It’s the Engineers

There are all sorts of articles and blogs on the Internet that try and teach you how to use a particular technique or technology to solve a problem. Plenty of this information is well written, and showcases the knowledge of that individual (or team) and how they’ve built a fantastic system. Every vendor building software platforms has reference case studies that show how well their system has worked for some customer. These are all good models that might give you confidence why SQL Server or MongoDB or Entity Framework or GoLang are good choices for your company.

In reality, it’s not as simple as just choosing a platform or framework or language to make your application perform better. You really need the staff that understands how to use your choice of X and has some skill in building a system in that manner. It’s why I think that the cost of the software is a pittance compared to the cost of your people. If you have to train them, or they need to learn how technology X works, then you’re going to pay more in salary than you’d save in software licenses.

There’s an article that I think illustrates this well, and might be worth passing along to your developers. It’s called Why Amazon DynamoDB isn’t for everyone and it’s worth a few minutes of your time to read. The gist of the article is that a NoSQL system, like DynamoDB, isn’t as simple and easy as you expect. It also says that for many applications, a relational database is a better choice because it’s often better understood and will solve most problems at small scale. For most of us, we don’t really get past what I’d consider small to medium scale, and so we should stick with relational systems.

This isn’t to say that DynamoDB will be a problem for you, but there will be a learning curve for your developers if they haven’t used it in production and at your scale. The same thing occurs if a development team decided to switch from MongoDB to SQL Server because they like automatic tuning. They won’t necessarily configure and use SQL Server efficiently, and might not have their application perform well. Switching your development paradigm or technology is hard, and it will take time for your staff to get up to speed.

Ultimately it really comes down to having good engineers that can write good code and understands the ins and outs of administering that particular platform. The database is extremely important here as it is the central location of your information, but the same arguments apply to frameworks and languages. As much as we want to learn and try new technologies and incorporate them into our work, we need to realize that it takes time to learn to use them well. Make small experiments, try POCs and slowly build up skills before you decide that your mission critical system needs some new technology that you read about and are excited to try working with.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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