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Denis Gobo

Will we need many DBAs or no DBAs at all in the future?

This is a very exciting/confusing/glooming period for SQLServer Developers/DBAs

On one hand there is the ‘cloud’ which will take our precious boxes away from us and we won’t be needed to manage it anymore.

On the other hand is an avalanche of technologies bundled with every release of SQL Server.


Back in the 2000 days all you really needed to know was








Profiler/QA and other tools


I can just see the skills required for a SQL Server DBA these days












Entity Framework


SSMS/ Profiler/QA/BI Studio and other tools



With Kilimanjaro this list will only get longer.


Soon your IT shop will look like a hospital.

You need some SSIS with C#? Talk to DBA A

You need some Powershell automation with SMO? Talk to DBA B since DBA A doesn’t know Powershell

You need some DTS? Talk to DBA C because DBA A and DBA B started to use SQL Server with version 2005 (9) and don’t know anything about DTS


Is there really one super DBA who knows all these technologies? I don’t think so; it is time to start specializing. Besides the stuff you absolutely need to know like T-SQL, the internals and maintenance, you will have to pick your direction.


So I ask you the reader: what brings the future for the SQL Server DBA?

Published Wednesday, January 7, 2009 11:53 AM by Denis Gobo
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Alex said:

>>>Is there really one super DBA who knows all thesetechnologies? I don’t think so; it is time to start specializing.

Blog author excluded of course, right?  ;)

I really don't think the cloud is going to eliminate DBA's (the appeal there, at least at first, seems to be mainly for small companies without a ton of data, where the "IT Guy" is the de facto DBA).  

Still, I guess it is getting to be an overwhelming list (although I doubt in most environments you'd need to know everything on there).  I disagree with the need to specialize though.  I think most would do alright with just knowing the basics of everything on the list, and learn more about them as the need arises. And those who can't might need to look for another line of work (which is not necessarily a bad thing, at least for the industry as a whole - an incompetent DBA can wreak a lot of havoc)

If you think you've got a lot on your hands, take a look at what developers need to know these days ;)

January 7, 2009 11:20 AM

Jamie Thomson said:

I agree with Alex, DBAs aint going to be obselete if/when stuff moves to the cloud. The smartest DBAs will adapt their skills accordingly.

Me - I'm embracing the cloud stuff. SDS-ing it all the way baby :)

January 7, 2009 12:09 PM

Denis Gobo said:

Jamie and Alex, I agree with you for some companies having data in the cloud will probably be a big NO, but for the small mom and pop shop it might be beneficial to put it into the cloud and not to worry about backups, maintenance etc etc

And yes the curse and blessing of IT is that you will never be bored because there is so much to learn, lately it seems to grow exponentially :-)


>>I disagree with the need to specialize though.  I think most would do alright with just knowing the basics of everything on the list, and learn more about them as the need arises

what if you get laid off and places were you look for jobs do require all this stuff?

Let me say that it is ridiculous already what they list as required skills, I saw a posting once where they listed Ruby, Python, Perl, Java, C# etc etc for a SQL dev, that seems a little crazy

January 7, 2009 12:16 PM

cr8nk said:

Is the cloud really going to eliminate management of servers for a majority of us?  I work in the med care field, will we allow someone else besides the hospital or our company to host patient data?  Not anytime soon.  Regardless of the cloud, there is so much material out there that is a good idea out there to specialize.  I would think it is split up into three tracks still Admin, Dev and BI with some overlap between the three.



- Managment Studio

- Performance Tuning & Internals

- DB Design Theory


- HA & DR

- Powershell

- ORM Technology


- DB Design Tools

- ORM Technology

- Configuration Managemnt/Build Tools (VSDB)

- ETL Tools

- C#


- DW Design

- ETL Tools




- Dashboards

- BI Tools (Proclarity, BO)

My questions is what will be the supply and demand for the three different positions?  IE who gets paid the most :)


January 7, 2009 12:18 PM

Denis Gobo said:


That list makes sense. Unfortunately many devs still didn't master Performance Tuning & Internals and write non sargable queries

January 7, 2009 12:22 PM

Alex said:

>>>what if you get laid off and places were you look for jobs do require all this stuff?

Fair enough, though I don't think specialization there really helps you either, because you still need to know everything on the list.  I still think the best approach is to learn the basics of everything, and master what you need through experience. Which is specialization I guess, but it leaves you in a better position to quickly enrich your skillset when the need/opportunity arises.  

