Today marks the first full day of Collaborate ’07, and the word of the day is overwhelming. The conference is huge, the hotels are huge, and the list of sessions is huge—if you can manage to decide which sessions you want to go to, good luck finding them!
Today after scrambling to grab lunch I caught a very interesting and interactive session called “What impact does automation have on the role of the DBA?” The session caught my eye because the description referred to an article our own Mark Brunelli wrote last year at OpenWorld: “Increased automation means changing roles for DBAs.” It also reminded me of our very popular article “Are DBAs needed anymore?” from back in 2005, which covered a similar session at that year’s IOUG Live conference.
Well, the question hasn’t gone away. And this panel discussion assembled a group of Oracle experts and DBAs, including Steve Lemme, an Oracle Master DBA and a director in the IOUG, and Dan Norris, a consultant working on Oracle DBA issues such as tuning and troubleshooting for 10 years, to address it. In general, the consensus among the panelists was that automation is a good thing—something to be embraced, not feared. Norris noted that many DBAs feel unnecessarily threatened as the Oracle product changes and their job roles inevitably change. “I don’t think there’s any chance of us being out of a job any time soon,” he said. Norris and the other panelists pointed out that we still need DBAs for what they called “firefighting”—what I took to mean high-pressure problem-solving and recovery. Automation, on the other hand, mainly addresses repetitive, “mundane tasks.”
Almost everyone agreed that DBAs spend the majority of their time on such tasks, like daily monitoring and statistics gathering. When such administrative work eats up most hours of the day, there’s less time, if any, for doing what Lemme called “the real work.” (Another panelist quipped that DBA stands for “doing business after hours.”) One audience member said, “I don’t think we’re realizing the benefit of all the automation already out there.” Another disagreed, claiming that only about 20% of what he does in a day can really be automated anyway. The panelists mostly sided with the first DBA, stating, “We tend to say, ‘Oh, that cannot be automated,’” thinking most tasks are too complicated, when in reality they can. Lemme said that one of the “key challenges” of automation is “breaking your current cycle”—DBAs have to realize that once they give it a chance, and put in the initial time and effort needed to figure out how to automate certain daily tasks, the “ultimate result” will be better for everybody.
DBAs, what do you think? Do you worry that increasing automation will suck the life out of your job? Eliminate it completely? Or does automation just give you more breathing room to perform your job better? What tasks are the best candidates for automation? Which of your job functions will never fall into that category and always need real people?