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The Data Pioneer

By Emil Kotrc posted Mar 01, 2021 10:19 PM


The Data Pioneer
(by Martin Hubel)

Let’s say you’ve joined a new company as the first DBA, or you’re promoted into the role. In taking on this role, you’re going to face many challenges as you introduce the procedures necessary to ensure data integrity. There are a number of things for you to consider: the nature of start-ups, the need for data integrity, and how to introduce structure into a rapidly growing IT environment.

Note: You can be a data pioneer in a big organization where a new division is not (yet) supported by the IT infrastructure. I have used the term “data pioneer” to refer to setting up a new database environment, which is likely to include multiple instances and databases for production, QA, testing and development. I will draw upon the pioneer analogy to describe what a DBA’s life can be like.

Pioneers had to solve problems as they arose, many of which were unforeseen. The problems included droughts, cold winters, wild animals and other disasters. Survival depended on each pioneer’s ability to overcome every problem they faced.

As a data pioneer, the problems are likely not life or death for individuals, but they can be for the business. In the worst scenarios, a customer’s data is confused with another customer’s data, significant and avoidable outages occur, or data is lost and unrecoverable.

At start-ups, the main goal is to get an application or product developed quickly and into the hands of customers and/or users. If you have success, you now have a few customers who start by pilot testing your product, with modifications likely for each customer. Things are looking up and optimism is felt about future growth as more customers are attracted to your company.

From the database side, you can become a victim of your own success. With five customers, the database can survive easily even with allowance for special cases. When the company attracts thirty, fifty or more customers, you must standardize the approach to managing the database environment to ensure integrity. Companies die if they can’t handle the needs of back end processing as more customers are added.

Meanwhile, your customer base continues to grow, and new code is developed. You have to implement standards and controls while ensuring that they do not impede the increased demands for database services. If you cannot respond with helpful solutions, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be ignored.

There are many aspects to being a data pioneer. The primary objective must be data integrity even if it is not understood fully by management or the developers. (They soon learn about integrity when the database becomes unavailable, but it is our job to ensure that doesn’t happen.) The order of importance can be debated, although all are worthy of discussion in future blog posts.

  1. Backup and recovery
  2. Naming standards (see my earlier blog post)
  3. Security
  4. Data movement
  5. Support of developer practices
  6. Data quality
  7. Performance

The best data pioneers implement the necessary procedures without impeding, and perhaps helping to accelerate, development efforts. The developers have created the products and support needed for the business. The role of the DBA is to support the efforts of the developers but to ensure that the business continues to be viable in the face of continued growth.

About Martin Hubel

I am an IBM Champion and Gold Consultant. My Db2 industry activities include being the host of the Db2Night Show, a member of the IDUG Volunteer Hall of Fame, an active IDUG speaker of over 50 presentations over the past 30 years, a panelist, an author, and a member on the executive of the Central Canada Db2-IMS Users Group.