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Does the future DBA need to be a data scientist?

by Saghi Amirsoleymani

While the path to digital transformation is often considered the most significant modernization initiative in the history of the mainframe,  the growing yet opposing challenge being posed by a burgeoning skills gap is threatening to slow down or delay many projects in the essential and vital (yet unfashionable) mainframe ecosystem.

It’s widely accepted that data is growing exponentially in volume, importance, and rate of arrival, such that every organization needs experts to make it available and turn it into knowledge. But harvesting that knowledge from the mainframe relies on a highly specialized workforce that is close to retiring or has already retired, and a lack of emphasis on teaching mainframe technologies at most universities and colleges is compounding the problem. So how can software providers play their part in bridging the gap between these two conflicting trends?

  • By helping customers leverage open tools in a secure and scalable manner?
  • By helping customers automate their processes pragmatically?
  • By helping customers optimize their infrastructure by applying AI/ML algorithms?

By porting open tools to the mainframe environment, IT professionals needing to access or integrate with mainframe data can continue to use what they are familiar with. The journey to digital transformation becomes less reliant on a widening skills gap and more focussed on the data itself.

Most digital transformation initiatives today are centred around data. Knowing where your company’s data resides, how that data might need to be enriched, and how to apply analytics and AI to leverage that data are the first steps to digital transformation success.

The smart database administrator of the future will be one who sees that it’s not all about the database, but about the knowledge that helps answer business questions, i.e. “why is product X selling better than product Y?” They will be looking beyond the hype around autonomous databases and embrace the automation of many mundane database administration tasks. People who position themselves for the wider role and responsibility of knowing how to unlock new insights, value, and understanding from the data held within their organization will gradually replace the outgoing gatekeepers. The person who, by asking questions and delivering the answers in terms that business managers understand, becomes the essential trusted advisor not just the able guardian of the valuable data held within their organization.

If the “utopia” of autonomous databases that are said to be self-driving, benefit from lower running costs and reduced error rates by removing the human factor, the role of the database administrator as we see it today will be unrecognisable in a generation’s time.

You might not need to become a Data Scientist to achieve that goal, but the future will increasingly belong to those who can use the skills and experience that come from being a database administrator today to frame the questions and obtain the answers from their data that delivers new value, new insights, and new strategies for their companies in the future.

Saghi Amirsoleymani, VP, System Z, Rocket Software is delivering a keynote session at the GSE UK Vitual Conference 2021 on Monday 8th November.

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