IT decision makers need a new way to manage the challenge of staffing, utilizing, and retaining Database Administrators (DBAs). Too often, companies face a reality where expensive DBAs end up performing routine tasks or inexpensive DBAs are asked to perform complex or strategic tasks. This snaps productivity, increases costs, and creates risk. But theres a way out of this situation. Companies can maximize the value of the DBA function gaining productivity, realizing cost savings, and mitigating risk by using blended DBAs and leveraging the latest trends in DBA staffing and services.
The Database Administrator is at the center of most IT business processes. Even with additional employees, contractors, or offshore DBAs, IT leaders remain challenged by single points of failure, intellectual monopolies, insufficient skill sets, on-call burnout, and limited scalability. Talented DBAs are difficult to find and can be very expensive, relative to other headcount, in a given enterprise.
Until now, only the largest IT organizations could afford a tiered DBA staff. With a tiered staff, multiple resources with varying skill sets and costs perform appropriate functions. This approach allows for an overall lower DBA expense and greater DBA job satisfaction. These DBA teams address multiple projects and tasks in parallel, while eliminating skill limitations, burnout, and turnover impacts. The reason this structure has proven effective is that it tailors the DBA to the task at the right price. The challenge to IT decision makers in enterprises whose size warrants but a single DBA is to reap the benefits of a tiered DBA structure while controlling costs.
The New DBA reality
The Database Administrator is one of the most difficult positions to fill and retain.
DBAs must be able to react, communicate, and plan across many different business functions. They are not easy to find and are often shockingly costly as a percentage of IT payroll. Prior to the evolution of todays comprehensive systems and greater reliance on data by 24x7 consumers, most DBAs functioned as basement DBAs, meaning that they generally were out of sight and out of mind, working on mainframe tasks associated with loading tapes, maintaining DASD, and running backup jobs. That was 20 years ago.
In the current IT landscape, DBAs must understand an ever-expanding scope of hardware and applications, which includes web servers, middleware, and relational data models. They must deal effectively with new data/indexing schemes, application loads, clustering software, and replication techniques. Proficiency in networking, operating systems, storage area networks, and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations drives their value as DBAs. They also face constant change in encryption, multiple scripting languages, data retention, spatial data types, and third-party applications. Finally, they must know data warehousing, business intelligence, advanced performance tuning, high availability, code propagation, auditing, heuristics, and I/O layouts, among others. The likelihood of finding one individual with expertise in even a few of these key areas, much less all of them, is very low.
Since the DBA is often the first point of contact for system performance issues, they must be adept at problem solving, communication, collaboration, project management, process adherence, and even financial analysis. With the broadening and deepening of the job description of the average Database Administrator, they must demonstrate vertical platform expertise and horizontal functional expertise