One Forrester Research analyst is predicting that 30% of U.S. companies will outsource their database operations in the next five years. That's bad news for U.S.-based database administrators.
But last week, International Data Corp. issued a report saying that the concern over offshore outsourcing and its impact on U.S. employment is overblown. Only low-skill IT jobs will continue to grow overseas, the report said. That's good news for DBAs. Maybe.
The problem for database administrators, according to many analysts and industry professionals, is that some companies do not consider the scope of a DBA's role to be outside of routine maintenance and backup and recovery. Junior DBAs, already at a disadvantage in a dismal U.S. job market, are very likely to get lumped into that low-skill category.
"The overseas Oracle remote support is more of a threat to junior database administrators who perform routine DBA work, such as monitoring and table reorganizations," said Don Burleson, an independent consultant who heads Kittrell, N.C.-based Burleson Oracle Consulting.
For experienced DBAs, though, the number of U.S. corporate scandals that have involved sensitive data weighs heavily in their favor. Mission-critical database applications, as well as applications related to health records and consumer credit, are among those that U.S. companies are less likely to outsource, analysts say.
"As the CEO of one of the largest remote DBA companies, I find that the overseas DBA support poses no real threat," Burleson said. "Even though I probably charge more than 10 times the costs of overseas Oracle support, our remote Oracle support business is growing rapidly."
The automation equation
Noel Yuhanna, a senior industry analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, said that new database technology is another factor to consider when talking about offshore outsourcing. He predicted that, by 2005, 30% of U.S. companies will outsource their databases.
Today, one DBA monitors and maintains up to 21 databases, on average, according to Yuhanna. During the next three years, that ratio is expected to climb to 30 database per DBA, he said.
"The trend in the market is greater automation and simpler administration, and we don't expect that to change," he said.
Although the Department of Labor reported a net growth of 126,000 jobs in October, the largest one-month gain since the recession officially ended in November 2001, it is difficult to forecast whether DBA and other high-tech jobs are also recovering, said Richard Ellis of Ellis Research Services in Carlisle, Pa.
Ellis has been researching the job market as part of an ongoing study over the past decade for the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, a Washington think tank.
The outsourcing of IT work to foreign locations has quadrupled, according to Ellis. Outsourced transactions in technical work have grown from $300 million in 1995 to over $1.2 billion, and the numbers continue to climb, he said.
"I think the problem is more a matter of the viability of American wages in a global employment market," Ellis said. "Americans can't compete with foreign workers making much lower wages."
J.P. Bicket, an Oracle DBA who has over a decade of experience at a natural gas company in the Midwest, changed jobs during the summer. He said he didn't have trouble finding a new job because of his experience. But he knows younger DBAs won't be as lucky.
"I don't think that companies are going to spend the extra money to train someone to do the job," he said. "They're either looking for someone with experience, or they're going to consider outsourcing."
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