Will Automation Wipe Out the Role of the DBA?
Learn more about automation and the role of DBAs.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Disruption has come to the role of the database administrator (DBA). Automation is eating up tasks typically completed by a DBA — and the technology is evolving to become ever-smarter, ever more capable.
This has sparked concern that humans will inevitably become redundant in running databases. Already, cloud services have threatened to render the DBA role obsolete. Now, with automation infiltrating more and more areas of database administration, many have predicted that DBAs will not survive the storm of change.
So, will automation wipe out the role of the DBA?
The Rising Strain on DBAs
There’s a rising strain on DBAs. First, there’s increased management of big data to handle. Then, there’s data protection and privacy rules to worry about. There’s patching, upgrading, backing up, recovering, and data entry. There are accounts to manage and a near constant stream of new information to feed into databases.
And all that is before you can get into the troubleshooting, decision making, and designing side of the job. Not to mention the management of third-party software, ensuring system integration and optimizing database performance.
Now, to top it off, there’s a concern that automation software will take it all away.
The Convenience of Automation
With so much on their plate, DBAs have (thus far) found a useful ally in automation software. It’s helping cut through workloads, make tasks more manageable, and ease the strain of the role.
Simply put, automation is a practical convenience. As much as 80 percent of a DBA’s time is spent performing manual admin, much of which is — at least in part — automatable.
For example, automation software can handle data extraction from incoming sources, as well as inserting that data into databases. It can handle routine aspects of general database maintenance, such as file deletion after a set time or backing up new data. It helps with security by encrypting and decrypting the data it’s fed. Automation is also helpful for 24/7/365 database monitoring — if something goes wrong, it can automatically let you know.
But if it can do all that, how long will it be before the DBA is no longer needed? With all this capability, many of the minor or repetitive DBA tasks are being cut short or removed completely. Cue concern about the future security of the role.
What Automation Can’t Do
The automation of these tasks is not necessarily a bad thing for DBAs. In fact, it’s freeing them up to work more efficiently and spend time on the things that automation can’t do.
For instance, automation can help maintain and monitor a database, but it can’t replace a DBA’s ability to think. It can’t determine the value of data, make decisions about how best to store, use and secure it, or troubleshoot with out-of-the-box thinking.
Automation is a tool — it needs someone to use it, maintain it, and monitor its results. So, it also adds to the DBA’s workload. Namely, automation demands the creation, maintenance, and improvement of the rules and triggers it follows. Automation can help do many things, but it can’t make its own rules or optimise itself.
Automation simply cannot do every task that a DBA needs to complete. And if it can’t do that, then how will it ever wipe away the need for database administrators?
The Evolution of the DBA Role
Automation might not be going to wipe out the role of the DBA. But what it is going to do — and is already doing — is changing the tasks and responsibilities that a DBA takes on. In other words, it’s prompting the evolution of the DBA role.
For example, DBAs are moving from mundane data admin to a data strategist. DBAs will be spending more time making decisions about what data is valuable, how to best store it, and how to best use it and make it usable for the rest of the team.
So, there can be more time spent optimizing, designing, and troubleshooting new and better databases. DBAs will also spend less time on user account administration and more time focused on improving and maintaining security.
In short, automation will free the DBA from drudgery. It removes thoughtless tasks and the weight of repetitive to-do lists.
The role of the DBA, like many other roles "under threat" from automation, won’t be wiped out. In a world as obsessed with data and information as this one, there will always be a need for people to help manage it.
In fact, the role of the database administrator looks to be flourishing. Salaries rose by 10 percent in December 2018, and employment prospects are good.
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay the same. DBAs need to embrace new technology like automation software. This way, they can use it to both their own advantage and the advantage of the business moving forward.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.