In the Field

Oracle Exadata’s Organizational Impact

With Oracle Exadata, consolidation isn’t just for information and applications.

By Andy Flower

November/December 2011

By now you have all heard many pronouncements about why Oracle Exadata provides a technical and business advantage: data warehousing, big data, consolidation, private clouds, and so on. What I want to discuss in this column, however, is the impact Oracle Exadata has on the team that supports it.

In most organizations, there are three distinct roles to administer your database, server, and storage environments. Often these three roles belong to separate teams with different line management. In rare cases (I’ll let you define how frequent “rare” is), this leads to organizational politics and finger-pointing, particularly when you are experiencing issues with one or more of your database servers.

Enter Oracle Exadata. When you have a new server that integrates, consolidates, and streamlines the administration of your data servers, how do you allocate resources? Which team—DBA, systems administration, or storage—takes on the primary responsibility for the Oracle Exadata Database Machine? Further still, have you introduced a new role to your organization? These are interesting questions that may not yet have definitive answers.

At the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), we have a fairly DBA-centric view of things. DBAs make up a significant part of our history and the roots of our organization. So when first presented with the Oracle Exadata challenge, we looked at it through the DBA prism. We’ve since discovered that we needed to—and here I’ll paraphrase Tom Kyte from the membership lunch at the IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE—“unlearn what we know as DBAs.”

Managing a database on Oracle Exadata truly changes what a DBA needs to manage for performance and storage optimization. And if the responsibility for Oracle Exadata changes how a DBA needs to work, is which team should have primary responsibility for Oracle Exadata still the best question? Or do we in fact need a new kind of administrator: an Oracle Exadata administrator?

I think there is a tendency to assume that today’s Oracle DBAs will acquire the skills to become Oracle Exadata administrators (EAs), so let’s assume that the EA role will come from the DBA team. Then what about systems and storage admins? Since many of the new skills required to be an EA include systems and storage administration, it seems possible—even natural—to cross-train these individuals to also be EAs. Why should DBAs be the only ones given the opportunity to evolve their skill set with Oracle Exadata?

So with Oracle Exadata, where we previously needed three different roles to support one database server, we now need only one role—the EA. With Oracle Exadata, the old DBA, sys admin, and storage roles are gone, replaced by this notional EA role. Managers and technicians alike need to prepare for this reality.

As a manager, if you’ve made an investment in Oracle Exadata, you certainly don’t want to understaff its support. Having multiple hands at the ready, from different core skills backgrounds, will help build a team of EAs to provide better, more-consistent database deployments and administration.

As a technician, if Oracle Exadata is in your future, whether you are a DBA or a systems or storage administrator, you need to prepare by acquiring the skills you need to be an EA.

IOUG is here to help with this transition for both technology and organizational change. We have launched specific programs on Oracle Exadata for our members, in partnership with our IOUG Oracle Exadata special interest group (SIG). The programming includes

  • Our Oracle Exadata—Start to Finish Webinar series

  • A ResearchWire study on data warehousing with a focus on Oracle Exadata

  • An Oracle Exadata certification program (being prototyped at the time this column was written, with a launch date still to be determined)

  • An event model that brings Oracle Exadata-specific training and educational events closer to you, year-round

If you are a DBA, you are probably aware of these programs and have begun to take advantage of the lessons being shared by your peers. If you are not a DBA, this is a great time to find out what Oracle Exadata means to systems and storage management professionals.

Next Steps

LEARN more about IOUG Oracle Exadata programs and the IOUG Oracle Exadata SIG

Photography by Redd Angelo, Unsplash