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DBAs defend against offshore outsourcing

In order to protect themselves against offshore outsourcing, database administrators must prove that the best DBAs do a whole lot more than backup and recovery.

Database administrators must expand their skill sets and take on business management roles to protect their jobs...

as the popularity of offshore outsourcing increases, according to industry experts.

As new technology allows for more DBA jobs than ever to be filled at remote locations, more database administrators -- especially junior ones -- are vulnerable to outsourcing, according to some experts.

"It's not surprising that DBAs are having trouble finding jobs," said Cynthia Kroll, a senior regional economist at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at University of California, Berkeley. "Some of the job losses have been the dot.com busts, but I think a significant portion of this is outsourcing."

Kroll recently co-authored a report titled "The New Wave of Outsourcing" and is working on a book titled Globalization and the High-tech Economy.

Her report, released earlier this month, estimated that India -- the primary destination of business services outsourcing from Western countries -- would employ over 2 million people by 2005 as a result of offshore outsourcing. The offshore outsourcing sector is growing at a rate of 60% a year.

Do DBAs need to be on site?

In India, Anand Varadarajan, an Oracle DBA and co-founder of a DBA outsourcing firm, said that he may be offering cheaper labor, but his standards are as high as the ones American companies have. Varadarajan knows that many U.S.-based companies argue that companies are taking big risks, and underestimating the role of the DBA, when they outsource jobs.

"We are able to offer services at a much cheaper rate, because our cost of living is quite low, but the type of expertise we do provide is equal to the best, and even better," he said.

Varadarajan's firm, Sri Siddhi Soft Solutions Pvt. Ltd., has 20 India-based DBAs under contract, and his staff monitors the databases of dozens of global companies, including two U.S.-based companies that Varadarajan refused to name, citing a nondisclosure agreements he has with those clients.

Despite Varadarajan's success, many U.S.-based DBAs, working in full-time and contract positions, remain convinced that companies won't hire what they call "off-the-shelf" DBAs for the serious task of overseeing corporate data.

"The database administrator has to be supporting the business needs of a company, and companies don't want an expert that can have problems communicating [because of location] with rest of support team," said Thomas Cox, a Portland, Wash.-based Oracle DBA who works as an independent consultant.

Cox recently designed and maintained a database for a company that tracked every song played on nearly every radio station in North America. The project was daunting, and Cox said that his biggest challenge was to design it in a way that would keep the end users unaware of how enormous the task was.

"This is the kind of project that requires deep knowledge and deep skill, and you can't just get that off the shelf in any country," Cox said.

DBAs who have minimal skills or skills specific to one area need to redefine their roles to remain competitive, said Arup Nanda, a Norwalk, Conn.-based DBA who runs Proligence, an Oracle consultancy. Nanda is among the many database professionals who believe the role of the DBA is often misunderstood, and defined as one that can be done within the confines of a cubicle anywhere in the world.

"It's a person who needs to be physically present, in contact with the end users, or even the designers,'' Nanda said.

Junior DBAs especially struggle against the notion they can be easily replaced, Nanda said. Some employers mistakenly assume that DBA duties consist of creating users and looking for database space availability, Nanda said.

At the end of the day, Nanda said, "The DBA job can not be commoditized."


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Tomorrow: Read part 2 of our special report on DBA offshore outsourcing.

Check out our Best Web Links on Database administration as a career.

Check out our exclusive story on how to get an Oracle DBA job.

To provide feedback on this article, contact Robert Westervelt.

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