The Future for the DBA

In recent years, both new technologies and new business practices have changed what the Database Administrator (DBA) role means, and started to shape how the role may evolve, or recede in the future.  These changes offer exciting opportunities for DBAs, and the future looks great for data professionals overall. This post discusses the factors influencing the DBA role, how they may be affecting DBA numbers, and suggests some positive countermoves that DBAs might choose to make in response.

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Services

Data Minister specialise in providing boosts of data administration expertise to organisations that may not need a permanent DBA, or need an extra pair of hands to design new, or enhance current database environments to be reliable, highly-available and performant.

Experienced in all aspects of Microsoft SQL Server, we can support your database environment either on-site or remotely, or spend some time empowering your staff with the coaching, monitoring tools, documentation and self-maintaining databases needed to look after the environment themselves.

Services include:

  • Calmly guiding you through rectifying critical database issues.
  • Troubleshooting and solving SQL Server-related problems you may be experiencing.
  • One-off or regular review and elevation of the performance of your database environment.
  • Consolidating your current SQL Server installations to reduce licensing costs and maintenance overhead.
  • Automating processes that are currently performed manually.
  • Design and installation of new SQL Server environments.
  • Upgrade and migration of existing databases to new hardware, or cloud-based Azure environment.
  • Creating a monitoring and alerting solution for your SQL Server environment.
  • Supplementing or leading your current DBA team with day-to-day support, on a short-term or adhoc basis.
  • Adapting the way database administration work is carried out to fit with a new business model (such as Agile or Site-Reliability Engineering methodology).
  • Coaching non-DBA specialists to detect and fix database-related issues.

To discuss your requirements, or our services, in more detail, please drop us a line at hello@dataminister.com.  

About

Data Minister was established in 2018, with the goals of:

  • Providing a boost of database administration expertise to organisations that may not need a permanent DBA, or need an extra pair of hands on a short-term piece of work.
  • Designing new, or optimising current database environments, to be reliable, highly-available and performant.
  • Empowering people to look after their own database environments by providing them with the knowledge, monitoring tools and managed databases to do so. 

Data Minister was founded by Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) Paul Gentle.

Paul Gentle

“After graduating from the University of Plymouth in 2003, with a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in Accounting & Finance, I began a role looking after the finances of the IT Department at Burges Salmon, a large Bristol-based law firm. During this role I “accidentally” became involved with Microsoft SQL Server – using T-SQL to produce reports based upon company data. Having gained skills in statistical analysis and managing information from my degree course, working with SQL queries and the databases behind them came naturally to me, and I soon transitioned into the Data Services team, allowing me to take a more active role in maintaining and reporting upon company data.

Building upon this newly found interest in SQL Server, I studied and passed a postgraduate “Relational Database Systems” course at the Open University, and worked towards gaining the “Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist” qualification in Database Administration.  This helped me gain my first role as a dedicated Database Administrator (DBA) at Computershare in 2007.

Working at Computershare – the world’s largest share registry company – gave me some great experience as a Production DBA, hugely improving my knowledge of SQL Server, and introducing me to the Oracle relational database management system (RDBMS) too.

After three years at Computershare, I moved to London to take on a more senior DBA role with Pearson PLC, at the time the world’s leading education and publishing company (owning Penguin Books, The Financial Times, etc).  My focus was in the education and exam processing part of the company, and I spent a large part of my time building a new 16-server Oracle RDBMS environment on the Linux operating system, which was used to process GCSE and A-Level results for thousands of students in the UK.

Moving back to Bristol in 2013, I joined the relatively new independent gas and electricity supplier OVO Energy, as their first dedicated DBA.  

Early on in my OVO career, I designed an entire new SQL Server environment, in a new data centre, and migrated the databases behind all of our Live call centre, billing, trading and reporting applications across to it, upgrading each one to SQL Server 2014 (the latest version at the time).

During a whirlwind period of growth,  I oversaw pro-active tuning and optimisation that kept OVO’s SQL Server instances performing efficiently and reliably as customer numbers increased by 600%, and data volume and users grew accordingly.  The stability of OVO’s systems, and the databases behind them that I was ultimately responsible for, contributed towards the company winning numerous awards for customer satisfaction despite the rapid expansion.

I assisted with the recruitment of new data professionals at OVO as the workforce grew, and was promoted to Lead DBA along the way, gaining my first experience of line management and completing the excellent OVO Leadership Programme.  With a growing passion for the development of colleagues, I co-founded a group-wide Community of Interest for Data & Analytics professionals to learn and share ideas.

During my final year at OVO, I adapted my team’s way of working to fit with the Technology department’s move towards a Site-Reliability Engineering-inspired model.  This involved helping engineers and support staff who weren’t DBAs to take more ownership of the database environments behind the products that they owned. To support this I revamped the data platform monitoring and alerting using InfluxDB, Telegraf, and Grafana dashboards, with PagerDuty/Slack integration (tools that were widely-used by the department to monitor the health of systems outside of SQL Server), and created runbooks to support this monitoring solution.

It was these experiences at OVO that inspired where I wanted to take my career next – designing and stabilising database environments to be reliable, highly-available and performant, as well as empowering people to look after their own database environments by providing them with the knowledge, monitoring tools and managed databases to do so.  I would also like to further my own learning, and that of others, by researching and writing blog posts on the company website. I hope to achieve this with my new company – Data Minister.

As well as starting the company, since leaving OVO I have completed a short-term contract role at Office for Students, and passed a couple of Microsoft exams to gain the qualification Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) Database Administration.”

Paul’s LinkedIn profile can be found here, and he can be contacted directly at paul.gentle@dataminister.com

For more information on the services Data Minister offers, please see this page.