How Many DBAs Do You Need To Support Databases?

Noel Yuhanna

I frequently get asked the question of how many databases a DBA typically manages. Over the past five years, I have interviewed hundreds of organizations on this topic, asking them about their ratios and how they improved them. Typically I find that the current industry average is 40 databases to a DBA for large enterprises ($1 billion+ in revenue), with the lowest ratio seen around eight and the highest at 275. So, why this huge variation? There are many factors that I see in customer deployments that contribute to this variation, such as the size of a database, database tools, version of databases, DBA expertise, formalization of database administration, and production versus nonproduction.

This ratio is usually limited by the total size of all databases that a DBA manages. A terabyte-sized database remains difficult to manage compared to a database that's 100 GB in size. Larger databases often require extra tuning, backup, recovery, and upgrade effort. The average database-to-DBA ratio is often constrained by the total size of the databases being managed, which tends to be around five terabytes per DBA. In other words, one DBA can effectively manage 25 databases of 200 GB each or five 1 terabyte databases. And these include production and nonproduction databases.

What are the factors that can help improve the ratio? Cloud, tools, latest DBMS version (automation), and DBMS product used – SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, or Sybase. Although most DBMS vendors have improved on manageability over the years, based on customer feedback, Microsoft SQL Server tends to have the best ratios.

I believe that although you should try to achieve the 40:1 ratio and the 5 terabyte cap, consider establishing your own baseline based on the database inventory and DBAs and using that as the basis for improving the ratio over time.

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Take Part In Forrester's Database Management Survey

Noel Yuhanna

Forrester is currently running a database management survey assessing the state of the database market. We are surveying companies across various verticals to understand the type of DBMS they use, what challenges they face and what initiatives are currently being undertaken or planned for in the coming years. We’re looking at what’s working and what’s not, and things that you are focusing on around database management such as cloud, compression, archiving, security, and tuning.

If you are involved in some part of database management, then we’d love to hear your opinions.  

All results will treated as strictly confidential and results will only ever be presented at an aggregated level.

 You can take the survey here.

 Thanks for your time!

 Cheers,

 Noel

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Database Migrations Are Finally Becoming Simpler

Noel Yuhanna

Lately I have been getting quite a few inquiries on database migrations asking me about migration approaches, best practices, and tooling. Some of the reasons why companies are looking at migrations are because of staffing issues, scalability and security concerns, and cost-saving strategies. Migrations have always been complex, time consuming, and expensive, because each DBMS has proprietary data structures, data types, and SQL extensions. Once you choose a DBMS, you get locked into its platform, often creating a challenge when looking to migrate. Some companies told me that it took them more than a year to migrate some large and complex applications, which is not surprising. Although, tools and services have helped with migrations in the past, they have not been comprehensive and automated, which would make the process simple. Like an IT manager in the retail sector recently told me, “We did not want to spend a million dollars on tools and services just to save a million dollars on our database platform; it just didn’t make sense.”

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Sybase Acquisition By SAP - A Great Move

Noel Yuhanna

Recently, SAP announced a definitive agreement to acquire Sybase for $5.8 billion, at $65 a share, a 44% premium over the share's three-month average price. The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of 2010. Sybase will operate as a standalone unit under the name “Sybase, a SAP Company,” and be run by Sybase’s management team.

Although execs from SAP and Sybase have stressed mobility, real-time information, in-memory, and analytics benefits that come from this acquisition, the increasing pressure from Oracle cannot be undermined. Oracle’s stronger focus of stack level integration and selling around applications, middleware and database, and recent acquisition of SUN has put pressure on SAP.

 

SAP-Sybase Deal Offers A Lot Of Synergies

SAP and Sybase offer many benefits ranging from in-memory technologies, databases, analytics, and data integration to mobility and ILM.

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Third-party Database Tools Still Matter

Noel Yuhanna

Over the past year, I have received numerous inquiries asking me whether third-party database tools that focus on performance and tuning, backup recovery, replication, upgrade, troubleshooting, and migration capabilities matter anymore now that leading DBMS providers such as Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft are offering improved automation and broader coverage. 

I find that third-party tools complement well with native database tools in assisting DBAs, developers and operational staff in their day-to-day activities. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak to dozens of enterprises that support hundreds and thousands of databases across various DBMSes. Most enterprises reported they saw at least a 20 percent IT staff productivity when using a third-party database tool.

Third-party vendor tools remain equally important because they support:

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