Becoming a cloud DBA (I)

rule 1: Know why your company goes to the cloud

The cloud is going to change the role of the DBA“. That message is omnipresent in webcasts, conferences and perhaps at your company as well. It is presented as the big gamechanger, making you move up in the valuechain and leave behind the chores of patching, setting up high availability systems or writing backup strategies. Or will it?

There are a few changes in the DBA roles and tasks for sure, but to which extend depends on several factors. As you may have noticed, the role of the DBA is very broad and every company has his own boundaries of responsibilities for the DBA. The cloud won’t change that, but still there are some main roads laid out for you. An important one is the motivation of your company to go to the cloud. For simplicity, I will consider two basic reasons. The first is the idea that the costs of the cloud is lower than the onpremis machines.

Some companies are stuck with old and deprecated hardware and stuffed datacenters, and therefor look forward to happily leave the legacy behind and enjoy the CAPEX model. (That is, pay as you go with no upfront hardware costs). As their datacenters are maxed out with hardware that has exceeded its economical life, the cloud presents itself as an easy way out without costly transformation costs.
The second main reason is more organizational one: the struggling company is stuck with many political trench lines that run through the IT department, with Windows Admins, Network Admins, DBA and developers as the warring factions in an ongoing trench-war.
How wonderful wouldn’t it be if all the infrastructure is maintained by a single someone else? Some place where all the infrastructure is available with a few clicks on a button and all political lines are redefined? It exists, is the cloud! Yes, this cloud promises to be the crowbar that gets organizational changes done.

Of course there are other reasons to go to the cloud. For example, several companies fear a disruptive digital innovation on their market and they realise that their IT department needs to switch from a business supporting role to a business driving one. But for the sake of simplicity (and for the focus on the DBA role) I will only look at the two aforementioned reasons to go to the cloud which i will dub: “lower costs” or “vision”.

It is important for the DBA to know in which of these two settings (s)he is, as this will determine the tasks and skills that are needed. We’ll have a look at these different roles of both scenario’s in later posts.

Apart from the cost factor, there is an other element that influences the DBA role, and that is whether you have paying customers – internal or external – or not. For example, an internal customer is a different department in your company, such as the Business Intelligence team who can buy more horsepower for their data warehouse from you. Or you have external customers, much like the cloudvendors themselves. Anyway, if you do have paying customers, you’re a cloud reseller and buy the resources to create your portfolio. Alternatively, if you haven’t got paying customers but instead need to service the database needs with a fixed budget, this will reflect on your choices and tasks in the cloud.

In the coming posts, we’ll see how.

Continue at Part II: Cost Driven Cloud Movements

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