What skills set the database administrator (DBA) apart from other technologists? Of the many responsibilities laid upon a DBA, which cannot be performed by someone else? Adding database accounts? Creating tables and indexes? Installing and configuring databases? Optimizing the database and the applications that access and manipulate it?

All of these things are regularly performed by people who do not consider themselves database administrators. They consider themselves to be programmer/analysts, to be application developers, to be managers and directors, and they do all these things just to be able to move forward with their own job. Most application developers know how to run the Oracle Universal Installer – it’s just another graphical application, and accepting all the default choices is a perfectly valid way to get the job done, these days. Adding database accounts? That’s easy! Granting database privileges? Just give ‘em “DBA” or “SYSDBA” and no more problems! Creating tables and indexes? C’mon, that’s more of a developer’s job than the DBA’s job, isn’t it? Tuning Oracle databases is mostly about crafting efficient SQL statements, and while this job often falls to DBAs, it is best handled by the developers and programmers who write the SQL in the first place.

While many of these duties are correctly assigned to a DBA, they are not a hallmark of the job. Think about the people flying airliners. With the degree of automation in aircraft cockpits now, it can be argued (with a lot of merit) that the planes can fly themselves, from take-off, through navigated flight, to touch-down. So, what are the pilots for? If something goes wrong with the plane, you want the best pilots at the controls of that plane. Because when things go wrong, they go wrong in a hurry, and it takes somebody who knows exactly what all that PlayStation gadgetry is really controlling in that cockpit, and it takes somebody who can intelligently take control and land the thing safely when dozens of lights are flashing and dozens of alarms are buzzing. It’s not too hard to justify the presence of pilots on airplanes, in the end. Likewise, fifty years ago, at the dawn of the American space program, a debate was underway then, as there is now – should space flights be manned or unmanned? There were good arguments in favor of the latter. The first astronauts weren’t human – they were dogs and chimps. When humans were finally included, the spacecraft engineers assured them that they were redundant, just along for the ride, superfluous, and that they were just “spam in a can”, went the gallows humor. Continue reading on my blog

RMAN Recipes for Oracle Database 12c: A Problem-Solution Approach

I wrote this article as a foreword for the 2007 Apress book “RMAN Recipes for Oracle Database 11g: A Problem-Solution Approach” by Darl Kuhn, Sam Alapati, and Arup Nanda (ISBN 1590598512), and I’m pleased to learn it will be included in the exciting new Apress update “RMAN Recipes for Oracle Database 12c: A Problem-Solution Approach” (ISBN 143024836X), scheduled for a 30-March 2013 publication.