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Why I know DBA role survives the public cloud.

Hand zooming into tablet with overhanging cloud.
Survival in the clouds.

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen it occasionally come up in the discussions that DBA won’t be needed in the future. Originally, it started with the vendors claiming that their database systems are becoming self-tuning. Then the final nail in the coffin was to be the public cloud, which was also to be self-tuning. And it wouldn’t be just self-tuning, it would be infused with AI and tears of the DBAs to produce absolute magic.

While technology has definitely gone forward, nothing’s yet fully self-tuning, but cloud (especially the cloud bills) have certainly brought tears to the eyes of many DBAs, and occasional CFO. There are also signs, that rather clearly, point to the fact that the DBA role, and other IT specialist roles, aren’t dying away anytime soon either.

Let me tell you why.

Databases still require tuning.

This is the simplest reason I can think of. Cloud can scale up quite a bit, if you allow it, but so will your cloud bill. I’ve previously written about the infamous money slider, which enables you to ramp up the speed of your database, by throwing more money at it. In the past couple years, I’ve saved some of our customers thousands of euros in a year, just by tuning indexes and query, followed by the downsizing of some massive databases.

Microsoft has done some work on automatic tuning for Azure SQL, and it does a decent job in tackling some easier performance issues. It’s not a replacement for a DBA, though, just one more tool for the DBA to use when managing databases at cloud scale.

Data protection and recovery is important.

PaaS databases take backups automatically, however the old wisdom is, that you don’t plan backups, you plan recovery. Having backups without a plan to recover from them, doesn’t win you points. And while you can restore a database from backup, do you have expertise to recovered data from table level? DBA’s have that kind of skills, and you should probably hire one, if you haven’t already.

It’s not just the DBA role that thrives in the public cloud.

The DBA role continues to be ever relevant in the public cloud, but so do other IT specialists. In the last one to two years, we’ve seen many companies recruit rather familiar sounding roles to manage their public cloud environments. Besides Cloud DBAs, we’re seeing teams of cloud security, cloud storage, and cloud network specialists becoming more and more common.

Why would you need these IT specialists in the era of a public cloud?

Public cloud. So easy that your grandparents can do it.

Have you ever been told that using public cloud is so easy, that absolutely anyone, including your grandparents, can do it? Me too. It’s also true, that public cloud provides enough abstraction that you can just click your way through a portal, and infrastructure miraculously appears. However, there is a considerable number of configurations that you can touch, and should touch, rather than accept the defaults proposed by the cloud vendors.

Building on public cloud is easy. It’s also equally easy to make horrible, and sometimes costly, mistakes. To help you avoid the mistakes, both Azure and AWS have created guidelines, called Well-Architected Framework, to help you build your public cloud infrastructure properly. If you have ever participated in a Well-Architected Review, you are probably already aware that there are dozens and dozens of details that you’d need to be aware of.

And these details, described in the pillars of the Well-Architected Frameworks, apply to all the different types of services you have in the public cloud.

Most organizations aren’t single cloud, or cloud only.

Despite what the cloud vendors would like to see, most organizations are running part of their services and infrastructure in some type of hybrid form. It could be a combination of on-premises and public cloud, or two public clouds. And then you do need to have these skill sets, like that of a cloud DBA, who have the ability to answer questions, such as.

And countless other, similar, questions.

Long live the IT specialists!

It’s time to wrap up this post, while celebrating the IT specialist roles that continue to thrive in the public cloud. While it’s tempting to think, that eventually the technology becomes so advanced, that we don’t need to worry about the technical details of implementation, we’re not there yet.

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