In software development, databases are the integral elements that facilitate operational capabilities of the software. The stability of the software, its security, as well as the performance of software depends on the databases, how they have been designed and how they control functionality of the software. For these functions to run effectively, there should be a proficient and agile database administrator.
Superficially, these may seem like the only roles or duties of a database administrator but they aren’t. There are more specific and mission critical roles performed by these experts. These roles include:
- Preventing and managing conflicts or overwrites within development and management teams
Besides planning databases, database or DBA experts troubleshoot software application codes and take part in the software or code development processes. These activities are undertaken by different teams and departments but the output is one and controlled by the DBA. To have a proficient end product, the development and management teams should work in unison.
This isn’t the case always and the interdependent departments may clash. Conflict in any of the teams is dissipated by the DBA ensuring that the codes are merged into one functional code to run the expected operations.
- Reviewing and rewriting codes
Contrary to general belief, a DBA expert isn’t expected to only look at the end product and ascertain if it works or not. This professional has a duty to analyze and review codes prepared by developers. They also prepare the deployment scripts. To get all these done, a DBA has to go over and beyond fine tuning codes by rewriting most segments of the presented codes. This professional ability is made possible by the fact that the DBA knows exactly how the product should look like to work as expected.
- Performing Traffic Duty
Otherwise known as system protection or data integrity protection, this is another integral role of in-house or remote DBA experts. This is a crucial role but an administrator isn’t off the hook for any of these other duties. The traffic duty is eased by automated locking of database objects or the check-in and check-out systems. These security and functional approaches prevent other employees from veering off well pre-defined revision processes.
- Resolving database issues
There are no error-proof systems and even after preparation of the deployment scripts following a rewrite or a review of the developer codes, a few hiccups will be experienced. Any problem that arises during the production process or at deployment is fixed by the DBA. Where original or lead developers are inaccessible, the DBA is responsible for fixing unfamiliar codes.
With all these roles on a DBA’s back, it is almost impossible to expect perfection or a system running with zero downtime. These professionals still try to streamline all their activities amidst challenges like:
- Flexibility working with different interdependent teams
The interdependent teams are crucial in software development and ensuring that the codes written down make it possible for the task at hand to be performed efficiently. Unfortunately, the final processes including production and deployment rely on the DBA. Being able to handle all the teams and merge the codes and at the same time being flexible to respond to changes in deployment or production plans is challenging.
- Multiple developers support
There are many development teams and third-party vendors who bring up modules characterized as ‘black box’. Though it is good to have different opinions and alternatives, DBAs face the constant risk of drifts in the database configurations. As a result, the quality of the codes and configurations become unpredictable. Audit trails are important for compliance and regulatory reasons, but because of multiple developers, trails could be insufficient for remote DBA experts.
- Need for different mindsets for different situations
A DBA deals with production personnel and developers. Disputes are bound to happen between these groups and the DBA must act as the arbiter. Having to shift mindsets in the arbitration process is involving and generally taxing.
- Inevitable human errors
Manual systems in database administration are time consuming and when a DBA has all the other roles mentioned above waiting for them, there are higher risks of human errors. Without automated systems, there will be reports of accidental overwrites, cross-application errors, and the system will experience a constant system downtime leading to losses and disgruntled clients.
With such acute challenges, it is difficult for a DBA to be on top of things and to provide clients with the best results at the lowest to zero downtimes. Therefore, businesses need to adapt new strategies that will increase the efficiency with which the DBA can be more productive and systems more forthcoming. Automated systems are necessary.
Which are the best solutions and approaches to make a DBA’s work easier?
- Complete automation
Higher automation and systemization capabilities incorporated in totally automated version control systems or code development are necessary. Such high levels of automation act on problems like database security, consistent versioning, and stability of the database. Automation has also been shown to create and assure DBAs of a single truth through development. Configuration drifts, code conflicts and overrides are controlled by automation.
- Automatic control mechanisms
To prevent any employees from straying, in terms of using the defined processes, check-in and check-out control processes are effective. Such controls ensure that there are no objects, schema or tables that can be accessed by more than one user at any given time. This also makes it possible for all revisions to be sequentially managed.
- Baseline aware analysis
This is the most effective strategy used in getting rid of the recurrent configuration drifts. Any changes on the content or the structure of the code object can be analyzed against the object using the baseline aware analysis. The main object is kept in the source control repository preserving defined baselines. Changes will therefore be detected easily and the party responsible for the change pinpointed.
In conclusion, for all the roles of a DBA to be performed effectively, automated systems should be introduced. The automated systems abate data losses, high downtime, and prevent avoidable errors. Clients get the bests of ware and systems running on verified and accurate codes. Errors will also be flagged instantly, and undocumented hotfixes are identified. At the end of it, all parties are happy and the business succeeds.
Lucy Jones is the founder of a renowned enterprise development company. She works with a team of remote DBA expertsand many companies outsource DBA roles to them. Check out her profile for more on automation of DBA roles.