Are DBAs Obsolete?

Before we go any further, let me briefly answer the question posed in the title of this blog entry: “No Way!”

OK… with that out of the way, let’s discuss the issue…

Every so often some industry pundit makes news by declaring that DBAs are obsolete or that we no longer need DBAs. Every time I hear this it makes me shake my head sadly as I regard just how gullible IT publications can be.

These types of proclamations are typically based on the increasing autonomics of database systems. And yes, DBMS software is becoming easier to use and some of the things that used to require manual effort are now automated. But that does not eliminate the need for DBAs!

It is not possible for all of the duties of the DBA to become obsolete. For example, how can a DBMS make changes to its database structures (such as, adding new columns to support a new business requirement)? How would it know what to add – and what data type to choose? Database design, both logical and physical, will be needed (along with knowledge of the business) to create and maintain properly running database systems.

Additionally, what about backup and recovery? Would you trust a DBMS that had a corrupted database to recover itself? If it was that darn smart why did it become corrupted in the first place?

The job of the DBA will morph and change — as it certainly already has during its 40 or so years of existence. But that doesn’t mean it will become obsolete… just different.

Database administration needs to be practiced in a more rigorous manner. This is especially so in terms of migrating from a reactive to a proactive mindset and point-of-view. For more details on this particular train of thought, please see my previous blog posting titled Of DBAs, Firemen, Web Time, and Service Level Management.

The bottom line is this: As portions of the DBA job are automated the DBA can focus on those things that have been ignored or poorly addressed (e.g. database design) and can also be freed up to tackle bigger problems… such as, business problems, data quality issues, metadata management, and so on. The days of an administration-less enterprise database environment are not here yet — and in my opinion, they are nowhere on the horizon, either!


I'm a data management strategist, researcher, and consultant with over three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development and implementation.
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2 Responses to Are DBAs Obsolete?

  1. sandrusska says:

    I haven’t started my professional career just yet, and want to work as DBA or BA. I’m currently living in Bolivia and in this third world country technology is still behind. Most organisations are still using traditional systems, and information is kept in cabinets. There are very few organisations which are storing their data…most of the information is still paper based.

    I believe is just the organisational culture, and having the financial resources or investment to use BI.

    It’ll be hard to get into it, but I see what can be done to get into this field.

    Yes, who will be responsible about securing a database? How about the planning development and troubleshooting? And what will happen in an emergency or recovery control? DBA are there to do all this job which is easier said than done!

    I believe that DBA’s are a great asset to any organisation.

    Thanks for writing this encouraging blog

  2. Air jordans says:

    Thank you for your articles which let me think about my life and find out what to do. Your blog is like a mirror.

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