I am here in Rome Italy preparing to present a session “How Cloud Computing will Save DBA’s Job” at the International DB2 User Group (IDUG) European conference tomorrow. IDUG is a fantastic user-run organization with membership that is primarily database administrators and system programmers. I’ve been participating in IDUG since about 1995 and had a privilege to present at most of the conferences IDUG organized. One thing I can say about DBAs in general and DB2 DBAs in particular is that they are a very professional bunch of people who are totally dedicated to their craft and are in it for a long haul. These people are lifers. I am still seeing many of the same faces that I saw in the early 90s. And while say may not have as much hair as they used to and some are now talking about their grand kids many are still working for the same companies administering, tuning and optimizing the same systems they did when I first met them in 1995. Compare this to application developers who work on short term projects (12 months is a long time). Chances of finding a programmer who worked on an application since 1995 are probably as good as being hit by a lightning.
DBA’s learned to shun flashy new technologies that promise miracles at a turn of a button. Being awaken by a call at 3am because the system is down makes one apprehensive of jumping in to things that you have not exhaustively tested yourself. DBAs are also very apprehensive of promises of cost reduction. Most have lived through several cycles of outsourcing and saw their colleagues move on and, in many cases, the quality of the systems they run degrade. So, it is no wonder that DBAs are very skeptical of Cloud Computing and many are right down terrified that this is just another “outsourcing scheme” and their systems will migrate out of their company’s data center in to some mystical cloud and their jobs will follow. As you probably guessed from the title of my presentation, I believe in an exactly opposite. In my opinion, Cloud Computing presents companies with an opportunity to invest in innovation instead of IT infrastructure. The application backlog in many IT organizations is caused by unavailability of capital budgets to procure and maintain the IT systems (servers, storage, networking capacity or data center space). Cloud Computing allows one to skirt the issue of very large upfront capital investments and to proceed with projects financing them out of operational expenses without large financial commitments. This should allow smart CIOs to open the floodgates on pending projects and at least get many to the Proof of Concept stage. And what does more projects going forward mean? More DBAs naturally. And are these DBAs going to be sitting on some cloud? The Cloud Computing deployment model I am talking about is called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and this is very different from “outsourcing”. We are all very familiar with outsourcing where a third party would take over the system itself and the entire management of the system soup to nuts. The IaaS model of Cloud Computing allows a company to effectively rent IT systems (by the hour) that are located in a cloud provider’s data center. Unlike outsourcing, no responsibilities or people are transferred. Once the project has progressed far enough in the Proof of Concept or pilot stage, a company can host it in its own data center without any penalty. Removing CAPEX (capital expense) as an impediment to ITs ability to proceed with new projects will, in my opinion, will allow IT organizations to be more responsive to the needs of the business. It is for that reason, I think every DBA should become the champions of Cloud Computing in their organizations and help their companies focus their IT resources on their core competencies like running and maintaining robust, scalable and high performing database infrastructure) instead of focusing on acquiring data center capacity.
The session I am about to present goes in to the Cloud Computing subject at a much deeper level and will, hopefully, help DBAs understand the implications of using cloud computing for databases. I will talk about “private clouds” in addition to the public clouds, about implications on security and compliance and on performance. Most important though, is the subject of picking the right applications for cloud deployment such as development and test systems as well as leveraging the cloud to greatly reduce the cost of providing business continuity by using cloud systems for high availability and disaster recovery. If you are attending IDUG Europe, I hope to see you on Monday, October 5, 2009 at 1:30 in room Bramante 5 for session F02: How Cloud Computing Will Save DBA Jobs.