Monday, December 15, 2008

Cloud Computing and me

I was just reading in SQL Server Magazine an article about Cloud Computing, and agree with the premise the author portrayed.  Its a new hyped tech, and its something to get excited about.  I have been in IT for some time now, and have seen a lot of ideas come to the forefront, and make it big, while others, with excitement behind them, never really went anywhere.  

As an IT professional, its important to 'know' about these techs, but not necessarily buy in or follow the crowd.  I have tried hard to keep up with these new techs and simply keep myself aware of them.  If they seem to have the capacity to impact my career and employment, then I have to learn about it.  Otherwise, simple knowledge is necesitated.

So, along comes the latest 'hyped tech', Cloud Computing.  As far as it impacts me, its the opportunity for businesses to push their databases into the cloud, which pushes it away from the traditional DBA, and into a service delivery or supscription based business.  I would assume that a hosting company that offers 'Cloud' services would retain a few DBA's on their IT staff, so some jobs will simply shift from one company to another.  This sucks if you are the DBA that gets nixed because your shop pushed your databases into the 'Cloud'.  Its rocks for the DBA at the hosting company that maintans those databases.  Its a different gig than most of us are used too, as they would be in charge of many many databases.

But on a larger scale, some folks have predicted the demise of the DBA as we know it, with the advent of the 'Cloud'.  This may be true in a small scale, but I do not believe it to be so in the laerger picture.  Obviously there will be changes.  There are always changes.  I remember the day, while as a db developer, I touted the abilities of SQL Server to the tune that you didnt need a DBA to run and maintain it in your shop.  Fast forward a few years, and I have based my career direction exactly on top of the opposite of that premise.  I have become the SQL Server DBA that maintains your databases, the same ones I told you didn't need a DBA. It just happened that way.  So, we have to admit that there have been changes in our career paths over the last 10 years anyway.  Most DBA's are not born DBA's. They come from Development or Networking.  Meaning that they were programmers/developers/etc that touched the database, and soon became the experts, morphing themselves into DBA's.  Or they were on the networking/administration/etc side, and ended up having to install and support databases, and like devs, became the experts on the database, and morphed.  While I was in college, I took a database class, and thought, this would be cool to work with, but at the time, my options were to become a developer, not directly a DBA.  The experience that I gained from being on the other side of the fence has greatly improved my perspective as a DBA, and I wouldnt have it any other way.

Back to the 'Cloud'.  Think about your shop.  Your data.  Is the data important?  It had better be... Is it important that your data is secure?  You betcha.  Can unauthorized people see or access your data?  No way!  How many of your shops are constrained by SOX or HIPPA or SAS70 or some other auditing and compliance initiative?  How many of your shops encrypt your data to protect it from others? How many of you are actively monitoring your systems for intrusion?

My point in bringing all this up is that simply pushing your entire database into the 'Cloud' does not solve these issues.  I believe it opens a can of worms that will be difficult to overcome to secure and contain all these tasks.  There may be a way with 'Cloud' computing, but I don't see it yet.  I'm sure that there will be work in this direction, but in the meantime, its important to me to see how this may/will affect me.  

As I have been involved in many database with Auditing & Copmpliance issues, I don't see this data being pushed into the 'Cloud' right away.  Maybe pieces of the application can be broken up, and stored there.  Maybe we can have pieces, less secure pieces, out there in the 'Cloud'.  Some have suggested that GMail or similar mail apps are likely candidates for the 'Cloud'.  With this thought in mind, what parts of your business solutions could be pushed into the 'Cloud'?  I bet there are pieces that would reside there happily.  Support systems, internal applications, etc.   For example, we have a ticketing system that is hosted locally.  There are IT staff that are dedicated to its upkeep.  If cost is an issue, these positions could be removed and the application pushed into the 'Cloud', fairly easily.  Reassign the IT folks to other duties, let them spend less time supporting this 'Other' application, and let it go.  I'm betting there are many parts of your business, your daily processing, your web presence, that can happily reside elsewhere.  There will be issues with this, and its different.  But change is inevitable.  Maybe even your core database can reside elsewhere, in the 'Cloud', once some of the problems are faced and fixed.  I don't see a shop pushing their entire dbs out there yet.  Someday, maybe, but along the way, many changes will occur.

I don't see this as the demise of my job as a DBA, but I do see it as another way to more efficiently run a business, and unfortunately, I am only one cog in the wheel of my business.  No matter how important and influential I believe I am, and how vital my position is, I am just one piece of the puzzle.  I hope that I can continue to leverage my skills I currently wield, as well as be able to pick up new tricks.  In the end, I wanna work with databases.  Be it that those database reside in some server room somewhere, supported by an IT staff that maintains the hardware for me and network connections and monitors the SLA's and systems, or in my company, in some server room somewhere, supported by an IT staff that maintains the hardware for me and network connections and monitors the SLA's and systems.  

1 comment:

Dave Edwards said...

"Like many DBAs, TJay has some thoughts on how the advent of 'The Cloud' is going to affect databases and database administration."

Log Buffer #128