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

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Here's a look astatine however 1 database head collaborates with his coworkers, helping analyse data, strategizing with concern leaders and starring teams astatine work.


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Kevin Kline started his vocation astatine NASA, arsenic portion of the squad that built the h2o recycling strategy successful the International Space Station. He was 1 of the fewer radical moving connected the Oracle database. Back then, helium said, it was 128 megabytes. "We thought that database was enormous—and infinitely huge," helium said.

Now "Head Geek" astatine SolarWinds, Kline helps customers with endeavor architecture, IT enactment skills, troubleshooting and adopting champion practices for optimal database show monitoring, on-premises and successful the cloud.

After NASA, Kline was hooked connected data. "I loved the full facet of data. One happening that's truly neat is that adjacent if the exertion that you're utilizing is revised, oregon a caller mentation is released, oregon adjacent if it's cancelled, if you person the data, you inactive person everything that's invaluable to you."

Data is not "this abstract happening that lone exists successful the ether," helium said. "It's this existent happening that changes and improves people's lives. And truthful that's erstwhile I decided to truly absorption not conscionable connected penning code, but what is the data? What does it mean, it tells a story? And tin we construe that communicative to spell from there?"

A DBA is simply a 2nd vocation for most, Kline . He himself worked arsenic a developer for six years aft college, and galore of those extremity up arsenic strategy admins, oregon radical who administer and physique servers. Being a DBA was not thing colleges trained for, astatine that time. It's wherefore determination are ne'er capable DBAs, still, helium said.

Kline learned galore of the indispensable skills connected the job. Back then, astir 1994—after his stint astatine NASA—you couldn't conscionable instrumentality online classes to bash it. But, thankfully, his institution funded his training.

In immoderate ways, the occupation of a database head is akin contiguous to what it was successful the earlier days. "Today, we're capable to bash things much quickly, we're capable to automate a batch of things," helium said. Also, his relation is much interpersonal than radical mightiness think. 

"The DBAs are perpetually gathering with antithetic teams wrong the company," helium said, specified arsenic dev teams, to fig retired however to plan the close database. "We assistance plan the concern logic, wherever that logic resides, whether it's wrong the database, successful stored procedures, oregon possibly it's extracurricular the database and applications oregon present with the cloud—it could beryllium successful things similar Azure Functions oregon you know, immoderate benignant of micro work oregon thing similar that," helium said.

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

So his enactment covers a batch of clip "grooming" antithetic databases and consulting with concern leaders, Kline . Figuring retired what happens if the server crashes, however to retrieve data, for instance, "so we ne'er suffer much than 10 minutes of data," helium said. There are each kinds of considerations, specified arsenic however overmuch to walk connected hardware. 

"It benignant of feels similar a negotiation, erstwhile successful fact, it's truly you advising them what their existent determination means," helium said. "And past possibly they set their decisions done the process of discussion."


Kevin Kline

Image: Kevin Kline

Kline grew up successful Huntsville, Alabama, adjacent the Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army Redstone Arsenal, wherever the service rocket systems are designed. As a kid successful the 1970s, his dada was a machine technologist astatine Boeing, and they had a Commodore 64 astatine home, which helium said "was a uncommon happening backmost then." By the clip helium was successful precocious school, helium could programme successful Fortran. His classmates had parents moving for NASA oregon the ISS oregon connected Hubble.

In college, helium took database plan and learned SQL. He adjacent sent his master's thesis successful to a magazine, and had it published arsenic a book—the publication was astir "Oracle's caller displacement from character-mode systems to this fancy caller operating strategy called Windows."

He learned that "the existent worth isn't conscionable that you're putting information into a database, it's the accusation that you get retired of it, you know, information is not needfully invaluable successful and of itself. It's erstwhile you aggregate the information and, and benignant of massage it into thing that is informative," helium said.

"What I recovered to beryllium astir amusive astir being a DBA is that you tin assistance the concern radical recognize and extract worth from the information that they collected," Kline continued.

Kline wants to enactment caller DBAs, with each of the caller options that are available. "Now we person each of these different, not conscionable SQL based databases, similar SQL Server and Oracle, and MySQL and PostgreSQL. But we besides person each of these, similar MongoDB, and Cosmos DB and Cassandra. Each 1 of them has saccharine spots wherever they execute truly well, truthful you person to larn astatine slightest the basics of those. And past we person each kinds of antithetic programming paradigms," helium said.

In his existent role, Kline thinks of himself arsenic "that friendly, cool, younger aunt, oregon uncle, that would propulsion you aside, you know, and they're like, 'Your parents privation you to bash everything, but we're gonna archer you astir the existent satellite here,'" Kline said. 

Kline does webcasts to assistance stock this knowledge. "I deliberation [about] each of these galore years of acquisition arsenic a DBA, arsenic a developer, arsenic an Enterprise Architect, and I springiness that backmost to our community, typically successful blog posts, and webinars with tons of demos. So I inactive support my coding skills sharp, and cognition of the database, and truthful forth."

On a emblematic day, he's taking attraction of things similar backups, corruption checks, and preventative maintenance, Kline said. And gathering with customers to fig retired the champion solution for what's coming.

"And astir DBAs walk a batch of clip firefighting," helium added.

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