Creighton raises a good point too about healthcare.  My last two jobs have been subject to HIPAA regulations, and if they won't let you give the info to another doctor without jumping through hoops, they sure won't let it be stored in some magical "cloud".  

I'm wondering now what other types of regulations could keep cloud computing from gaining traction in specific industries (and keep DBA's in said industries in business).

January 7, 2009 12:52 PM

cr8nk said:

Yeah, sadly I know DBAs who can't write sargable queries as well.  Not everyone wants to be above average at their job.  

January 7, 2009 12:52 PM

Denis Gobo said:

SOX might also be a cloud killer

January 7, 2009 12:54 PM

chrissie1 said:

I really hope this whole SQL thing gets replaced with some object oriented stuff. And that will make DBA's obsolete. But I will bring you some warm soup in the summertime ;-).

January 7, 2009 1:13 PM

Denis Gobo said:

chrissie1, you seemed to be confused, in the summertime we eat cold soups like Gazpacho

January 7, 2009 1:24 PM

Chopstik said:

While not a DBA myself, I have done enough work on my own and with other DBA's to feel that the "cloud" won't work.  The big thing now and going into the future will be about the data - and very few will want to share their data or put it someplace outside of their direct control.  They will want to keep it to themselves and will therefore need someone to manage it.

Whether specialization is needed or having a general knowledge and some specialization is needed is another matter.  Personally, I think that DBA's will have to know all of the basics (or at least a majority) and then have specialized skills for specific tasks as needed.  Much as it is in the developer world...

January 7, 2009 1:33 PM

Jason said:

The compliance issues may be solved with 3rd party cloud offerings like SQL Server on EC2. In environments like these, all of the classical DBA\DBD roles will be needed.

If you are going to Azure\SDS, you can scratch off a lot of those technologies like TSQL and Powershell. :)

January 7, 2009 3:55 PM

Denis Gobo said:


Okay lets say you are going to Azzure, how would you load 500 million rows in Azzure? How long will that take? Or sometimes I need to generate an output file with 50 million rows

or how would you write this T-SQL code

select t1.index_id,t2.index_id,(avg(t1.monthlyreturn*t2.monthlyreturn)

-(avg(t1.monthlyreturn) * avg(t2.monthlyreturn)))

/((sqrt(avg(square(t1.monthlyreturn)) - square(avg(t1.monthlyreturn))))

*(sqrt(avg(square(t2.monthlyreturn)) - square(avg(t2.monthlyreturn))))),


from CorrelationStaging t1  join CorrelationStaging t2  on t1.Date = t2.Date

group by t1.index_id,t2.index_id

January 7, 2009 4:05 PM

Jason said:

You may be able write something to bulk load over REST but bulk loading  over the internet will be limited by your connection at best. That is being very optimistic. :) I do not think they have their sights set on large existing apps yet. I would guess their market will be for the new apps looking to avoid CapEx, at least initially.

As far as the query goes, they don’t support  any of that stuff as far as I have seen. However, I expect it to by the time it launches.  Then again, it is the cloud. Who needs JOINs? Just put everything in the same entity and let MS manage it.

Don’t get me wrong. I may play a Cloud fanboy on TV but I rooting against Azure. However, I find it hard to think that MS is going to throw all of these resources at this new platform but leave out key functionality. Even if something slips, they will retrofit based on feedback.

January 7, 2009 5:01 PM

kilroy said:

You guys are kidding yourselves.  The same management geniuses that bought Nicholas Carr's last argument that IT held no competitive advantage are now buying his new argument about the cloud (hint: it doesn't involve you and your Corporate IT DBA job).

The cloud will change everything and allow companies to treat IT as a service it buys from a provider.  You really don't thing Google and Microsoft et al are spending all that money on Data Centers for nothing - do you?

The DBA jobs of the future will be at Cloud Data Centers.

January 7, 2009 5:06 PM

Jason said:

@kilroy Even I think IT as a utility is pushing it. Can I have 2700 kilowatts of DBA? ;)

Unless Google\Microsoft\Amazon totally hits a home run, I think the furthest the utility concept gets pushed is down to the hardware. Pay as go CPU, Disk, Network, RAM. At least, this is what I am hoping for..

