What do you think will happen in the database world in 2017?
That’s a question I want to ask you today, the last work day of 2016. When most of us come back to work next week, a new year starts, though it won’t really mean much to most of us. We’ll continue on with the projects we’ve been working on, managing the same systems and dealing with similar issues to those we face today. Budgets may reset, which could be a good thing if you can find a way to divert some of that money for your own training or pet project use. In general, next week will just be a continuation of the work many of us have been doing.
If I look forward and try to imagine where 2017 will take us, I envision focus in a few areas, and perhaps a few things that won’t change. As much as I find the progress our industry has made in the last ten years amazing, I also think that year to year we tend to make small changes. It’s rare that a huge advance in computing drives us forward. Usually we can see the technology emerge, gain momentum, and then grow very quickly. That happened with SSDs. The first models were exciting, and expensive, but also prone to failure and burnout. Across a few years, quality improved, prices dropped, and all of a sudden most new machines now use SSDs. In fact, it seems most people working with databases wouldn’t consider purchasing hardware without at least some SSD storage.
There’s a lot of media attention being paid to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning these days, and I think these will grow more rapidly in 2017. As we get more tools that make it easier to build applications that incorporate AI and ML, I envision pressure on many developers to begin incorporating these features into applications. Those that are able to do this effectively will likely help their organizations gain a significant advantage over competitors. The maintenance and evolution of these systems is harder than expected. While our tooling will lower the bar to get started, my suspicion is that most of the applications that get built will not provide the expected results and will get abandoned.
That brings me to the second area that I think will grow in 2017. Data Science, and the idea of somehow analyzing all the Big Data (from 2015) to gain amazing new insights will be an even bigger focus in 2017. The media attention and hype have so many managers thinking they need more data science. The interest means higher paychecks, which have everyone that passed Introduction to Statistics in university claiming some data science skills to get a larger paycheck. This will snowball in 2017, as more and more people on both sides press the issue.
The reality is that data science and more complex analysis is hard. It’s much harder than most people realize, requiring lots of knowledge and patience to experiment with data. I’m not sure that most people are willing to make the investment in time and resources that it takes to become a good data scientist. Of course, if it’s like many of the other career paths in technology, even average skills can end up with a successful career.
Security will continue to be a problem, especially as more and more hackers continue to probe organizations and systems for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Some do this for profit, some (maybe most) for basic vandalism, but we’ll continue to find SQL Injection, phishing, and other attack vectors to be problems. As we connect more and more systems together, and as there is pressure to build more distributed systems, whether with cloud services or business partners, we will have more and more weak points. I wish I could say that 2017 would be the year that our aging systems will see pressure to improve their security and patch more rapidly, I suspect that far, far too many large organizations will continue to tolerate poorly written systems (from a security standpoint) and allow their developers to deploy code that doesn’t remotely adhere to best coding practices. Perhaps one day…
In our SQL Server world, I think we’re going to have an interesting year. All signs point to another SQL Server version, one that runs on both Windows and Linux, so we’ll start to have the challenges and excitement of moving databases across platforms. Add in the ability to run inside containers, and I think we’ll see some crazy growth in SQL Server deployments that will stretch the ability of administrators to keep track of how many instances are actually running. I suspect that we’ll see lots of data loss from small instances that are deployed by developers quickly and easily, without a backup plan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new set of issues when transaction logs grow to fill disks from instances running in containers that never back them up. Maybe we’ll get the simple recovery model as the default for SQL Server 2017? I can hope.
All in all, I think 2017 is just another new year, but it is the time for you to take stock of your life, decide what you like, what you don’t, and where you want to go. Perhaps you should take another step on your epic life quest, maybe you want to improve your skills, maybe you want to find a new job, or perhaps you have something outside of work that will be important this year. No matter where you are in life, the end of one year and beginning of a new one is a good time to reflect, reminisce, and dream about the future.