Admin Challenges Across Scale and Time

I’ve never been interested in working on large systems. I know some people relish the challenge, and certainly there is a lot to learn, but I’ve always valued my sleep and time with family. I like getting away from work, seeing my wife and kids, and I’ve found enough after hours work on (relatively) small systems to keep me occupied. To be fair, I’ve often dealt with large in terms of numbers of systems, rather than a large single system. For some reason, managing 200-300 instances that have 50GB databases is much less stressful than a 10TB single instance, at least for me.

In 1999, I was offered a job managing a 13TB database on SQL Server v6.5. I declined that job, and was glad I did. Running that system would have been a nightmare.  I think a 40TB SQL Server 2017 instance is likely easier to manage, though maybe Taryn Pratt would have taken either challenge. I was interested to see her writeup on migrating a 40TB database recently, though I’m glad I don’t manage this system..

Even if you don’t have a large multi-TB system, the challenges Taryn faced are similar to ones I’ve had on smaller systems, where I was still space constrained. In some places, a 50GB system might be limited in storage, and you might encounter some of the same issues. You also might have the same moving target problem, where the information you are moving keeps changing and your processes struggle to catch up.

This is the type of documentation and evaluation that I’d like to see more people produce about their daily (or weekly or yearly) challenges. Having examples of what worked, maybe what didn’t, and the thoughts behind solving problems helps others learn and grow their skills. Even if you only write this for internal co-workers, it’s a good learning experience.

It’s also good practice for your communication skills, which are going to be very important in the new normal of pandemic work environments.

I’d love to publish more stories like this, of how you solved the challenges you face as a developer or DBA. If you can write about things, send me a draft. If you need help anonymizing things for your employer, I’m happy to help. If you don’t want to do this publicly, at least consider documenting this type of effort internally. Others might learn, and you’ll have a nice item to present to your boss at review time.

Steve Jones

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About way0utwest

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1 Response to Admin Challenges Across Scale and Time

  1. Greg Moore says:

    I love this idea. I’ll admit, sometimes sitting around with some of my fellow #sqlfamily members I almost feel like an impostor because I’m not dealing with multi-terabyte databases and my clients don’t have an established devops setup, etc.

    But, I think the challenges can often be the same, and when they’re not, present their own unique ones. I don’t think I’d want to work in a very large setup either. Mid-size is more fun… for me.

    That said, if I get a chance, I may try to write something up.


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