DBAs take on new role in the enterprise

Some database administrators are finding their work assignments and job titles are changing as quickly as new DBMS technology is.

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Arup Nanda, a skilled Oracle DBA consultant, is among those database professionals whose work assignments have changed drastically in recent years.

Nanda, a database security expert, is now working with entire architectures, including application servers and Web services.

Many employers want a multitalented DBA, not just a server-room person who keeps the databases backed up.
Wayne Snyder,
SQL Server DBA and consultant

"What a DBA does is becoming kind of fuzzy," said Nanda, whose consultancy, Proligence is based in Norwalk, Conn. "Today, it's expected of a DBA to be involved in more than just the database."

Nanda and other industry experts are seeing the traditional roles of database administrators and developers meld and change, along with some of the job titles. The new role is closer to that of a data architect, a database professional who is knowledgeable of company-wide systems and how they interact.

"Five years ago a successful DBA needed to understand Oracle from end to end," Nanda said. "Today, that DBA is judged on how he can provide a solution to a company-wide problem and creatively make it happen."

DBAs must now understand Web services, security and enterprise level disaster recovery, Nanda said.

A DBA needs to know how information flows from system to system, and is more involved in business strategy discussions than ever before, said Wayne Snyder, a SQL Server DBA and consultant based in Charlotte, N.C.

"Many employers want a multitalented DBA, not just a server-room person who keeps the databases backed up," Synder said. "Knowledge of BI, XML, reporting services, and some .NET application language is becoming more of a requirement."

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Many industry experts began predicting a change in DBA skill sets when IBM, Oracle Corp. and other major DBMS vendors began to automate daily, mundane database maintenance task. When SQL Server 2005 is released, the DBMS will have tighter XML and CLR support, adding to the skills needed by SQL Server DBAs, Synder said.

"There's always work for people who can set up the backup schedules, create replication schemes, perform patch management and other physical things like that," said Kevin Kline, president of the Professional Association of SQL Server users. "On the other hand, there is a growing number of jobs where the database specialist never has to touch the bare metal of a server."

The growing number of jobs for skilled specialists, like Nanda, are on the rise. Nanda, who started out patching and maintaining a single database, is now consulting for global companies seeking to reduce outdated legacy systems and improve integration.

"In the past, we didn't have to know how information flows from system to system because it was departmentalized," Nanda said. "This is a positive trend that kind of forces you to understand the entire enterprise processes."

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