business dependency on it. This is great news for the DBA. If you can, get involved in any development or data-related strategies in your organization.
- Hardware and storage (disk farms, storage area networks (SANs), grid computing, virtualization, etc): Stay on top of new technologies in hardware and storage. SANs may be the big thing now, but the industry is already buzzing about the future of the virtual database.
- High-availability solutions (standby, failover, clustering, RAC (Real Application Clusters), etc): Whether it's Microsoft clustering or Oracle 10g RAC, high availability is an absolute must for growing organizations. These skills also require an advanced understanding of the operating system and disk structures.
- "The next big thing": As I write this, there may already be a new technology or trend developing out there. The key to staying on top of technology is to read about it! Don't let those free trade magazines pile up on your desk unread. Use whatever free time you have to search the Internet for white papers, tips, articles, blogs, etc. There are plenty of great sites to start with and chances are that you are already on one of them. Remember, the secret to success is to find out where people are going, and get there first!
This was first published in July 2007