To some degree, every occupation experiences change over time. Doctors employ new methods and tools based on experimentation. Politicians cater to changing demographics and activate social media campaigns. Even athletes have new equipment that allows for power and precision. But few professions have encountered the level of change experienced lately by database administrators (DBAs).
Everything that compiles data uses a database, whether directly or indirectly. Databases were computerized in the 1960s and, 30 years later, the advent of the Internet led to exponential growth in the industry.
But this decade in particular has been a golden age for producing and capturing an overwhelming amount of data. While this has increased opportunities for businesses to gain more visibility into their industry and customers and been a boon to the database management industry, it has also brought significant challenges for DBAs.
Let’s examine a few of them more closely.
Growth of Structured and Unstructured Data
The volume of data being created and collected has been exploding for years. The professionals who deal with analytics may be relishing the promise of insights and business intelligence from big data, but DBAs face the challenges of managing the overall growth and the growing variety of data types and increasing number of different database platforms. DBAs have to manage both structured and unstructured data. Unstructured data are growing significantly faster than structured data, and according to IDC, will surpass structured data in terms of capacity shipped by the end of this year. Because of business opportunities and regulatory requirements, there has been increased collection of both types of data, and it’s up to DBAs to keep it all under control.
Data Integration from Disparate Sources
Data have become more varied with smartphones, new mobile applications, and everything that makes up the Internet of Things (IoT). Businesses need to adapt accordingly. Because of the variety of sources and types of data, the typical data center today contains a patchwork of data management technologies. From enterprise-class relational databases to limited, standalone NoSQL-only solutions to specialized extensions, the arsenal for managing data has become more diverse.
Managing Databases in the Cloud
Right next to big data and IoT on the roster of hot terms in the tech community is cloud. Businesses and consumers demand flexibility in accessing databases from the cloud and/or from a cloud database provider’s servers, in addition to the standard on-premises mode of deployment. Cloud computing enables users to achieve optimized scaling, high availability, multi-tenancy, and effective resource allocation.
As cloud deployments become more pervasive with each passing year, handling databases running on-premises and in the cloud – including both public and private clouds like OpenStack – is yet one more challenge for DBAs.
Securing Private and Public Data
In the digital era, security is an ongoing concern. Businesses count on their infrastructure and IT staff to ensure that every bit of data remains safe and at minimal risk of exposure from hackers, incidental leaks, or otherwise. High-profile breaches of sensitive information have led to destroyed reputations and the loss of jobs.
Consumers need to trust that the data they provide to enterprises remain in a secure place, and organizations’ executives need to trust that the data they are receiving accurately represents what is going on across their enterprises. Enterprise success is closely tied to data security, and the onus is on DBAs to ensure that this security is intact.
What can DBAs do to overcome these challenges and perform their jobs effectively? Let’s take this step by step.
DBAs must capture and store big data in a meaningful way, then find the best technologies to derive value from the data. Even with new developments in information management, structured data in relational databases still provide the foundation for the infrastructure in the majority of companies. It’s up to DBAs to bring some structure to unstructured data by making sure the data are actively classified, that system metadata are added automatically, and that user metadata are added at the time of creation. They need to know the types of unstructured data they have, and then consolidate the data, removing redundancy to the greatest extent possible.
By employing a single, common interface that allows access to remote and disparate data stores, DBAs are empowered to break down the silos in database management. Budget restrictions can limit the best intentions for data management and integration, but open-source solutions enable DBAs to incorporate high performing, flexible, and scalable technology at low costs.
The cloud might appear to create silos, but it should be recognized for the opportunities it creates. DBAs must embrace their role as consultants to the business, advising business leaders on scenarios in which they contemplate the shift to mission-critical clouds – such as when a company wants to grow quickly. DBAs should be able to point business leaders to the right resources for their requirements, whether within the organization’s own data center or from outside cloud sources or software-as-a-service providers. The cloud also provides an opportunity for IT to incorporate DevOps methodologies for continuous integration, testing, and deployment to increase the speed of applications and shorten time to value.
Users count on the security of their data and, for DBAs, this starts with effective and thorough security auditing. Instead of reactionary approaches in the wake of data breaches, DBAs should work with other departments to take the proactive approach of semi-regularly assessing the security of a system’s physical configuration and environment, software, information handling processes, and user practices.
Taking a managed-services approach to augment the DBA function enables DBAs to get ahead of their problems. Enterprise expenditure on IT is soaring to new levels, and DBAs have ample opportunities to increase their value by overcoming their core challenges.
Pierre Fricke is Vice President of Product Marketing at EnterpriseDB. Fricke has a long history in open source software. He spent 10 years as director of product marketing for JBoss Middleware. He had joined JBoss Inc. just over a year before its acquisition by Red Hat in 2006 and stayed on until he joined EDB. He first became involved in open-source software in 1998, during his 17 years at IBM. Fricke played a critical role in establishing IBM’s Linux and open-source strategy as one of seven team leaders whose contributions are still utilized today. He also spent five years as an industry analyst with an emphasis on Java and Microsoft application development and integration software.
Pierre is primarily responsible for defining EnterpriseDB’s strategy and driving new marketing messages that bridge the traditional database world to the new unstructured opportunities for customers.
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