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A DBA is also just a human being

If you have over thirty years of experience as a DBA, you would think that you have made all the mistakes at least once. But it’s very easy to misunderstand, knows Thomas Spoelstra, Senior Database Reliability Engineer and DBA at OptimaData. In this blog, he talks about how missing one word can lead to an awkward situation. And how it can still turn into a success for all parties.

Thomas Spoelstra

Teamlead en Senior Database Reliability Engineer
Thomas Spoelstra - Teamlead en Senior Database Reliability Engineer

Design for a POC environment

I have at least about thirty years of experience as a DBA, so when we received a consulting assignment for a large commercial project – read: for more than a thousand users – I thought I could do the job. This client had made the decision to start working with MySQL Galera cluster, a synchronous multi-master database cluster, based on synchronous replication and MySQL and InnoDB, at one of their customers.

Upon request, we created a design for the POC environment so that they could bring the project to a successful conclusion. With that design, we mentioned that they should choose the latest version of the operating system.

One little word

No sooner said than done. The client built the server farm and we installed the database. To our great surprise, the setup didn’t work. As it turned out, the latest version of the operating system was not – yet – supported. We should have asked for the latest supported version of the operating system… When a new version of operating software is released, software vendors and developers still need a little time to make their software compatible with that new version.

In this particular case, the latest version of the operating system was still so new that the database software was not yet compatible. So the lack of that one little word caused a lot of commotion. When the dust had settled, we worked with the client to set up the second version of the server farm, now with the latest supported version of the operating system. Fortunately, as a team – internally and with the client – we were able to keep the focus on the result. Pointing fingers doesn’t get anyone anywhere; staying focused on a solution together does.

All’s well that ends well

After a thorough check, the POC environment was now found to be working properly. The entire POC process was then so successful that our client won the job. Thus, despite a bumpy start, this project turned out to be a great success for everyone.

Fortunately, we were able to bring the project to a successful conclusion, but it does make you think again about how important clear communication is. No matter how much experience you have, you shouldn’t make assumptions. Not everyone speaks “the same language. It would have been a small effort for us to check if the latest operating system would indeed work with the chosen database solution, but we blindly assumed that we understood each other well.

The most valuable learning? Communicating even clearer requirements and focusing on the solution together. Also, in similar situations, don’t forget to check to what extent the very latest release of an operating system has actually already been adopted by applications, tooling and database software. We use the safe rule N-1. In other words, the penultimate version.

Want to know more?

In previous blogs we already described how to select a database support partner, how to prepare your team and what the three phases of effective database support are. Want to know more about the route to effective database management? We also wrote a whitepaper about that. Download the whitepaper here.

Would you like to exchange thoughts with us? Feel free to contact us, we’d love to get to know you.