» VIEW ALL POSTS Apr 16 2007   5:45PM GMT

Can Oracle DBAs survive automation?



Posted by: Beth Pariseau
Tags:
Oracle careers and certifications
Oracle database administration

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?

Thanks,
Elisa

13  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I agree that more of the mundane can be automated than we sometimes assume. We can get so swamped with day-to-day survival tasks that we don't take the time to step back for a minute and think creatively. Will automation suck the life out of DBA jobs? Depends on how we use it. Used well, automation frees us to better prepare and to manage our systems more effectively. Used poorly, it's yet one more set of processes and reports to babysit....
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  • Beth Pariseau
    ...Which reminds me of another quotable Lemme quote: "Aumotation is more than just technology. It's people and processes as well."
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Unfortunately, less job available on the market. Recently due to internal restructure, I was forced to look for a new role, and it was interesting experience, I found it, but it takes bit more time then usual. Many small company moved to SQL Server, just because it was cheaper, and does not require DBA intervention.
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  • Sukaina
    Automation gives a better chance for DBAs to perform. With the upgrading technologies in a "Fast Forward" mode, it makes sence for DBAs to use automation whereever possible. Even after automation if there is a problem only a DBA would solve it. As technologies upgrade so do DBAs need to upgrade their skill set. I conclude by saying that "Let there be automation, it is us DBAs to run the automation perfectly".
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Automation does not degrade the demand of DBA's. Because without DBA intervention all problems related with database cannot be solved. At a limited exrtend automation play role in database side but not full.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    In my opinion, automation is one of the best things DBAs have at their hand. Automation allows us to be more proactive when is used for instance, to gather performance statistics or to send performance alerts by email or SMS. Also, backup and recovery tasks are easier when they are automated. At the end, saving time with automation will allow DBAs to be more creative, proactive and productive.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Automation can handle only so much. Recovery, special triggers, functions, assistance with developers,design etc can't be automated and will always be in high demand.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Automation would only help DBA activty. You still need people for database design,architecture taking into considerations all the technical tools or experience and implement a solution and also there would be many a times when manual intervention would be needed anyway
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Automation does not degrade the DBA's demand, as long as Database alive DBA must required behind the Database.Automation makes the DBA to be more creative,proactive and productive.so we should embraced with Automation, not feared.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    DBA's Will remain in the market becuase the investor will rarely depend on Software automation and loose his millions of dollars business at time of disastor. Also Data Migration, day to day user administration, Auditing Control, encryption all these require an experienced DBA to be Available at site. You may add some more like RAC and data guard which requires DBA's for its set up, upgradation, maintenance and so on. i See a huge demand for DBA's in future.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    There will always be a role for DBAs as exception handlers. As automation progresses the nature of the exceptions DBAs work on will change. One of the key exceptions will always be setting up new applications, however commoditization and democratization of traditional applications is changing the landscape for everyone. A career DBA will probably work best in a consultative role for many clients instead of as a permanent employee for a single organization.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    The role of the DBA continues to evolve with Oracle Applications Unlimited as well as with Oracle Fusion Middleware which was part of my latest presentation within the User Group day on Sunday of which IOUG had a number of sessions and throughout the week at Oracle OpenWorld 2008. I am continuing research on this subject matter and planning additional related presentations at the upcoming CA World in Las Vegas in Nov 2008 as well as at the Collaborate May 2009 in Orlando. Keep the great questions and communication flowing on this subject matter. And extra thanks to those with comments on those session
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  • Beth Pariseau
    I don't believe that automation causes an issue at all... I actually think it's a convenience, and I take advantage of job scheduling, or any other method that assists in these "mundane" tasks as much as I can. I think that we as DBAs should grasp every automation concept, and embrace it. Fear of improvements in the environment will only lead to a vicious cycle that will hurt our performance if we cave in. Embrace change, and evolve with it.
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