In the Field

Can DBAs Relax About Security?

AIOUG president outlines new challenges and opportunities for India’s database professionals.

By Leslie Steere

March/April 2019

Want to talk about a big job? How about launching and managing a single Oracle user group to serve the seventh-largest country in the world (at about 1,269,219 square miles), in which information technology accounts for 7% to 8% of the GDP, with much of that work outsourced from other countries? Then you have some sense of the large-scale challenges facing Sai Penumuru, president of the All India Oracle Users Group (AIOUG). Oracle Magazine caught up with Penumuru recently to see just how those challenges are evolving in the new world of autonomous services and other emerging technologies.

Begun in 2007, AIOUG is now one of the largest Oracle user groups in the Asia-Pacific region, with eight chapters across the country and about 10,000 members. “We started as one group,” says Penumuru, who is also chief technologist at DXC Technology, an Oracle ACE Director, and an Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and somehow manages to wear all four hats with élan. “But at a certain stage, we realized that one person or one board of directors could not manage covering the whole of India.” So AIOUG set out to expand to different areas, establishing common standards and bylaws for each new chapter to follow. “There are a lot of benefits to having one single user group,” says Penumuru about this hierarchical structure. “We can approach Oracle as one voice, and we get really good support.”

Indian DBAs in an Autonomous World

Its large population of skilled workers and cost-effective tax and wage structures, among other advantages, have made India a primary destination for IT outsourcing since the early 1990s—meaning that today database professionals in India “manage hundreds or thousands of computing resources for large multinational customers,” says Penumuru. “They have enormous workloads.”

That makes technology advances such as Oracle Autonomous Database both frightening and attractive to AIOUG members. “There is always an initial fear from anyone in IT when discussions about automation come up,” says Penumuru. “That is natural. People think about the security of their career. But for many AIOUG members, autonomous should help them, not hinder them. Indian consultancies and data centers manage volumes of infrastructure that are not seen anywhere else in the world, so tools and mechanisms to reduce the workload of our members will be a good thing.”

Autonomous: Vacation Time for DBAs?

In a country where database professionals are managing computing resources for huge multinationals from around the world, security has to be a top priority and DBAs spend an inordinate amount of time and energy ensuring that their clients’ data is safe.

But with Oracle Autonomous Database, says Sai Penumuru, president of the All India Oracle Users Group, “I can say it’s not such a concern anymore. Because initially, as DBAs, we need to apply CPU patches. And I think most organizations don’t follow the schedule. So we always have a threat, right? Now we don’t. We can say it’s like a holiday time for DBAs, because most of [the threats] are covered with Oracle Autonomous Database. I think even if there is some security attack in Oracle Autonomous Database—even if we don’t know about it—the database is going to fix that. So I think it’s a good time for DBAs to take a vacation.”

With an autonomous database taking care of most of the administration and management tasks, he says, “we can focus on other areas like database modeling, security, and big data. So it is not really cutting your jobs. You are basically shifting your career to different areas.” And that is the message AIOUG members need to hear more often from the experts at Oracle, Penumuru adds. “Oracle Autonomous Database is really good news for us,” he says. “It is really a vacation time for DBAs, because [today] we are spending most of our time doing the admin activities.”

Securing Databases—and Jobs

Many of AIOUG’s members are involved in ensuring high-availability solutions for customers, says Penumuru, “and perhaps the biggest challenge to high availability nowadays is not infrastructural but the risk of getting hacked.”

For Indian IT workers, he says, “customer trust is perhaps the new definition of high availability. It is not just having your systems available that matters but that the data in them is secure and that you can be trusted with people’s data.” Most organizations “don’t apply security patches—CPU patches—on time,” he adds. Besides, “just when one security incident hits the newspapers and is fixed, new and innovative ways for people to breach your security mechanisms quickly come along.” Now, seeing that Oracle is doing things such as automated security patching, “I feel as a DBA, I’m actually relaxed, because Oracle is taking care of it.”

Database professionals today, he says, need to have more-general skills rather than focusing tightly on specific roles such as backup DBA or performance DBA. There will be a shift from specialist options such as DBA or Java developer to customers wanting IT people with a broader skill spectrum, Penumuru adds. “For example, DBAs will look after cloud networks, and developers will have operations-style experience for DevOps.”

And user groups need to help their members prepare for these new realities. “We need to support new technologies for our members such as microservices, DevOps, and blockchain,” he says.

AIOUG addresses these needs with a multipronged approach. Its chapters each run monthly Tech Days focused on specific technologies. The group’s annual two-day event, Sangam, is “something like a mini Oracle OpenWorld,” says Penumuru, and covers a range of technologies. And its Oracle Groundbreakers Yatra is a seven-city tour where developers can meet with Oracle experts and learn about the latest technologies.

Because AIOUG supports members across such a large region, “webinars and remote education are essential,” says Penumuru; for example, members take advantage of the publicly available Ask TOM Office Hours to learn from live Q&A sessions with experts on various aspects of Oracle technologies. The user group also publishes a monthly magazine, Connect, to keep members informed.

Next Steps

WATCH a Sai Penumuru video.


LEARN more about Sangam.

Photography by Oracle Digital Media Production