A common belief within DevOps circles is that automation not only enables greater frequency of delivery and deployment, but improves its overall success rate. Whenever manual intervention is required, the chances of errors creeping in increases. Human error is a significant factor in many an outage, after all ...
Although DBAs fortunately have the rare ability to bridge the gap between development and operations, they have been detrimentally overlooked in many companies that deploy DevOps practices. A DBA's ability to interrogate code and construct a resilient, well–performing database environment uniquely defines the capabilities needed for DevOps.
DevOps requires transformation from organizational silos defined by a technology skill set to process-driven, continuous flowing work streams that are empowered by collaboration and automation. DevOps is about speed, delivery time, continuous integration and deployment, release cadence, and superior customer experience. Although metrics are critical for measuring customer experiences such as application responsiveness, they are also needed to measure release success rate, software defects, test data problems, work, and more.
DBAs tend to be strong technical leaders who provide insight into coding best practices, host platform configurations, database performance improvements, data security and protection. To be successful, DBAs have to communicate, collaborate, teach, and learn while continuously improving database performance and availability. The job often includes having to meet with development to discuss poor performing code, index requirements, or execution plans to recommend code remediation. These "normal" interactions are imperative to the success of DevOps, leaving me perplexed about why DBAs were not one of the first operations team members asked to join the DevOps movement.
Understanding that DBAs are "built" in significantly different ways should help with the approach. Many DBAs were once developers, others came from various infrastructure roles, and still others have always been DBAs. Determining which DBA type is easier to bring into the fold is a fool's game. DBAs are people, and people are surprisingly unpredictable. One ex-developer DBA may be excited to finally be able to use both skill sets to help advance DevOps, whereas another may be perturbed by having to dig up old skills she had hoped were long dead and buried.
Individually interviewing and evaluating each DBA may be necessary. Much like interviewing potential employees, discernment is needed to assess fit, training needs, and potential disruptive factors that may impact the existing DevOps team members. The right leaders and SMEs need to be involved and dedicated to the time and effort needed to integrate DBAs. Rest easy; the good news is that even if some DBAs may resist, they all want to provide value by improving the environment.
Besides, as you start to expand participation in DevOps, you already have a handful of people in mind to make the voyage smoother. You know who I'm talking about. Yes, the ones you see talking to the development teams on a regular basis, checking in to see how things are going, seeing what changes are coming down the pipe, asking what the application users are saying about performance, and even offering to assist as needed. These people should be your initial picks to join the DevOps team. Specifically, you should find DBAs who are already engaged, bring them on board, and then let them help you select and onboard other DBAs when needed.
Having a trusted and respected DBA doing the team's bidding for additional DBA talent is likely to result in volunteers. People want to work with people with whom they have an established relationship. Leverage previous successful working relationships to resourcefully construct the DevOps team.
This blog is an excerpt from Mike Cuppet's book: DevOps, DBAs, and DBaaS
Mike Cuppett is a Business Resiliency Architect for a Fortune 25 healthcare organization, and the author of "DevOps, DBAs, and DbaaS: Managing Data Platforms to Support Continuous Integration."