IT Innovation | August 6, 2019

The DBA's Role and Oracle Autonomous Database

By: Nancy Swanson


When Oracle announced the release of its Autonomous Database in 2018, DBAs had to wonder how it would change their jobs. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, the Autonomous Database handles patching, upgrades, and tuning; manages its own security needs; and can perform repairs on itself, eliminating human error in the process. What’s left for a DBA to do?

Well, the fun stuff: As automation absorbs mundane tasks such as tuning, backups, optimization, configuration, and provisioning, DBAs will spend less time maintaining the physical database and more time extracting value from the data itself. Specifically, the role will expand into data architecture and modeling even as it becomes more strategic and collaborative with other areas of the business.

Focus on the Data, Not the Database

As companies collect increasing volumes of data and their business models become more data-driven, DBAs must leverage their (very human) expertise to provide true value. If you are a DBA, congratulations! Your evolving role will now include helping developers and business users get the most out of the information you manage. With your knowledge of data structure and organization, you can devise more agile development techniques to help developers build better applications, for example, or provide insight into how the system will perform under various conditions. At the same time, you should expand your understanding of areas such as business intelligence (BI), cloud computing, and data security in order to meet the requirements of your new role. Among the specific skills DBAs should develop are:

  • Analytics: Now is the time to explore the analytical capabilities built into Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse. These include an extensive library of machine learning (ML) algorithms that can help predict customer behavior, identify cross-selling opportunities, and detect anomalies.
  • Data modeling: While database maintenance can be automated, the valuable work of data modeling requires people. A well-thought-out data model can help an application work more smoothly and help end-users get the answers they really need.
  • Development: Since you’ll be interacting more and more with the in-house development team, you should get up to speed using developer tools such as GitHub, Docker, and REST services.

Align with the Business

As the data experts in the organization, DBAs can create value by making more data available to more people. Seize this opportunity to become more involved in helping the business extract value from its data capital. It will be critical for DBAs to take a more proactive role in problem-solving, which means understanding the importance of specific types of data to key business stakeholders. Stretch your networking and collaborative muscles by reaching out to multiple business functions with offers of help. You should learn how to communicate the value you can contribute effectively but, even more important, you should listen with an open mind to better understand the needs of users. Then, make yourself invaluable by coming to them with new ideas about what insights they can draw from their data. Be on the lookout for solutions, and be willing to investigate and innovate to bring those ideas to fruition.

Play a Bigger Role in Application Development and Data Science

Data scientists and business analysts need access to clean, real-time data to do their work, making a DBA’s knowledge of data sources and formats especially valuable. You can help them find ways to discern trends and patterns, bring in external data, or connect to outside analytics tools to augment their analyses. In-house developers also need access to data and the database services you can offer. Engage developers and help them understand what the database is capable of so that they expand the functionality of their applications.

Fear not, database administrators. Your role isn’t going away. In fact, it’s evolving to become more valuable than ever. Far from threatening your job, the age of the autonomous database will open greater opportunities to take a seat at the strategy table. But it won’t happen without your initiative. By forging broader partnerships across the organization, being in tune with the business, and making yourself invaluable to the data science, BI, and analytics teams, you can take on a greater and more rewarding role than ever before.

Nancy Swanson is senior director of product marketing for the Oracle Database Applicance portfolio.

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