Behind the scenes: A day in the life of a database administrator

Here is a take a look at how one database administrator collaborates along with his coworkers, serving to analyze information, strategizing with enterprise leaders and main groups at work.


Picture: Getty Pictures/iStockphoto

Kevin Kline began his profession at NASA, as a part of the staff that constructed the water recycling system within the Worldwide Area Station. He was one of many few folks engaged on the Oracle database. Again then, he mentioned, it was 128 megabytes. “We thought that database was huge—and infinitely enormous,” he mentioned.

Now “Head Geek” at SolarWinds, Kline helps clients with enterprise structure, IT management expertise, troubleshooting and adopting finest practices for optimum database efficiency monitoring, on-premises and within the cloud.

After NASA, Kline was hooked on information. “I liked the entire side of information. One factor that is actually neat is that even when the appliance that you simply’re utilizing is revised, or a brand new model is launched, or even when it is cancelled, you probably have the info, you continue to have all the things that is worthwhile to you.”

Information isn’t “this summary factor that solely exists within the ether,” he mentioned. “It is this actual factor that adjustments and improves folks’s lives. And in order that’s once I determined to actually focus not simply on writing code, however what’s the information? What does it imply, it tells a narrative? And might we interpret that story to go from there?”

A DBA is a second profession for many, Kline . He himself labored as a developer for six years after school, and plenty of of these find yourself as system admins, or individuals who administer and construct servers. Being a DBA was not one thing schools skilled for, at the moment. It is why there are by no means sufficient DBAs, nonetheless, he mentioned.

Kline discovered lots of the vital expertise on the job. Again then, round 1994—after his stint at NASA—you could not simply take on-line courses to do it. However, fortunately, his firm funded his coaching.

In some methods, the job of a database administrator is analogous in the present day to what it was within the earlier days. “In the present day, we’re capable of do issues extra rapidly, we’re capable of automate a number of issues,” he mentioned. Additionally, his position is extra interpersonal than folks may suppose. 

“The DBAs are continually assembly with completely different groups throughout the firm,” he mentioned, corresponding to dev groups, to determine the right way to design the fitting database. “We assist design the enterprise logic, the place that logic resides, whether or not it is contained in the database, in saved procedures, or perhaps it is outdoors the database and functions or now with the cloud—it may very well be in issues like Azure Features or you already know, some sort of micro service or one thing like that,” he mentioned.

SEE: Snowflake information warehouse platform: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

So his work covers a number of time “grooming” completely different databases and consulting with enterprise leaders, Kline . Determining what occurs if the server crashes, the right way to get better information, as an example, “so we by no means lose greater than 10 minutes of information,” he mentioned. There are every kind of issues, corresponding to how a lot to spend on {hardware}. 

“It seems like a negotiation, when actually, it is actually you advising them what their present determination means,” he mentioned. “After which maybe they modify their choices by means of the method of dialogue.”


Picture: Kevin Kline

Kline grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, close to the Marshall Area Flight Middle and the US Military Redstone Arsenal, the place the military missile methods are designed. As a child within the Seventies, his dad was a pc engineer at Boeing, and so they had a Commodore 64 at dwelling, which he mentioned “was a uncommon factor again then.” By the point he was in highschool, he may program in Fortran. His classmates had mother and father working for NASA or the ISS or on Hubble.

In school, he took database design and discovered SQL. He even despatched his grasp’s thesis in to {a magazine}, and had it revealed as a e book—the e book was about “Oracle’s new shift from character-mode methods to this fancy new working system known as Home windows.”

He discovered that “the true worth is not simply that you simply’re placing information right into a database, it is the knowledge that you simply get out of it, you already know, information isn’t essentially worthwhile in and of itself. It is if you combination the info and, and sort of therapeutic massage it into one thing that’s informative,” he mentioned.

“What I discovered to be most enjoyable about being a DBA is which you could assist the enterprise folks perceive and extract worth from the info that they collected,” Kline continued.

Kline desires to help new DBAs, with the entire new choices which can be out there. “Now we’ve all of those completely different, not simply SQL primarily based databases, like SQL Server and Oracle, and MySQL and PostgreSQL. However we even have all of those, like MongoDB, and Cosmos DB and Cassandra. Every one among them has candy spots the place they carry out rather well, so it’s important to study a minimum of the fundamentals of these. After which we’ve every kind of various programming paradigms,” he mentioned.

In his present position, Kline thinks of himself as “that pleasant, cool, youthful aunt, or uncle, that might pull you apart, you already know, and so they’re like, ‘Your mother and father need you to do all the things, however we’re gonna inform you about the true world right here,'” Kline mentioned. 

Kline does webcasts to assist share this data. “I believe [about] all of those a few years of expertise as a DBA, as a developer, as an Enterprise Architect, and I give that again to our group, usually in weblog posts, and webinars with plenty of demos. So I nonetheless maintain my coding expertise sharp, and information of the database, and so forth.”

On a typical day, he is taking good care of issues like backups, corruption checks, and preventative upkeep, Kline mentioned. And assembly with clients to determine the perfect answer for what’s coming.

“And most DBAs spend a number of time firefighting,” he added.

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