Why database admins should embrace automation

There are certain functions in database administration, that are good candidates for automation. These are the nuts and bolts of the job – like how to partition the storage, what happens if a disk fails or determining which physical disk data needs to be stored on. Some of these more mundane tasks no longer require as much manual intervention, because software has evolved to where the machine can take care of them. But this automation is not the same as autonomous database management.

Computer Weekly recently met up with Ravi Mayuram, senior vice president of products and engineering at Couchbase. Mayuram likens the current state of database administration as analogous to the automatic gearboxes in a car. Clearly the automatic gearbox is a long way from fully autonomous vehicles. But it offers a degree of convenience, which is where some of the automation now possible in database management have evolved to. In terms of databases, for Mayuram, in a fully autonomous database management system, the system will be able to fix itself. A fully autonomous database will more or less drive itself .But he reckons there will always be situations where humans will be needed.

Automation is nothing new for IT folk. Managing operating systems and software infrastructure used to be achieved using scripting. But Mayuram believes that the reason why full automation is taking a while to become part of the DBAs toolset is that databases are very unique. This is due to the way the relational database was originally engineered in the 1970s. “The whole database architecture is a bit like a car with a manual gearbox. It just cannot be automated,” says Mayuram. As such, it  has provided gainful employment for the DBAs in many organisations

Self- driving database management

But, in time automation of database management will be possible, which will lead to DBAs no longer having the role of tinkering with the relational database system.

What will the expert DBA spend their time doing, when database admin tasks are automated?

Mayuram says: “With any change, it’s myopic to look at how many jobs will be eliminated. All the DBAs will not be eliminated because data is more essential now than it has ever been before.” He believes their job description will change such that DBAs will have a more pivotal role to play in helping the business run faster. The DBA will be the person who is capable of reducing the complexity of providing access to enterprise’s data in the right format at the time the business requires information to make decisions.

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