Database administration can clear the cloud

30 Sep 2014

Despite the growth in cloud services, there are still plenty of opportunities for database administrators (DBAs) who embrace the change, says Deirdre Kelleher of Hays.

There’s been a ‘cloud’ on the horizon for some time in the world of database administration, but that doesn’t mean the role of a DBA is washed up. There are still plenty of opportunities for DBAs here in Ireland and as opposed to putting up the metaphorical umbrella, a lot of DBAs have been embracing the change.

Hardware, like software, had been continually developing and metamorphosing for years before the arrival of the cloud. Installing a database system in organisations has always been an expensive process and unlike the new iPhone or Samsung tablet in the consumer world, businesses don’t go upgrading every year or so. It’s more like a house that might be renovated, extended or even downsized as opposed to being replaced.

Demand for database administrators

Oracle and SQL DBAs are most in demand and professionals with a mix of both systems are highly desirable. While licences for SQL databases and associate support will cost a company significantly less, Oracle has led the way for high availability architecture and continues to be a great performer in the industry, as has Informix. Sybase & DB2 are in much less demand overall, with a few niche companies requesting this expertise from time to time.

The market for DBAs continues to remain buoyant across multiple industries. This buoyancy has been predominantly in the contract market, with a significantly higher number of Oracle and SQL contractors in demand for 6-12 month contracts, while permanent candidates with 3-5 years’ experience on the same systems are the most in demand. In many cases, the contract positions are sought to complement internal permanent DBAs on specific project work, such as expansion or migration of infrastructure.

Rates continue to remain stable overall; however, DBAs with financial services and banking experience are in a position to command a higher rate on the market. The introduction of the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) scheme earlier this year saw an increase in demand from not only the banking and financial services industries, but multiple industries impacted by the changes.

Responsibilities of a database administrator

The DBA’s role is a 24×7 responsibility. It includes maintenance and monitoring of databases, performance tuning, workload balancing and security. While these skills aren’t at the forefront that they would have been five years ago, as opposed to making database administration obsolete, cloud technology has created new opportunities and lot of the skills and knowledge of the DBA are transferrable.

When the cloud first arrived there were predictions that it would replace the physical database that resided on an organisation’s premises. This has been true in some cases, but as opposed to heading on a downwards spiral for DBAs, we are seeing a quasi situation where companies want a combination of their own database supported by cloud technology. And that arguably makes the capabilities of the DBA even more important.

If you are a DBA who has worked on the sizing of databases, that knowledge of scalability is essential for a company that is considering migrating to cloud technology. Configuration of the database requires someone with the technical knowledge of that business’ needs from a memory and processor perspective. Equally, the DBA has the knowledge to question and query the performance of the cloud provider.

Security and database administration

The iCloud took a bit of a hammering recently when it was hacked for risqué celebrity photos. The role of security in database management has come under increased scrutiny as we hand over more and more sensitive information to organisations. DBAs are essential in ensuring both the implementation and maintenance of database security policies and practices within one’s organisation or in the cloud.

What happens if an organisation’s cloud services go down? Who is asking the hard questions of the cloud provider? There needs to be someone on the side of the organisation ensuring downtime is kept to a minimum. No better person than the DBA.

So as opposed to presenting the CTO with a dilemma of whether it’s a physical database versus the cloud, we are seeing a synergy of the two. Technical ability and appropriate certifications are, of course, of the utmost importance, but the personal attributes and softer skills of the DBA are becoming a must-have. The interaction of the DBA with multiple facets of the business means that often they will no longer have a core technical interview with a fellow ‘techie’ but rather go through a more rigorous vetting by PMs or HR.

Deirdre Kelleher

Deirdre Kelleher is a business manager responsible for the account management of a number of Hays’ corporate customers. She specialises in the recruitment of infrastructure professionals in the IT consultancy industries.

Database concept image via Shutterstock

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