DBA Call to Action: Make an Impact

Thursday May 15th 2003 by James Koopmann

A DBAs true value is not only to maintain database order but also to provide technical advantages to the company. Join James Koopmann as he breaks out of the cubical shell with a mission to 'make an impact.'

Let's face it, database administration does not come with a cut and dry job description. It is often up to the DBA to determine what will and will not make an impact on the companies for which they work. The true value DBAs can give is not only to maintain database order but also to provide technical advantages to the company. Come along with me and let's see if we can break out of our cubical shell and provide some added benefit.

Yea, Yea, Yea, We've Heard It Before

Database systems are large, complex and above all are mission critical. Wow, what a mouthful! If this is truly the case, as I believe it is, then why does management not put the time and effort into understanding the vast industry insight that makes up the skill set of every DBA? If they think for one moment, that maintaining order in the ever-increasing sea of data is not conducive to any other insights in this highly technical age of data storage, retrieval, and manipulation then we are all in for a big surprise. While these statements are very harsh on management it is should pose itself as a wake up call to the technical staff that continually has a harder time bridging the gap and conveying the knowledge they so desperately wish to have understood.

Performance, Performance, Performance

I know many DBAs who's only concern is performance. They spend so much time, and take such pride in the fact that they can save five seconds of a nightly batch job that they lose sight of other areas in the company that need their immediate assistance. The saving of five seconds off a nightly batch job cannot be compared to a handful of developers that are struggling with their ability to answer simple SQL questions or one person's question on the relationship between two tables in a database.

Time to Solve a Problem

A major pet peeve of mine is when DBAs continually try to find problems where none exist. Please, if there is not a problem do not waste your time trying to solve one. Yes, I know that there are investigative things that you as a DBA are bound by law to perform but realistically it is time you get on with your life and script something. You should automate the tasks that find problems at very high levels and then, and only then, should you start the deep dive that will get you lost for days into the abyss of pleasure. Your automated scans should be high level monitoring of major areas such as storage, CPU, memory, workload fluctuations and response times. My personal favorite area to monitor is individual personal complaint. If I do not get any complaints, I do not have any problems and therefore nothing needs to be solved as far as database performance and usage go. Seems simple, it is.

You Are the Support Line

Take a moment and think about how long you just sit in a corner of your cubical and play database monitoring and tuning expert. A DBA must get out in the field and provide solutions to a variety of needs. There is a vast smorgasbord of designers, developers, users, management, and the dogs next door that need our help with everything from analysis to zesty SQL that performs under every condition. Do not leave your user, which is everyone, out to dry. Trust me when I say this, even if your database is performing at peak performance levels, there is someone somewhere that is having problems. More than likely, they are just too upset or shy to come visit you. It is your purpose in life to search out these individuals and provide solutions that offer timely benefits. Period.

Take Ownership of Your Database

There is mass confusion as to what DBAs are supposed to be doing. Not only do companies not recognize the need, they do not recognize what they should be asking of their DBA. Just because there is a database involved, people think that it requires a DBA, after all, a DBAs first name is DATABASE. This in itself gives DBAs great control of vital corporate information. As a DBA, you hold the keys to what is done and when it is done in the database. You are responsible for validating everything that is implemented and your job is on the line when things go south. You are responsible for who owns what pieces of data and who is able to see what pieces of data. You are responsible for determining when the best time for application changes to hit the production database is. You should be involved in the scheduling of when changes happen and when they will be ready. All eyes focus on you when something goes wrong. Let's start protecting our company's vast amounts of data.

Security is a hot topic today that begs for DBAs to take control. Do you as a DBA fully understand every method of connection to the database, all the users who are defined within your system and to what permissions they have access? Do you have mobile users? Do you have web access? You, as a DBA need to know all of the potential pitfalls and potential problems you may encounter when it comes to security. Can you trust all of your developers to be cautious and not mess with the production system or have you sufficiently locked down the accounts they use. There have been occasions when I didn't trust even myself to just "tool" around with a production system and you definitely should not trust anyone else to be completely safe. Data tampering will most likely happen from within the corporate walls and this alone should force you to lock down production databases.

Data Should Be Your Middle Name

Let's face it, databases are all about storing data and accessing it. Your main concern is to provide a mechanism that provides for safe storage and retrieval of company information. Along with this, is providing for the security and reliability that information will be there when needed. Do not get hung up on the way that anyone else does things. If you do, you may find yourself in a trap. Make sure you validate methods and provide solutions that work for your company.

Find a New Feature

Don't have enough to do yet? One of the things I like best is to find a new feature, either in the current release we are using in production or the next version that is on the horizon. The benefit you can give to your company is to research new features, determine what works, and then how to implement, if that new feature is going to bring easier administration, lower cost of ownership, improved performance, or just make people happier. I can pretty much date myself, but I can remember working for a shop way back when, and implementing SQL*NET. What an immediate impact this had on the company I was working for, even though they had been working with Oracle for a while and the previous DBA never knew or thought of turning on this feature. Take a chance and find something that will make a difference in the way others work. Just don't forget to tell someone the new feature is available and follow up on usage to safeguard your new baby as it grows. Make sure you are able to sell you new feature to management. Come up with a method to determine the savings that will be experienced using a new feature or piece of technology. This savings can range from actual monetary savings to having a more productive work environment.

Take Time for Yourself and Your Company Will Benefit

If you are not taking two to three hours a day to develop and maintain your advantage in the industry, you are not only hurting yourself, you are killing the company for which you are working. Just think, if you were asked to go to a meeting where you were put on the line to provide insight into the progress of your particular platform along side of any new technology. Would you be ready and able to talk intelligently? If you are under the gun every day, day in and day out, trying to fight fires and are constantly being pulled in all directions, you need to find a way to hide yourself for at least one hour initially. You need to find a way to convince your management that the future is just as important as the current day's disaster. If you cannot seem to get quiet time around the office, have your management ok it for you to attend a user group or vendor technical sessions. These are typically only a day and most are just a few hours. This allows you to get up to speed quickly on new technology without having to search the net for it or continually being interrupted during your enrichment hour.

Are You Stuck

If you are unable to foster change within your company, by all means, do it outside your company. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that there are lot more companies than the one I am working for and, along with myself, there are hundreds of people that need assistance in solving problems. Go out there and hit newsgroups, magazines, conferences, local user groups or wherever you find database issues; contribute to the cause and complexity of providing solutions to the mass of data management issues that surround us. The worst thing that can happen is that you will have fun, gain knowledge and begin a few relationships that are always important to anyone truly concerned with making an impact.

» See All Articles by Columnist James Koopmann

Mobile Site | Full Site
Copyright 2017 © QuinStreet Inc. All Rights Reserved