Think about the power that database administrators have in your organization's world. I’ve been working with databases since my first job in 1987. I’ve seen the power bestowed upon database administrators in organization after organization. They are fully aware of the power they control, and most other people in an organization are regularly reminded of this power. The defensive database administrator is always the biggest obstacle in the way of API teams who are often seen as a threat to the power and budgets that database groups command. This power is why databases are often centralized, are scaled vertically, and are the backends to so many web, mobile, desktop, and server applications.
I spend a significant amount time thinking about the power that database administrators wield and how we can work to find more constructive, secure, and sensible approaches to shifting legacy database behaviors. Lately, I also find myself thinking a lot more about blockchain — not because I’m a believer but because so many believers are pushing it onto my radar. Blockchain will continue to be a thing, not because it is a thing, but because so many people believe it is a thing. Most blockchains will not withstand the test of time — they are vapor — but the blockchains that remain will do so because people have convinced other people to put something meaningful into their blockchain, much like we have convinced so many companies, organizations, institutions, and government agencies to put data into databases.
Yes, we. I’m complicit.
A definition of the blockchain is, “a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography.” It’s a database, linked and secured using cryptography. The reason you hear about the blockchain so much and how it can revolutionize almost every business sector is that the blockchain believers want to convince you to put your digital assets into their blockchain, which will eventually make it something real. I can set up a blockchain today and call it anything I want, but it is nothing more than an empty distributed database. It doesn’t become anything until there is something of value stored in it, which is why there are so many eager folks right now trying to convince that blockchain is something, so you’ll put your valuable things in there, and it will become something.
Think of blockchain believers as the frontend version of the defensive database administrator. After a blockchain has been up for 20 years, and has a bunch of valuable things stored in it, the blockchain believers will become more like the database administrators. They’ll grow beards (even the women), and become more defensive of their precious data stores from whatever the next threat to their power is and will do whatever it takes to defend their power. Blockchain believers are young, energetic, and looking to build their empires, and database administrators are usually older and motivated to defend their empires. When you are down in the trenches trapped within the tractor beam of a database, it is hard to see beyond it. When you are basking in glow of internet technology and everything is new and exciting, it can also be hard to see beyond it. With everything, give it 20 years, and things often times become whatever they’ve replaced.