Schism n. A separation or division into factions
Perhaps "schism" is a bit strong a word for what I'm describing in this post, but there's no doubt the role of a DBA, particularly a SQL Server DBA, is simultaneously splitting and changing, albeit in a gradual and peaceful manner.
In the forward to my book, Kevin Kline wrote of institutional knowledge as the accumulated wisdom of many individual practitioners across many years. The very fact that I was able to write a SQL Server book is direct evidence of the power of accumulated wisdom. Nothing (or very little) in my book is material that cannot be deduced from a number of other sources; my aim from the start was to present a single (and easy to digest) reference that encapsulated the accumulated wisdom of the role of SQL Server DBA, and I hope that I succeeded in that task.
In years gone by, the very best SQL Server DBAs were those that knew all the back doors and secret scripts and switches to squeeze out the best performance whilst avoiding the classic mistakes of those new to the role. Those DBAs still exist, but their power and mystique is diminishing. Together with well documented and easily accessible accumulated wisdom, new and improved features in recent versions of SQL Server have smoothed out the learning curve, making the role of SQL Server DBA a lot easier and more approachable than it once was. As a result, existing DBAs are spending more time accumulating knowledge in complementary areas, and new DBAs are coming into the role with a specialist angle in mind.
I've listed below four different types of DBA role. Most DBAs I know currently perform tasks from at least two of these, but over time, I think these roles will become increasingly separated and practiced by those with an expertise in one area.
The days of having a specialist DBA on staff to administer a small number of databases are drawing to a close. These tasks will be consumed by other administration staff (Windows, Exchange etc ....) who'll be expected to pickup the required SQL Server skills as part of their "hybrid" administration role. As such, the number of part time, or "involuntary" DBAs will rise, increasing the need for (and value of) accumulated DBA wisdom.
What's becoming very clear is that those that remain (or enter) the dedicated SQL Server administration space will need to specialize in administering large numbers of servers, typically in data centres and hosted environments. Their specialty will be the mastering of proactive administration (alerts, baseline analysis, etc ...) and will be the prime beneficiaries of new SQL Server features such as Policy-Based Management, Management Data Warehouse (MDW) and Resource Governor. They'll also employ their knowledge of scripting languages such as Powershell to further streamline their administration processes.
These DBAs will also be comfortable with virtualization (ESX/Hyper-V) and consolidation techniques, and will be able to hold their own in conversations with storage administrators regarding SAN configuration. Their deep knowledge of dynamic management views (DMVs) will enable them to pinpoint and correct database performance problems, and they'll be comfortable with disaster recovery planning, implementing least privilege security and high availability principals.
Development DBAs will spend most of their time with the database before it enters production. Their specialty will be logical and/or physical modelling, writing stored procedures and dealing with CLR, LINQ to SQL and Entity Framework (EF) performance and manageability issues. In addition to T-SQL programming, they'll be strong in one or more other development languages such as C#, and will spend most of their day in Visual Studio and TFS.
The emergence of geospatial data will see a sub-branch of development expertise for mapping applications.
Data Tier Architects
The Data Tier Architects will be the ones that float around in meetings scribbling clouds on whiteboards. They'll be responsible for designing the interfaces to the data, and how the data is accessed, replicated, and synchronized. Their knowledge of SQL Server replication and scale out solutions such as shared scalable databases will enable them to design high performance platforms for the benefit of the various applications that consume and populate the data.
Business Intelligence & Data Warehousing DBAs
Finally, the years to come will see a continuation (and acceleration) of the rollout of business intelligence & data warehousing projects. DBAs in this field will be those with a mastery of Integration Services (SSIS), Analysis Services (SSAS), MDX and Reporting Services (SSRS). True "data mining" projects will become more common, with the consolidation and conversion of legacy data systems.
So, the question is this ... What sort of DBA will you be in 10 years from now?