Types of DBAs

DBAs can take on many different roles. This excerpt from the "Database administration: The complete guide to practices and procedures" takes a closer look at different types of DBAs.

The following is an excerpt from Database Administration: The Complete Guide to Practices and Procedures, by Craig

Mullins. It is reprinted here with permission from Addison Wesley Professional. Read the chapter below to learn about the various types of database administrators (DBAs) or download a free .pdf of the chapter: "Types of DBAs."

 There are database administrators (DBAs)who focus on logical design and DBAs who focus on physical design; DBAs who specialize in building systems and DBAs who specialize in maintaining and tuning systems; specialty DBAs and general-purpose DBAs. Truly, the job of DBA encompasses many roles.

Some organizations choose to split DBA responsibilities into separate jobs. Of course, this occurs most frequently in larger organizations, because smaller organizations often cannot afford the luxury of having multiple, specialty DBAs.

Still other companies simply hire DBAs to perform all of the tasks required to design, create, document, tune, and maintain the organization's data, databases, and database management systems. Let's look at some of the more common types of DBA.

DBA type 1: System DBA
A system DBA focuses on technical rather than business issues, primarily in the system administration area. Typical tasks center on the physical installation and performance of the DBMS software and can include the following:

  • Installing new DBMS versions and applying maintenance fixes supplied by the DBMS vendor
  • Setting and tuning system parameters
  • Tuning the operating system, network, and transaction processors to work with the DBMS
  • Ensuring appropriate storage for the DBMS

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  • Enabling the DBMS to work with storage devices and storage managementsoftware
  • Interfacing with any other technologies required by database applications
  • Installing third-party DBA tools

System DBAs are rarely involved with actual implementation of databases and applications. They might get involved in application tuning when operating system parameters or complex DBMS parameters need to be altered.

DBA type 2: Database architect
Some organizations create a separate position, database architect, for design and implementation of new databases. The database architect is involved in new design and development work only; he is not involved in maintenance, administration, or tuning of established databases and applications. The database architect designs new databases for new or existing applications. 

The rationale for creating a separate position is that the skills required for designing new databases are different from the skills required to keep an existing database implementation up and running. A database architect is more likely than a generalpurpose DBA to have data administration and modeling expertise.

Typical tasks performed by the database architect include:

  • Creating a logical data model (if no DA or data modeler position exists)
  • Translating logical data models into physical database designs
  • Implementing efficient databases, including specifying physical characteristics, designing efficient indexes, and mapping database objects to physical storage devices
  • Analyzing data access and modification requirements to ensure efficient SQL and optimal database design
  • Creating backup and recovery strategies for new databases

Most organizations do not staff a separate database architect position, instead requiring DBAs to work on both new and established database projects.

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This was first published in November 2005

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