IT Operations Management (ITOM)

Superhero DBAs: How to fuel productivity gains with automation

Superhero DBAs: How to fuel productivity gains with automation


By Nimish Shelat

Product Marketing Manager, HP Cloud & Automation


How does your organization measure the productivity of database administration? A common approach is to use DB to DBA (databases to database administrators), a ratio that is similar to “Servers to Server Admins”. But what does DB to DBA really mean in absolute and relative terms?


For example, consider a single DBA that’s responsible for 50 DBs. Forty-nine of them could be generally “quiet” and not require much attention other than daily backups—but that remaining lone database could be a monster that consumes copious amounts of the DBA’s time. So what is the true DB to DBA ratio? Is it 50:1, or is it really 1:1?


DBA-Produtivity equation.png


A better way to calculate DBA productivity

What you really need is a clear and comprehensive indication of productivity. There are several metrics that can contribute, which can be broken out into two categories:


1. Environment

  • Rate of change
  • Service level requirements
  • Scope of DBA services
  •  # of databases under management
  • Database size
  • Data growth rate


2. Delivery

  • Skills level
  • Process maturity (i.e. well-defined standard operating procedures for provisioning, configuration, compliance, patching, code release and health-checks)
  • Tools standardization
  • Automation levels


Scoring high in “Delivery” means there is a higher probability that your DBAs will maintain service levels, even if the “Environment” gets more complex in the future. With high levels of “Delivery” maturity, your DBA’s can be proactive and business-driven. They can actively implement database consolidation initiatives to keep database counts low. Or actively implement data archival and pruning mechanisms to keep overall database sizes constant even in the face of high data growth rates. By addressing the areas that make up “Delivery” metrics, you can actively improve your productivity level.


Steps for quantifiable improvement in DBA productivity

Although productivity, as a function of “Environment” and “Delivery”, is more comprehensive way to think about DBA effectiveness, it is still a subjective measure. Working with database automation products that comply with run book automation (RBA) standards can help to quantify.


Here are three steps to take which will ultimately let you measure the ROI from the improved DBA productivity.


1. Map DBA task patterns

There’s no such thing in IT as a “one time activity”. When you examine how your DBAs spend their workdays at a very granular level, you will see a lot of commonalities within end-to-end processes and you find repeatable task patterns. For instance, “working on new projects” may involve provisioning new dev/test databases, refreshing schemas with production data, etc.—patterns that can be boiled down to a series of steps. Many of these activities can be streamlined and automated, if the underlying task pattern is identified and mapped out.


Analyze three months of data from a ticketing system to understand the task pattern of the DBAs for the following common areas:

  • Applying Quarterly Patches
  • DB audits and remediation
  • DB Upgrades
  • New DB Builds, provisioning and configuration
  • Database Refreshes/Cloning


2. Pinpoint 3 top activities

The next step is to isolate the three task patterns that DBAs do multiple times each month. If the top tasks fall under a common broad category such as “working on new projects”, break down the category into a list of tangible tasks, for example, “provisioning a new database”, “compliance-related scanning and hardening”, etc.


3. Identify candidates for automation and measure related gains

Finally, study the top task patterns and begin to estimate how much of it has a specific sequence of execution. A task may not be 100 percent repeatable, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be streamlined across environments and automated. Look for gains as small as 30 percent per activity.


A decent database automation product should allow you to achieve 50% overall efficiency gains, which means you can take on more databases without additional headcount or support the existing databases in a more comprehensive manner. HP Database and Middleware Automation customers have automated tasks across 60 percentof their work scope and have experienced gains as high as 70 percent.


Now what?

Once you have improved the efficiency of your DBAs, ask yourself (and them) what activities or tasks they could undertake more often that would help keep IT ahead of the curve and make database service more predictable and scalable.


Here are several suggestions to consider:

  • Capacity planning
  • Proactive maintenance and health checks
  • Architecture or design work
  • Working closely with Development to avoid resource-intensive SQL statements
  • Use features and capabilities in newer DBMS versions
  • Audit backups and DR sites more thoroughly
  • Define standards in a DBA workbook


Each task or activity will help the business through reduced glitches and service interruptions, fewer war-room sessions, or better statutory compliance.


Maximizing returns from Database Automation

Automation projects are an ongoing journey. Once you have automated the top three processes, audited the results and measured the value, you can then move on to the next set of activities. This cycle will continue until the law of diminishing returns kicks in (usually after three cycles), but the improvements in cost of database operations and service levels will be well received by management and end-users.


Learn more

Explore how HP Database and Middleware Automation software can help:

➢           Visit the HP Database and Middleware product page



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