January 7, 2009 5:30 PM

kilroy said:

@Jason You and I are in violent agreement.

I'm just presenting the thinking of the powers that be.  Corporate management  views IT and DBAs as a cost center.  Logic bounces off of them like teflon...

January 7, 2009 5:34 PM

James Luetkehoelter said:

I think the biggest problem is that most managers, employers, companies, people that don't deal with databases - the all have no idea what's involved with dealing with a database engine, the data itself, ways to expose it, security, disaster recovery, data quality, etc. I had a nickle for a job add that says "Must have 6 years experience in Sequel 2008" or something totally meaningless like that, well, I guess I wouldn't be writing this...

January 7, 2009 7:18 PM

James Luetkehoelter said:

Kilroy, Jason -

I predict that the cloud model will fail. There's something about people wanting to have data in their control and their control only that still exists. For smaller companies, it's great. For a Fortune 500 company, I think they'd be more concerned about "their data".

Time will tell I guess.

January 7, 2009 7:20 PM

Peter said:

You could probably count the Replication stuff as a separate skill as well. Not every DBA needs to know/use that functionality.

January 8, 2009 9:33 AM

Mike Walsh said:

Well when the cloud takes over like Kilroy and others suspect, we can be the crusty old "SQL Consultants" that a company brings in to help with those legacy relational database things that the kids know nothing about...

Kind of like those COBOL programmers still getting paid good money for working their COBOL and btrieve magic in shops that are managed by people who got their start in .net...

January 8, 2009 10:40 PM

Tony Rogerson said:

Good post; I always thought the same and you are right you need to know more because things just get more complicated.

The cloud - lol; it will be another Microsoft Passport - great idea but little take up in the real commercial world - I mean real companies. There are too many walls in place - bandwidth for one (yes, that will change but latency won't), then there is the privacy argument - keeping data in another country etc... so many laws....

Virtualisation - yep; its being used but in reality - are people swarming to DELL and HP to have their apps hosted in virtual instances - nope; may be its a cultural thing that influences my thinking - but I look at my client base, the industry and form my opinion from that.


January 11, 2009 6:44 AM

steve dassin said:

Most of my clients get to work on horseback, I doubt the car will catch on. Now seriously folks. Does the sql community have MS at its back? Does it even have it at its front? The community seems to be feature rich and vision poor. It's entirely reactive instead of getting its spine up and being pro-active. Maybe the community doesn't really know what it wants. Try to find a view, an articulated direction from your favorite heros. Good luck. MS is riding in a particular direction but until the community gets its compass back it won't be a joy ride. But if you're an sql programmer, understand the complexities of application development

and want to advance with the relational model instead of throwing it out, a new direction is in front of your nose:)

January 11, 2009 3:39 PM

Colonel 32 said:

Right on Mike Walsh - Looking forward to being a "crusty old SQL Consultant".

January 12, 2009 8:25 AM

steve dassin said:

Most things old and crusty get thrown out. And what's even worse is young and crusty. All sql foggies are, in general, living about thiry years behind the times when it comes to computer science. If the only thing you read starts with sql you'll be trapped in a time warp forever. Get beyond BOL and start understanding what the rest of IT is doing. If you really want to stake out a direction don't expect the crusties and foggies to give it to you. You'll have to earn it yourself.

I note how consistent sql folks are. Linq/EF won't work and neither will the cloud. This is really just wishful thinking. What will happen when your sql security blanket gets wet?:)

January 12, 2009 9:40 PM

Ben said:

SOA is causing me a bigger headache.. long is the list of required skills for a DBA when you have simplistic service owned databases?

January 14, 2009 6:15 AM
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About Denis Gobo

I was born in Croatia in 1970, when I was one I moved to Amsterdam (and yes Ajax is THE team in Holland) and finally in 1993 I came to the US. I have lived in New York City for a bunch of years and currently live in Princeton, New Jersey with my wife and 3 kids. I work for Dow Jones as a Database architect in the indexes department, one drawback: since our data goes back all the way to May 1896 I cannot use smalldates ;-( I have been working with SQL server since version 6.5 and compared to all the other bloggers here I am a n00b. Some of you might know me from or even from some of the newsgroups where I go by the name Denis the SQL Menace If you are a Tek-Tips user then you might know me by the name SQLDenis, I am one of the guys answering SQL Questions in the SQL Programming forum.

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