It’s time to make life easier for the unsung heroes: database managers

Australian companies are roaring out for IT talent, with Atlassian, Commonwealth Bank, and NAB planning to hire a combined 7,500 tech workers and engineers by the end of 2022. The Albanese government is also targeting 1.2 million tech workers by 2030; those hires won’t happen easily as the balance of power shifts to employees amid an unprecedented IT talent shortage.

Many of the roles being sought are in the area of database management. In fact, a recent Stack Overflow survey found that the database management language SQL was one of the five most commonly used by professional developers. This is a relatively unsung hero of technology and innovation that focuses on developing, maintaining, repairing, and improving databases.

Everything digital lives and breathes the data it is built upon, so database management teams typically oversee the implementation and maintenance of security and other vital aspects of an organisation’s broader digital footprint. They live in the back end, but are central to any organisation’s digital presence.

Importance of database managers

The world of database management is rapidly evolving. Organisations across Australia are no longer furiously debating the merits of public versus private cloud and are instead quickly moving their applications into hybrid and multi-cloud environments. With this move comes huge disruption in the world of databases: more of them, used by more applications and more people, across more IT environments. Database managers – already struggling to grow their database admin teams – are understandably struggling to keep up.

These new burdens don’t stop at the database manager level, they go right to the bottom line.

A report by Forrester found organisations are having to pay already high-priced database teams and managers significant overtime to keep on top of fast-growing data. While the title of the role might suggest it is administrative, database managers sit at the forefront of defence against ransomware and other cyberattacks, with data being the prized asset.

Data – or rather the ability to analyse and make informed decisions from it – is also the centrepiece of the value that businesses have been seeking for decades from technology. And we’re really starting to get somewhere in terms of mining that value, thanks to a new generation of workers in the area, and advanced automation and AI technology coming to the fray.

To protect that front-end future value, we need to invest in the back end now, simplify database operations, and make life easier for database management teams. Reducing time spent on administrative overhead can redirect scarce resources toward innovation, driving faster and smarter insights from database estates.

Problems with legacy tech

One of the core issues is that many Australian organisations’ databases are powered by legacy infrastructure – archaic storage area networks, network-attached storage, and even mainframe architecture that was built for an era before modern cloud architecture. Trying to use that to power an era that is entirely driven by applications is problematic.

Relying on this architecture means database teams need to spend days performing complex operations such as installing, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure – operations which can, and should, be as automatable as ordering an Uber if managed in the cloud, for example via database as a service.

Backups are another no-brainer field to simplify for database managers. A victim’s ability to recover from a ransomware attack is highly dependent on the speed and point of recovery from which they can reactivate their data.

Old systems in this space can mean database managers spend lengthy periods patching security vulnerabilities, and the business spending longer in downtime, with the cost of recovering from a ransomware attack in APJ estimated to be US$2.76 million. In some cases, organisations still rely on tape backups, which require physically retrieving tapes and (trying to) implement them back into the enterprise, which can take days.

The case for today’s databases

Modern database backup systems are granular and allow a database manager to almost instantly return to the point right before the attack and progress from there, essentially creating a sliding doors moment and rendering the attack largely meaningless.

These database innovations are not expensive, difficult to deploy, or beyond the reach of any Australian organisation dealing with large volumes of data – they just haven’t got the airtime they deserve. IT is often so engrossed in making life easier for other departments, that it can sometimes be neglected when simplifying and streamlining operations in the server room.

In any case, the current economic headwinds (which beg for smarter technology spend, and gaining more from the assets organisations already have) mean it’s time to give more appreciation, automation, and investment to the unsung heroes managing the platforms on which our data rests.