Data is, as they say, the oil of the 21st century. The total amount of data in the world is due to reach 163 zettabytes by 2025, a reality that consumers are experiencing heavily in the aftermath of each new data breach disclosed.
Consumer demand for personalised services and data-driven recommendations are trends businesses have utilised for years. But now, data is so readily and so conspicuously traded as currency. It can unlock access to gated content, Wi-Fi in public areas, or free trials. Consequently, we’re starting to see the fog of subconscious lifting from the eyes of consumers.
Organisations not only need to show they are collecting, storing, and using data responsibly, but also show they are able to provide better, faster, personalised, effective products and services as a result. Doing so hinges on a company’s ability to analyse the behaviour of their consumer bases and target them more effectively—and marketing is looking to IT, or more specifically, the database administrators (DBAs) and data professionals of their organisations, to help.
So, with greater responsibility falling on their shoulders, what are they key hurdles for DBAs as they navigate the new world in 2019?
- Hybrid IT = hybrid database strategy?
With a variety of data and application parameters to consider, just getting to the cloud is often a significant hurdle. There are two typical paths to the cloud, the first being the classic “lift-and-shift.” This is where IT departments lift their current data applications and shift it to cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), with little to no customisation and architecting.
The second path is a more involved process, involving a complete refactoring of existing processes and platforms to take advantage of cloud-native offerings. This can be time consuming, complex, and costly.
There is a third option, however: a hybrid approach between the two classic paths, often called “re-platform.” This is where you lift and shift pieces, such as a database, and take advantage of cloud-native functionality such as auto-scaling. It’s easier than refactoring, but it’s a slower migration path compared to what lift and shift can offer.
According to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018, 95% of IT professionals continue to rank hybrid IT and cloud as one of the top five most important technologies in their organisation’s strategy today. But for many companies, complete refactoring is a project that’s still too costly, too time-consuming, and too complex to justify tackling all at once. So, hybrid IT tends to be the lay of the land. This approach is “hybrid-by-accident” rather than “hybrid-by-design,” so enterprises rarely have a database strategy that can flex from the legacy, on-prem environments they were created for to applications in the cloud.
The lack of due consideration around hybrid is going to be felt powerfully in 2019. As organisations seek to power and test data and analytics use cases, IT will increasingly need to connect disparate data sources—some on-premises, some third-party such as social media—across a hybrid environment.
Without proper forethought and planning, DBAs and data professionals run the risk of right-sizing servers incorrectly, or unexpectedly experiencing performance issues because the database is no longer hosted locally.
- Automation vs. DBA
This year has seen notable advancements in automation within database technology. These new platforms claim to be self-driving, self-securing, self-repairing, and designed to eliminate error-prone manual data management. The idea is to eliminate mundane and routine management tasks, freeing up DBAs and data professionals to focus on extracting more value from their data.
Automation is changing the database game. It’s completely altered the way we monitor systems and keep an eye on data-intensive processes. The critical component is ensuring that any level of automation is met with a level of observability that can capture anomalies as well as patch and upgrade requirements. But alerts and notifications can do their job well or poorly.
The key here is building a reasonable level of notification into a system. A constant stream of trivial alerts for notifications helps no one. Over time, the team will tune them out. A tiered system is the best way to go, as it’s important to stay on top of progress as well as problems.
But those same advances have some DBAs fearing that their jobs might be at risk. It’s calling into question a debate that’s never off the table anymore: man vs. machine. But the role of the DBA is clear. Machine learning might be capable of some level of prediction, but the ad-hoc SQL statements that need tuning are best fixed by skilled data professionals. IT need not fear these tools but lean in to the technologies that can help them be more efficient and support their organisation’s ambitions.
- The microservices movement
As organisations move data from monolithic architectures toward microservices and containers, traditional data stewardship practices may be at risk. DBAs need to consider how microservices data management practices might need to vary accordingly. Historically, database strategies have revolved around the centralisation of data, but now, the big concern is whether microservices data could become too dispersed to be “managed.”
Circumventing this challenge requires a completely new way of thinking whereby DBAs move away from traditional data management concepts where data is a single set of location. Instead, they must start envisaging it as a data service that can be location-independent, adopting a service-based architecture.
With the shift to microservice, the need for data security will increase exponentially. DBAs and data professionals are going to be on the hook to provide detailed logs and audit trails showing who touched the data, and when.
A new world
Database technology has come on leaps and bounds since its birth in 1960. There are several key trends on the horizon that may seem like hurdles to DBAs planning for the year ahead. But the role of the DBA in wringing value from today’s true currency—data—is only, if possible, more important than it was the year before. Businesses will continue to rely on their database admins to deliver insightful analytics that can power new services and help them remain competitive.