The DBA time machine & the future of data

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Rob Tribe, VP of systems engineering for EMEA region at Nutanix.

Tribe contends that today, none of us can attend a conference (virtual or otherwise) without being told that data is the new oil. It has become a ‘modern media meme’ in its own right… but in that meme, there is a grain of truth i.e. only refined and managed data will deliver insights and opportunities that follow in line.

But, managing the epicentre of the data world, the relational database, has always been a complex affair.

The good news (in terms of the proposition being made here) is that database simplicity is now possible if companies embrace the new tools at hand.

But just how complex is database management?

Tribe writes as follows…

Database management is certainly one of the knottiest and thorniest tasks in all of enterprise IT and (very often) the work it involves is not glamorous with tasks associated with patching and investigating bugs and incompatibilities all racking up a roster of day-to-day tasks.

Most scaled-up companies have hundreds of database instances and many copies of each instance – organisations store an average of six copies of the same data, according to analyst firm ESG last year and some, older research suggests, more.

Add provisioning, refreshing, tuning, securing, monitoring, cloning, restoring, applying consistent processes and other operations for those instances and copies across various hardware configurations and applications and you have a complicated and time-consuming role.

Of course, the rise of the corporate database also led to the specialist role (and our modern notion) of the database administrator (DBA) and today DBAs are expensive and in demand because database management remains at the heart of how companies run their IT shops. Now, however, the DBA has an advantage: a new era of database management tools that simplify database management. These even include the ability to go back in time.

Stepping back in time

HG Wells’ science-fiction novella The Time Machine was published 125 years ago in 1895, describing a man’s ability to travel into the future (spoiler- bad things happen).

Today though, CIOs can do the opposite, taking regular snapshots of their data and then travelling backward in time if needed. This capability offers interesting applications: in just a few minutes, it’s now possible to roll back a database to any point in time, for example, if the business wants to analyse a previous version of a dataset. It also becomes a trivial task to fix data corrupted by human error or an upgrade glitch.

Slick-i-ness not stickiness

Modern database management tools also provide other useful capabilities. One big challenge for CIOs and CTOs today is vendor management and this is especially the case in the database market because it has historically been very difficult for mature companies to swap out suppliers, such is the ‘stickiness’ of the sector.

Often IT leaders are under pressure and powerless because they feel locked into large companies and, partly for this reason, the database has traditionally been a very expensive asset. But the new tools are highly automated and allow database operations such as provisioning, cloning and refreshing to be performed in one click. These tools lessen the dependence on the core database and that means companies don’t need to invest so heavily in storage or in as many DBAs and storage admins because complexity is masked or made invisible via automation.

The most modern tools also support multiple databases so IT leaders can switch some workloads from premium-priced brands to lower-cost and open source RDBMS options such as Postgres and MySQL. That opportunity is seeing more and more companies edging away from the major databases one application at a time, making significant cost savings on software licences and storage, and clawing back control of their destinies.

DBaaS

Some call the new world Database as a Service (DBaaS).

In this new era for databases, there is a huge opportunity to save costs, become less dependent on key vendors and simplify operations. Just as important, there’s also the chance to release the database admin from drudgery tasks that our research suggests takes up about three-quarters of the DBA day.

Modernising your approach to database management provides DBAs with a platform to get their heads up, accept new requests, apply valuable analytics and generally focus on delivering value and innovation rather than keep-the-lights-on-tasks.

Organisations that haven’t already investigated the new world of database management might want to start reading more about time travel and the future.

 

 

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