SQL Server DBAs must get ready to take on 'big data' and more roles

Mark Fontecchio

SQL Server DBAs have to be ready for the influx of big data and be willing to take on more roles -- particularly in business analytics -- than they have in the past, according to leaders of the Professional Association for SQL Server.

The comments from PASS President Bill Graziano and Executive Vice President Douglas McDowell came during the 14th annual PASS Summit in Seattle last week, which drew close to 4,000 attendees.

Graziano, who  is also a partner at scaleSQL Consulting based in Kansas City, Mo., said that many of his projects are now aimed at helping developers and support personnel process transactions more efficiently, an example of how DBA roles are changing.

“A lot of them care about not only having one backup system, but how many backup systems do you have,” he said. “How can you manage that to handle unexpected loads?”

Meanwhile, Graziano said, companies want to push information deeper into the business side of the organization. The goal? Put data into the hands of people who can use it to make business decisions. Graziano pointed to new capabilities in Microsoft Excel such as Power View that can connect to SQL Server 2012 and pull data from it for spreadsheet graphs and charts.

McDowell said that companies are merging end users with developers and operational owners. And the people who are responsible for data in their organization have to deal with more than just SQL Server. They must deal with other parts of the IT infrastructure as well.

“People currently in given roles such as a SQL Server DBA, they don’t know what their role is going to look like in five years,” McDowell continued. “There are people in traditional roles who are being asked to do more things than they were before.”

In a partial response to this, PASS will hold its first Business Analytics Conference April 10-12 in Chicago. McDowell said it was geared toward “information architects, data scientists, business analysts, data analysts and anyone under the ‘power user’ umbrella.” He added that the conference has capacity for 1,400 people.

Graziano said that any DBA out there thinking about their career should be thinking about the current and future role of business analytics in their company. The phrase “big data” is big news, with the thought that organizations must deal with the three v’s when it comes to data: volume, velocity and variety. SQL Server DBAs should be ready to get their hands dirty when it comes to figuring out how to handle this influx of data, and more importantly, how to make sense of it, Graziano said. They can do that at the business analytics conference, or through other training.

Other SQL Server PASS updates
McDowell said PASS’s budget has increased 43% in the last year. The organization now has 127,000 members and is actively working to extend its reach internationally. It is working to change the group’s bylaws to designate certain board of directors seats for international members, for example.

Graziano said that reinvesting back into the SQL Server community has benefited PASS, leading to more local user groups and more short daylong events such as SQL Saturdays. McDowell said the group hired a full-time employee that focuses on helping local groups out, building online tools that they can all use.

The group is also branching out and focusing not only on SQL Server, but on all the issues that surround SQL Server, McDowell added. Business intelligence and analytics is one example of that, and it's why PASS is holding the business analytics conference.

“What’s happening is that the ecosphere is changing right now,” McDowell said. “Our community now has really nebulous edges that were more well-defined in the past.”

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