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Useful redundancy

It’s a common theme: scripting and automation. And especially in and around database environments. Double too, because a dilemma arises: is it a threat that certain tasks are being “automated away” or does it actually give you space? We call that “Useful redundancy.”

How and why is further explained by Dimitri Choustov in this blog. He has been working for over 10 years as a SQL Server Database administrator (DBA) at various companies in retail, healthcare, finance and ICT services.

OptimaData’s vision on scripting and yes/no automation of DBA tasks fits perfectly with his way of working and how he likes to help clients move forward.

Database management

Being a database administrator (DBA) is a fun varied job. It doesn’t matter what sector you work in, because as far as the work is concerned, you actually encounter the same issues everywhere. You have a wide range of duties, but primarily you are responsible for the continuity, integrity, security and availability of digital information sources within an organization.

Keeping an eye on these processes can become a challenge for a DBA, especially as the IT environment grows. Well-written software (if there is one!) that performs the checks can provide a solution, however, this is easier said than done. A total software solution is difficult to find because clients’ ICT environments are different and the differences are often greater per company than per industry.

There are also hidden costs involved, such as licensing or staff training.

Scripting languages

ortunately, every DBA is equipped with the necessary knowledge! Structured Query Language (SQL) is a fourth-generation language (G4 language) available in almost all modern relational database products. With it, various checks can be scripted.

“Has the backup process been running? If yes, what is the status of that run?” – this is just one example of the control questions. Add a date/time to this and the check is automated.

SQL has different dialects to make the most efficient use of available resources. For example, Transact-SQL (developed by Microsoft) uses Windows functions, and PL/SQL (developed by Oracle) uses Unix functions.

In addition to SQL, there are a number of other languages that the DBA can apply situationally. In general, it is the object-oriented programming languages (G3 languages) such as Java, PowerShell and C++ that guide most work on infrastructure and OS.

Role of DBA changes

At OptimaData, we see that the role of the DBA is changing. This is related to the rise of the cloud – the development in which the DBA also takes care of deployment automation, infrastructure automation and orchestration, for example. Read more about that in our blog about the new DBA, the DBRE.

The tasks of the “old-fashioned” DBA are disappearing more and more. In fact, the Cloud not only provides all kinds of new possibilities, it also makes everything much more dynamic. It all used to be relatively simple.

There was a server and on it you installed database software. That was the environments and it was pretty static. When virtual machines came in, things became a little more flexible and you could set up multiple VMs. Now with the Cloud, you can basically do anything you want. You can get machines up and running in no time, which makes it tremendously scalable.

These benefits are only useful if the rest is also done quickly, and no longer consists of a lot of manual work.

Scripting and automation: when to/when not to?

In certain DBA work, especially on large projects, automation can produce optimal results that are difficult to achieve manually. For example, when you are delivering a new virtual environment (on-premise or in the cloud), it is helpful that all application servers, database server and/or other components required in the process are set up identically.

This should take into account best practices. After all, you want to avoid a particular error message as much as possible. This is called standardizing. In such a case, scripting is the best option.

Another advantage of scripting is that, in the event of an error, the administrator can immediately exclude a number of causes. If you know that different environments have been delivered in exactly the same way, there is no chance of carelessness in the setup and if a report is received, you can immediately focus on possible deeper causes of the error. That saves a lot of stress, time – and money.

Some actions you prefer not to perform automatically. These are activities in which the continuity of certain business-critical processes is at stake. Those kinds of decisions need to be planned and coordinated with the business with precision. Although you can automate the checks and even the determination of the (recovery) actions to be performed, performing the work is done manually.

Useful redundancy

And therein lies precisely the advantage of automation. By scripting and automating repetitive and/or time-consuming tasks, the DBA has time left for the real work: advising the customer and helping them to set up their own data management better and more efficiently. There is more time for detailed analysis and coming up with an appropriate solution.

Finally, this also gives the DBA more time to delve into (new) developments in order to advise and apply technological innovation in client environments.

It is ultimately up to the customer to decide whether solutions such as scripting and Cloud fit the compliancy of the organization and/or sector, but in any case our commitment is always: to set up database and server management for our customers as optimally as possible.

In a way, we strive to make ourselves redundant and not charge unnecessary hours just because we are there and/or for maintenance that can easily be automated. This is also one of the pillars of our Managed Consultancy services.

Curious about our Managed Consultancy proposition?

Then read on here about database management and consulting in a unique and inexpensive package. Otherwise feel free to contact us.