MSsql guru Brent Ozar asked an interesting question to the DBA’s in one of his blogs:
“what do you think you do better than the cloud?”
It’s a good question and lies at the heart of the transformation of production DBA to cloud DBA. Where does the cloud fall short and where can the DBA make a difference? What is the place of the cloud DBA and where can he add the extra value?
Some of the respondents took the liberty to discuss the shortcomings of the cloud as the difference between hype and reality became obvious to them, so the answers also give an insight of what issue’s are encountered by DBA’s who work with cloud technologies.
The majority of remarks was about performance and costcontrol. On the third place came ‘nothing’ as what they could do better. Further down the rank were the lower systemvisibility, security concerns, support quality and so on.
As for performance, all the DBA’s are not impressed : “..our local data center blows Azure out of the water.” It seems that the virtual CPU / physical CPU ratio isn’t as good in the cloud as they are on premise. In your own datacenter you can check this ratio and correct any over-commitment but in the cloud you’re stuck with what you’re given. Of course you can buy yourself extra performance to the equivalent of your large onpremise machine, but the costs quickly become prohibitive. It is for this very reason that performance management is an area where the cloud DBA can save money. As Brent Ozar was told in a conversation with a CTO:
” ..the CTO told me, “I thought I’d save money in the cloud by not having a DBA, but what I’m learning is that in the cloud, I actually get a return on my DBA investments.”
On the second place is cost management. As one respondent noted: “Make a plan on prem and run with it for 5 years. Make a plan in the cloud and you are revisiting it every 8-10 months“. There are indeed many moving parts: price structures can change, extra load may need the purchase of heavier machines and “constant resource usage monitoring and $$discussions” . From my experience, I agree with the comment “many people know too little about costs and paradigm shifts which make for some huge intangible but very real costs to just up and move“. And here is where the cloud DBA steps in.
So back to the question: What can the DBA’s do better than the cloud? From the potpourri of answers it seems that the DBA’s are in a position to evaluate cost/performance or ‘bang for the buck’. This is backed by studies in the field:
“Businesses increasingly rely on DBAs to help them understand the pricing implications and ROI of moving to the cloud.”
“… seasoned DBAs are seen as key influencers in the overall data management infrastructure and their input is sought for decisions such as when to move data to the cloud.”
The foregoing shows that the DBA in its new role of cloud data asset manager can have a lot of value, however it takes one crucial element to achieve it. And that is that the company realizes that costs are a design parameter. Without this, any cloud adventures may end up pretty costly. It’s the task of the DBA to convey this message.