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Minding the data and databases

The role of the database administrator can be broad or delineated by specialization. DBAs are constantly at the mercy of the project size, scope and application complexity.

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Dependant upon project size, scope and application complexity, the role of the administrator can be broad or delineated by specialization. In smaller companies, the administration generalist may perform any number of IT responsibilities, while in larger organizations administrators tend to be silo'd by function or technology. As business reliance upon the availability and accessibility of information grows, so does the need for those specifically skilled in data design delivery, maintenance and its protection. As businesses demand greater service availability from their IT infrastructure, IT managers need to be confident they have the right resources delivering the critical data in an efficient, cost effective and responsive manner. Being confident, involves understanding the differences between data and database administrators (DBAs).

Data Architect

The data architecture has responsibility to create the logical and physical data structures that support the business application architecture. The data structures are designed and modeled to solve business problems within the application. A data architect has responsibility for:

  • Creating data models and schema that meets the business requirements
  • Change management and control of the data models
  • Assisting with optimization of models for maximum application performance creating and testing physical data models to provide acceptable performance to application users

Data Administrator

The data administrator understands that the data exists because of business requirements, where the data is derived and how the business utilizes that data. They ensure the data is current, by polling business owners for changes. They also define initial data access, levels of data security and groups. The data administrator usually is responsible for:

  • Owning data definitions (controls who is allowed to change them)
  • Owning data (controls who may insert, update or delete it)
  • Tracking ownership, alterations and privileges for each data element
  • Administers the system of record and is responsible for derivates
  • Assists with business reporting utilizing that data

Database Operator

The database operator provides manual monitoring of the database console, tape mounting, and critical jobs. The database operator verifies backup or archives ran correctly, restarts the backup or archives if necessary, and monitors the available freespace in the backup and archive directories. The database operator can be staffed by shifts or automated with database monitoring software.

Database Administrator

The database administrator is responsible for the physical aspects of where and how the data is stored. To do so requires monitoring, managing, optimizing, protecting and ensuring the availability of the data via a database. The database administrator is responsible for:

  • Managing service levels and quality of service for the database and database applications (ERP, CRM, in-house)
  • Monitoring, maintaining and predicting database performance to meet service levels
  • Securing, auditing, protecting and ensuring fast recovery of the data
  • Database vendor specific tuning, patching, upgrading and change management

There can also be different types of database administrators based upon business requirements, hardware architectures and application configurations. When determining the type of DBA, there are normally two perspectives that are used.

System DBA

The system DBA role is critical for the initial database deployment, for new projects, application upgrade analysis and capacity planning. A system DBA not only has experience with the database and its advanced functionalities, such as replication, standby, clustering and partitioning, but also a background in system and network architecture. Without the role of a system DBA, organizations can find themselves up against a wall with I/O, performance, storage management, backup and capacity problems. System DBAs typically don't write or optimize performance of application SQL as that is a shared responsibility belonging to application developers.

Application DBA

The application DBA provides production database modeling support and development of the logical database and works in conjunction with or may double as the data administrator. The application DBA manages the applications architecture, performs SQL tuning and supports the applications from the business perspective. The application DBA works closely with application developers, the system DBA, data architect, data administrator and business analysts.

Although the role of administrator may differ from organization to organization, knowing what is expected and how it services business operations with a reliable flow of information is critical to the success of any organization.

About the author
Steve Lemme is a director of database management solutions for CA, published author of Implementing and Managing Oracle Databases and columnist in Database Trends and Applications Magazine. Mr. Lemme is an Oracle Master DBA with over 15 years experience in mission-critical Oracle architecture and speaks on database management best practices to address regulatory compliance. Prior to CA, he managed critical computer and database systems for Allied Signal, Apple, GTE and Motorola, where downtime was $150,000+/hour. He holds the position of director in the Independent Oracle Users Group.

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