Yes, Production DBAs Are Necessary!

Oct 5, 2009

I know that, for many, this is a controversial topic.  There are those that believe that there really is no such thing as a SQL Server production DBA and that DBAs should be jacks of all trades doing anything from database development to OLAP/BI development to .NET programming to being a webmaster or network/server/system administrator.  It seems that everywhere I turn anymore, job postings, sharing horror stories with colleagues, and even blogs from members of the SQL Server community, I see references to production DBAs being more than just a DBA.  It as if, somewhere, managers are thinking that they need to have someone manage their SQL Server databases, but they don’t know what that means, so the first thought is “let’s just make it part of someone’s duties that we already have on staff.”  The question is constantly asked, “Why can’t the database developer handle that, he/she already has to use SQL Server?” or the common mistake, “let’s just let the server administrator handle it.”  There has even been a term coined for this, “the reluctant DBA.”  I have actually heard SQL Server compared to Access since it has wizards and, because Access doesn’t require a production DBA, why the heck should SQL Server?  In my experience, this perception is especially prevalent in the small and medium-size (SMB) market, but there are large companies and managers that have grown up in medium-size companies that seem to reinforce this misconception.

 

Microsoft hasn’t really done anything to correct this misconception.  From a marketing perspective, I guess it is in their best interest for prospective SQL Server customers to think that it doesn’t take much to manage a production SQL Server environment.  When companies purchase Oracle or move their applications to Oracle databases, it is a foregone conclusion that dedicated production DBAs are necessary and so, these companies typically build that into their cost calculations.  I guess Microsoft feels that if customers don’t know a DBA is required, it makes their product look that much less expensive.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that database developers, server administrators, network administrators, etc. can’t become DBAs, they just can’t do it without training and experience, just like they didn’t fall into their current jobs without training and experience and the job of production DBA certainly can’t be done (at least not effectively) in someone’s “spare time.”  As SQL Server has matured, it has become extremely flexible and full featured, but these features come with a cost: complexity.  SQL Server can be used and configured in a myriad of different ways and for many different scenarios, but who is going to manage that and recommend how it should be configured and used for a particular purpose if you don’t have a production DBA?

 

In my next post, I will discuss what a production DBA does and what they shouldn’t do.

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