Is the DBA Title Dying?

Not is the DBA joib dying, though we could argue about that as well. Instead, I’m asking if the title of Database Administrator is going away. Are there going to be people that really want to send out resumes and apply to be Database Administrators beyond the next few years? As I look at my resume, I wonder if that’s a job or title I want to keep around.

Think about that for a few minutes. We’re in the age of complex systems with cloud platforms, automated backup software, PowerShell and other scripting, Chef, Puppet, containers, self-service clones, automatic indexing, query store plan fixing, and more monitoring options than you would want to spend time evaluating. We have plenty of tools to assist, or takeover, much of the daily administration of database platforms. Even security can be mostly outsourced to AD, AAD, other directory services. While there is some level of what we might consider administration, is that the core of many people’s jobs? Will it still be in five years?

I read a few of the posts from T-SQL Tuesday #100, including Adam Machanic and Brent Ozar. They both think the DBA is dying, and I tend to agree. I know that inertia slows change in many large organizations, and I’d bet there will be a delay just because of HR. After all, if you want to be a data reliability engineer or data professional, most organizations don’t list that job title and would have no idea how to hire you. Even if they loved your resume, they’d end up hiring you as a DBA or developer (developer III maybe) just because they like those nicely labeled buckets for the HR systems. They might not even know how to pay someone in some new role.

However, the more I talk with people, the less they seem to be doing administration. They still tune queries, but often they’re helping do more database development or even database architecture than administration. They may to more reporting or ETL work, which can easily fall under development as well. Security is still a part of their jobs, but that doesn’t seem to change as often as it used to. Many people have moved to database roles and AD integration for authentication. Then security becomes more of a set-it-and-let-someone-else-manage-it. I even see Slack bots or other tools that let people self-service requests, and others quickly (or automatically) approve them.

We still do some work, as things like HA/DR still aren’t quite a smooth as they could be, but that’s changing. Cloud services, and the evolving Azure Stack may mean that more and more of our work will be done by templates and patterns. We may have to create the template, but that feels more like architecture and less like basic administration. I expect at some point we’ll just link a grid of machines, on premises or in the cloud, and let people self-service their requests for systems. The “template” will let a service deploy HA databases across the machines as it sees fit, providing an address to connect to, implementing monitoring, and even solving many simple problems without human intervention. I expect that security and auditing features and capabilities will also grow rapidly, becoming more automated, or at least automatic, and request less administration.

I used to joke I was a data janitor in many jobs. Just dealing with whatever situations people couldn’t, or wouldn’t, bother working on with databases. I often cleaned up messes made by developers that weren’t sure how to build a database that scaled beyond “their machine”. These days I think I’m no less of a data janitor, but I call us data professionals. It’s a better catch-all term, and certainly sounds more appropriate. We do our best to ensure the safety, accuracy, and availability of data in whatever way works best in our environment. We’ll run your T-SQL, R, python, machine learning, SSIS, SSRS, or whatever code for you, and audit the actions.

I think that as we do that, we’ll do more development, cleansing, and analysis than actual administration.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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2 Responses to Is the DBA Title Dying?

  1. blobeater says:

    Yes it will change. I am already feeling it. I think DSA is a better word = Data Services Administrator which covers the whole stack from SQL Server to Azure Data Factory.

  2. JRStern says:

    DBA can be the one to wrestle with Microsoft Support for bug reports. It’s not pretty, but it can be a fulltime job.

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