The evolution of the database administrator role

February 8, 2021 Kevin Kelly

Before the cloud, companies would typically have a team of database administrators (DBAs) and database specialists with one mission—to stand up and maintain the chosen database solution for the entire company. The DBAs who work with that database develop deep expertise in the management and maintenance of the particular database system. Since they have invested significant time and money in this solution, they use it for every workload, even when there may be better options.

However, with more choices for managed database solutions in the cloud, the DBA role is morphing into an increasingly more interesting role. Today’s DBAs are no longer siloed to focus on just one solution. As of today, AWS offers 15 purpose-built databases, designed to support diverse data models. Many DBAs are finding their job is more software-based and less about provisioning and managing hardware.

It’s an exciting time to be a DBA, with expanded responsibilities and opportunities to develop strategic business solutions with the development team. As such, it’s a great time for DBAs and those looking to move into a role focused on database technology, to seek training and hands-on education to help skill or upskill their expertise.

AWS Training and Certification offers extensive training, a database learning path, and a database specialty certification. If you’re new to AWS databases, a great first place to start is our free digital course called, AWS Database Offerings. In this self-paced, five-and-a-half hour course, you’ll get a basic overview of the AWS database technologies. It also covers the concept of a purpose-built database, which changes the age-old one-size-fits-all methodology.

Let’s take a look at the responsibilities DBAs have traditionally held, and how the evolution of the cloud has changed the way DBAs are approaching their work.

Capacity Planning

Traditionally, database capacity planning meant provisioning server capacity for peak load, so most of the time you are paying for resources that are not fully utilized. This is not only costly, but also much less flexible. However, since cloud-hosted databases are elastic, their storage and compute capacity can be dynamically and automatically scaled to meet changes in demand. Software APIs are typically used to configure automated responses to monitored metrics and alarms. Additionally, some cloud databases are serverless, which means that there are no servers or virtual machines to provision at all.

Database Backup and Recovery

The traditional backup method for databases involves storing and maintaining physical backup devices such as tapes or other portable media. For safety, the backups are stored offsite, which is cumbersome to manage and delays recovery time. The cloud offers simpler and more durable storage solutions that automatically keep multiple copies of backup data in multiple physical locations. There are no physical storage devices for the DBA to manage, so backups and recovery and can be scripted and automated.

Choosing the Optimal Database Solution

Cloud platforms offer new options for teams of builders to have purpose-built database options that range from both self-managed and fully-managed relational, NoSQL options, key-value pair, document, in-memory, columnar, graph, time-series, and more. This means a database specialist, not just an administrator, needs to be aware of these choices and how to apply them to specific use cases and application deployment requirements. For instance, a database specialist can partner with development teams to choose the purpose-built database solution that is best suited for the type of data and required access patterns, as well as meets the performance, durability, and scalability requirements at the lowest cost.

Our three-day, immersive instructor-led classroom training course, Planning and Designing Databases on AWS, is an optimal avenue to learn how to choose the appropriate database service for the needs and requirements of your application. In this course, you learn how to analyze several sample applications to determine the appropriate AWS database service, and then design and deploy a service to meet an application’s needs and business requirements.

Designing for the Workload

With the shift to managed cloud services, there is less need for database administrators to spend much of their time performing routine management tasks such as patching, upgrading, and installing database engines. They can now be consultative in assisting application developers to choose the correct database service for a specific workload, as well as performing a much reduced set of administrative tasks.

The opportunities for DBAs to have a wide-ranging impact on the organization has never been greater. There are more data and databases in the world than ever before, and that will only continue. The evolving DBA is a mission-critical role that increasingly offers rewarding growth opportunities in the cloud.

Kevin Kelly is Director of Certification and Education Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS) where he is responsible for the global development of certification programs that validate AWS skills mastery as well as the development of a set of cloud career enablement programs.

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