Bye Bye DBA – Hello DBMA

| | ,

This week’s guest blogger is Lilian Hobbs. Dr. Hobbs has spent over 30 years working with database systems. From the early beginnings of a CODASYL database, onto being a part of both Digital Equipment and Oracle database engineering groups working on relational databases and then the new database machines at Vertica and EMC.  Her Phd was awarded by Southampton University for research into automating CODASYL database design and she has written a number of books, some even on databases.  Check out her website at  Contact us if you would like to be one of our guest bloggers. Hobbs

If you needed someone to mange your database, it used to be easy, simply advertise for a DBA (database administrator) and the applications would come flooding in. Today, the database world is changing with the introduction of  database machines, therefore, what you now need is a DBMA (database machine administrator)

It’s interesting how the role of DBMA has arisen. When it was simply database software, no one seemed to expect the DBA to know anything about the hardware. Updating system parameters, checking for errors on a network card or updating some firmware, would traditionally be a no-go zone for the DBA, so what has changed?

Despite the fact that a database machine like Exadata, Greenplum, Netezza is an optimized hardware platform with maybe some special hardware components and special database software, for some reason the system administrators who would have normally managed the hardware, now seem to think that its the DBA’s problem.  In reality, there isn’t anything fundamentally new here, but not all system administrators are keen to manage this new technology, because it’s a ‘database machine’.

What does this mean for the DBA? Well it means that the new DBMA needs to understand the hardware components within the database machine and be prepared to start managing and debugging them. If your Linux skills are a bit rusty, then this is the time to start revising! Courses are available from the vendors to teach you these new skills and you will find tools available, as with database software, to complete the tasks, so don’t be put off by this change.

Therefore, when you install the first database machine in your organization, make sure you allow time for learning these new skills. Discuss with the current system administrators their role with the database machine. You may be lucky and they want to manage it, but be prepared for them to say, that you have to upgrade the firmware on the database machine components and call out engineers when network card fails.

Yes, the landscape is changing slightly with database machines. As a long term software person, you may feel uneasy venturing into the hardware world. Hopefully, you will welcome the escape from just looking at the software and soon you will be wondering what all the fuss was about, and enjoy being a DBMA, which does sound rather grand.

Read reviews of Data Warehousing Appliances from real users at IT Central Station. See reviews of Exadata, Netezza, and other Data Warehousing solutions.


Selecting Enterprise Software: Why Strategic and Tactical Decisions Require Alignment

Win an iPad mini at IT Central Station Business Intelligence Review Contest