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How SQL Server DevOps processes help break down data silos

DevOps can help organizations dismantle data silos in SQL Server and other database systems -- and replace organizational silos with cross-functional teams.

The DevOps methodology aims to change the way IT departments process and manage data by establishing an environment that supports faster and more reliable software deployments. From a data management standpoint, its primary benefits are deconstructing outdated silos and better organizing data in database systems like SQL Server.

That's according to Lisa Waugh, a senior product manager at database tools vendor Idera Inc. In a recent webinar, Waugh discussed how SQL Server DevOps processes can help cross-functional teams work together more effectively. That includes database administrators (DBAs), who find their role and responsibilities in organizations changing as database technology continues to evolve.

They're not the only ones, though; other IT professionals, including application developers, enterprise architects, data analysts, business analysts and IT managers, also find themselves having to learn new data skills, Waugh said. DevOps provides a framework for better communication and collaboration between those workers and DBAs, she noted.

DevOps takes aim at SQL Server silos

Though most IT departments now try to avoid data silos, many silos still exist in organizations and need to be broken down to support new applications and meet expanded business needs for information. However, having separate teams scattered across different departments and locations can cause communication problems that make the process more difficult and time-consuming, Waugh said.

By breaking down silos, we don't have defined roles anymore in complex environments.
Lisa WaughSenior product manager, Idera

Alternatively, a unified DevOps team can make the job less complicated for SQL Server DBAs tasked with overseeing the dismantling of silos and ensuring that it is done quickly and without introducing errors into data sets, she added.

When an IT department creates a SQL Server DevOps team, it typically wants to include workers with a variety of skills that overlap -- a step that can also eliminate organizational silos. "By breaking down silos, we don't have defined roles anymore in complex environments," Waugh said. "We're looking at workers with multiple skill sets."

Pairing up DBAs and developers

To illustrate that, she pointed to the results of recent surveys, including one conducted in 2018 by database tools vendor Redgate. According to "The State of Database DevOps" survey, 76% of the 700-plus SQL Server professionals who responded said their teams have developers who are responsible for both application and database development; also, 58% said developers and DBAs in their organizations work together on projects.

While learning new skills and technologies may seem daunting, it's beneficial in the long run for both workers and organizations, Waugh said in the webinar, which was posted on the MSSQLTips website. Cross-functional teams working together have an easier time collaborating and fewer miscommunications, she explained. This allows them to accomplish their goals faster and more efficiently.

Deployment speed and security gains

In addition to improved collaboration, the DevOps methodology can help boost deployment speed and security in SQL Server systems, according to Waugh. The former is achieved through creating smaller development cycles for system updates and changes. The smaller the cycle, the faster that required changes can be implemented, she said.

Shortening development cycles also makes it easier to resolve potential problems in databases before they get out of hand, Waugh added. This accelerated development speed is closely intertwined with security, as well. Because changes are being implemented faster, she said security vulnerabilities can be detected more quickly, which lowers the risk of data leakage, intrusions and ransomware attacks.

There are tools available to make the process of working together easier for DBAs and the other members of SQL Server DevOps teams. Waugh encouraged teams to investigate them and said that using a common tool can help promote communication and collaboration in DevOps initiatives.

This was last published in June 2019

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