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Today's Challenges Facing DBAs: New IOUG Study.

Today's Challenges Facing DBAs: New IOUG Study.

I am a long time Star Trek fan and thought Spock’s Vulcan mind meld was awesome. Unfortunately, it would be very time consuming to mind meld with 300 Oracle DBAs so one of the best approaches we have is to read studies by the Independent Oracle User Group (IOUG). There is a new study called, “Consolidate, Virtualize, Automate, and Standardize” that gives you a view into the challenges and strategies DBA have today in working with Oracle databases. 

One of the first challenges is nearly a quarter of IT Organizations are working with flat budgets over the past year and into next year. Looking at figure 1 from the study, there is a significant downward slope in moving from minor budget increases of 5% to 20% or more. Combining the two first two categories (No change and increase 5%) shows IT Organizations will operate with minor budget increases: 40% over the past year and 44% next year. 

The other three categories (increase from 6% through more than 20%) shows nearly one-third of IT Organizations will benefit from more substantial budgets: 29% over the past year and 28% next year. Budget declines account for 17% over the past year and 13% next year. Of all the DBAs taking the survey 15% for over the past year and next year indicated they don’t know or are unsure.  In part 2 of this blog series we will review strategies IT Organizations plan to use in reducing budget spend and embracing innovation.


Figure 4 from the study answers the question, “Which management activities are impacting the budget.” In this question DBAs could check “all categories” that apply. Activities taking the majority of budget include maintaining database uptime, applying patches, ensuring security and meetings. Routine database management activities that keep the database management systems running represent the majority share of budget. Reducing the impact of these activities on budget will allow for more investment in new technologies. Automating routine database management activities is a goal that will reduce budget impact and increase accuracy of service delivery.  Now that we understand which DBA activities are impacting budgets, we need to look at activity growth.

In figure 5, from the study we left the bars from figure 4 showing DBA activities taking the most budget and overlay how these activities have changed over the last three years. This way we can see today’s impact of each activity on budget and how the activity has changed over the last three years. For example, it’s easy to see ‘ensuring security’ is quickly becoming the number one activity impacting budget: its ranked 3rd in activities consuming budget and number one in budget growth at 51%. If we do this study again in two years, I wouldn’t be surprised if ensuring security is the top activity taking the most share of the IT budget. 

The other database management activities impacting budgets over three years have similar increases:

  • Meetings for compliance and audits increased 44%
  • Performance tuning increased 43%
  • Maintain uptime and availability increased 41%
  • Applying upgrades and fixes increased 40%

In general, the theme is database management activities continue to grow as most budgets remain unchanged thus, placing pressure on DBAs to do more without much investment and further constraining the ability to take on new initiatives.


The figure below illustrates the situation IT Organizations and DBA teams are contending with in managing databases. On the left side budget increases have been minimal and haven’t kept pace with the increase in database management activities. On the right side we see that DBA activities represent the majority share of the budget titling the scales to routine activities like maintaining uptime, applying patches, and ensuring security among others. 

To solve this challenge many database teams are doing more with less investment. This is a short term solution that elevates having to increase the budget at the expense of adding a greater workload on the database team. I mention short term solution because the risks include burn-out, less execution accuracy, and at its worse loss of expertise to competitors. 

Looking at Figure 6, we see activities taking the most DBA time each week is slightly different than activities consuming budget. Maintaining uptime sores the number 1 position in 2016 followed closely by performance tuning. This is an important point as DBAs are indicating that most of their time is spent maintaining uptime and performance tuning. If DBAs could reduce their database management burden then this opens up opportunities to invest in new technologies driving more efficiency. There is a small drop-off after performance tuning in the time it takes to ensure security, applying patches, and creating copies of databases.

It’s notable that ‘meetings for compliance’ doesn’t make the list. Meetings can take many man hours, depending upon the number of attendees thus, impacting the budget but for the DBA only one hour of his or her day. Contrast this with provisioning a database copy that could take several hours, maybe days, and it is clear why database provisioning makes the top five database activities taking the majority of DBA time.

I present a summary in the table below using a subset of these survey findings to develop an overall picture of DBA challenges. The last column of the table is the combined percentages of activities taking budget and time.  

  • Maintaining uptime and availability and performance tuning remain the top two activities impacting budget and time spent by the DBAs.
  • Ensuring security is taking more budget than time but continued growth might displace our top activities in the next survey. Ensuring security takes third place in our list of top six activities taking budget and time.
  • Applying upgrades, fixes, and patches takes more budget than time and is fourth ranked activity. 
  • Meetings for compliance impacts budget but does not make the top activities impacting DBA time. 
  • Creating database copies did not make the top activities impacting budget but it is in the top activities impacting DBA time.  

Maintaining uptime and availability is the leader by twelve points to the next closest activity of performance tuning. In this survey DBAs are clearly indicating that most of the budget and time spent by the team is dedicated to database availability. Overall the day-to-day routine tasks are critical to the business but stifle innovation and in the long term competitiveness. 


Summary of findings:

The majority of DBAs are under pressure to maintain database environments with little to no change in budgets. The short term solution is to do more with less but this approach carries long term risks to the IT Organization: working faster with less accuracy and potential loss of skilled DBAs. Database management activities taking budget closely mirror database activities consuming time with exception to meetings for compliance (budget only) and creating database copies (time only). 

IT Organizations must develop strategies to reduce the database management burden while enabling database teams to drive innovation and growth for the business.

In part two of this blog we will explore DBA strategies for reducing budget and time spent on database management activities. DBAs know how they want to solve the challenge of reducing time spend on database management tasks and you might be surprise! I’ll give you a hint DBA strategies closely mirror business strategy. The goal is to strike a balance between the budget and database management activities that creates opportunities to invest in new innovations and drive growth for the business.

Virtustream Your SAP Application and More

Virtustream Your SAP Application and More