Is it boring yet?


Two years ago I’ve read an interesting post by Paul Vallee. He was explaining the business case behind Pythian and other IT outsourcing services, and made the point that in-house DBAs automate themselves out of work and into boredom.

It made lots of sense when I’ve read it, and since I’m a good DBA, and I try to automate everything, I’m waiting for my job to become boring. Somehow it does not quite happen.

The very scientific graph above explains part of the reason – In the last year our business nearly doubled (it was an amazing year!), while the DBA headcount was reduced by 30%. No one was fired. Actually two excellent DBAs were promoted. But they are no longer DBAs and there will be no replacements.

There are other things that keep me from getting bored.

  • We are doing load tests now (I could swear it was QAs job last year). Load tests are non-boring by definition – after you have the right tools and scripts there is still tons of non-automatable brain work involved.
  • We are planning to switch to new storage systems (maybe). This means that everything changes – from backups to DRP.
  • We keep evaluating new tools. Confio or Grid Control? UC4 or Opsware Orchestrate or Patchlink?
  • There are more and more exceptions to our standard procedures. In this economy it is risky saying “we don’t do this”, so we have to make our tools more and more flexible.
  • Oracle Streams. We had it automated from day one. But it keeps breaking and we keep discovering new bugs/limitations. This product is complex and buggy enough to keep me un-bored for years.
  • Integrations. Until this year we had seperate databases for seperate applications and we liked it that way. Now everyone wants their peopleware to talk to their project management tool, their monitors to their bug control, and of course everything should be integrated with the CMDB. Finding good solutions for this integrations and supporting them is a challenge.
  • Process improvements. We are an ITIL shop (and proud of it!), and big part of ITIL is the process improvement process. Release management processes are the big target this year.
  • Simple things sometimes fail. Just last month I’ve seen 2 DBAs, with over 30 years of experience between them, take over a week to install RAC.  A bug, of course. But bugs still exist.

So, I did not automate myself into boredom. Maybe next year. What about everyone else? Are you bored yet?

P.S. – the graph above is part of the latest trend of visualization. If you want to be a cutting edge and trendy DBA, read Tanel Poder and Alex Gorbachev and learn how.


10 Comments on “Is it boring yet?”

  1. chet says:

    i’m a new DBA (well, the developer who knows more than he should variety, let’s just say Junior OK?).

    i haven’t hit nor do i expect to hit the boredom factor anytime in the near future. working both sides of the fence has been fun especially in relation to security. i’ve always kept on eye on security, but from a developer perspective, not a DBA. Who has access? Who can do what? All the questions related are fun right now. I suppose that will go away after awhile…

    I could see the boredom factor coming into play though. Especially if you’re “just” a Production DBA.

  2. PaulM says:

    Paul might as well have been describing my DBA work before Pythian. You start as a full time DBA and end as a fractional DBA.

    Your boredom won’t occur until your application(s) stop growing or the number of databases you support stops.

    Another way I found to relieve boredom is learn another database. Soon you find that whilst the syntax and architecture (and tools) are different many things remain the same and are open to similar automation. Especially when there are never been a DBA ever look at the said database. This is especially true for MySQL and even some SQL server shops.

    Have Fun

  3. prodlife says:

    Yes, I expect to get bored eventually, but it is taking longer than expected.
    I do wonder whats the next career step for bored DBAs.

    @PaulM Funny, I find SQLServer and Oracle so different, that it is difficult for me to be proficient in both at the same time. After 3 month of doing intense SQLServer work, I forget some Oracle basics.

  4. […] DB’s days are numbered, you will be glad to hear that it ain’t necessarily so that DBA work is doomed to get boring. So explains Chen Shapira, illustrating her thesis with a sophisticated […]

  5. Eric Gross says:

    Chen –

    I really enjoy your blog – it’s great to see content out there on the internet from the perspective of a proactive thinking DBA who cares about how a company’s strategy plays with the database.

    I would like to mention that I think GridApp Clarity should be one of the tools that you evaluate because we have extensive content specific to the database space that can improve both the productivity of staff as well as increase the consistency across your environment.

    • prodlife says:

      I usually don’t like letting self-advertisements on my blog, but Gridapp Clarity does look like a useful tool, and we will probably add it to the list of products we’ll evaluate this year.

  6. Hi Chen,

    Nice post- fortunately, backup and recovery is never ever the same which keeps my life interesting and challenging! Especially when you have missing archive logs and have to do a search for these during a restore! Plus RMAN is not a four letter dirty word.


  7. prodlife says:

    This is probably because you are a consultant?

    In our environment backup and recovery are considered mostly a “solved” problem. Our procedures didn’t change much in few years, we practice regularly, we know what to do.

    Now I must knock on wood, because having said that, I probably activated Murphy’s law and in few days you’ll see a post with a recovery horror story…

  8. Aniruddha says:

    Hi Chen,
    It all depends on what you’re working on and the atmosphere around you. I started off with lots of exciting DBA work, load testing, mining top 10 pathetic SQL from the statspack data, backup/recovery, keeping track of bugs on Metalink…etc etc…
    Slowly with more years in the company, I did less of these things and more of design, data modelling, meetings…and it started getting boring. They all want to get in functionality first and then worry about performance in a later iteration…
    Then I shifted focus to a role that had more of ‘system administration’…trying to get a better grasp of Solaris 10, learn some Python along the way and also a bit of shell scripting. I’m now exploring asset management and the next stop surely is going to be ITIL….
    Honestly, what separates boredom from excitement to a certain extent is the kind of colleagues you have. If you work alone, then it takes a lot not to get bored in spite of having loads to do.

    • prodlife says:

      I completely agree that the colleagues you have have tremendous effect on how you feel about your work.
      I’m working with an amazing team, and they sure keep me from getting bored!

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