Databases are the Contents of Storage. Future Oracle DBAs Can Administer More. Why Would They Want To?

I’ve taken the following quote from this Oracle whitepaper about low cost storage:

A Database Storage Grid does not depend on flawless execution from its component storage arrays. Instead, it is designed to tolerate the failure of individual storage arrays.

In spite of the fact that the Resilient Low-Cost Storage Initiative program was decommissioned along with the Oracle Storage Compatability Program, the concepts discussed in that paper should be treated as a barometer of the future of storage for Oracle databases-with two exceptions: 1) Fibre Channel is not the future and 2) there’s more to “the database” than just the database. What do I mean by point 2? Well, with features like SecureFiles, we aren’t just talking rows and columns any more and I doubt (but I don’t know) that SecureFiles is the end of that trend.

Future Oracle DBAs
Oracle DBAs of the future become even more critical to the enterprise since the current “stove-pipe” style IT organization will invariably change. In today’s IT shop, the application team talks to the DBA team who talks to the Sys Admin team who tlks to the Storage Admin team. All this to get an application to store data on disk through a Oracle database. I think that will be the model that remains for lightly-featured products like MySQL and SQL Server, but Oracle aims for more. Yes, I’m only whetting your appetite but I will flesh out this topic over time. Here’s food for thought: Oracle DBAs should stop thinking their role in the model stops at the contents of the storage.

So while Chen Shapira may be worried that DBAs will get obviated, I’d predict instead that Oracle technology will become more full-featured at the storage level. Unlike the stock market where past performance is no indicator of future performance, Oracle has consistently brought to market features that were once considered too “low-level” to be in the domain of a Database vendor.

The IT industry is going through consolidation. I think we’ll see Enterprise-level IT roles go through some consolidation over time as well. DBAs who can wear more than “one hat” will be more valuable to the enterprise. Instead of thinking about “encroachment” from the low-end database products, think about your increased value proposition with Oracle features that enable this consolidation of IT roles-that is, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
Believe me, my positions on Fibre Channel have prompted some fairly vile emails in my inbox-especially the posts in my Manly Man SAN series. Folks, I don’t “have it out”, as they say, for the role of Storage Administrators. I just believe that the Oracle DBAs of today are on the cusp of being in control of more of the stack. Like I said, it seems today’s DBA responsibilities stop at the contents of the storage-a role that fits the Fibre Channel paradigm quite well, but a role that makes little sense to me. I think Oracle DBAs are capable of more and will have more success when they have more control. Having said that, I encourage any of you DBAs who would love to be in more control of the storage to look at my my post about the recent SAN-free Oracle Data Warehouse. Read that post and give considerable thought to the model it discusses. And give even more consideration to the cost savings it yields.

The Voices in My Head
Now my alter ego (who is a DBA, whereas I’m not) is asking, “Why would I want more control at the storage level?” I’ll try to answer him in blog posts, but perhaps some of you DBAs can share experiences where performance or availability problems were further exacerbated by finger pointing between you and the Storage Administration group.

Note to Storage Administrators
Please, please, do not fill my email box with vitriolic messages about the harmony today’s typical stove-pipe IT organization creates. I’m not here to start battles.

Let me share a thought that might help this whole thread make more sense. Let’s recall the days when an Oracle DBA and a System Administrator together (yet alone) were able to provide Oracle Database connectivity and processing for thousands of users without ever talking to a “Storage Group.” Do you folks remember when that was? I do. It was the days of Direct Attach Storage (DAS). The problem with that model was that it only took until about the late 1990s to run out of connectivity-enter the Fibre Channel SAN. And since SANs are spokes attached to hubs of storage systems (SAN arrays), we wound up with a level of indirection between the Oracle server and its blocks on disk. Perhaps there are still some power DBAs that remember how life was with large numbers of DAS drives (hundreds). Perhaps they’ll recall the level of control they had back then. On the other hand, perhaps I’m going insane, but riddle me this (and feel free to quote me elsewhere):

Why is it that the industry needed SANs to get more than a few hundred disks attached to a high-end Oracle system in the late 1990s and yet today’s Oracle databases often reside on LUNs comprised of a handful of drives in a SAN?

The very though of that twist of fate makes me feel like a fish flopping around on a hot sidewalk. Do you remember my post about capacity versus spindles? Oh, right, SAN cache makes that all better. Uh huh.

Am I saying the future is DAS? No. Can I tell you now exactly what model I’m alluding to? Not yet, but I enjoy putting out a little food for thought.

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All content is © Kevin Closson and "Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage", 2006-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Closson and Kevin Closson's Blog: Platforms, Databases, and Storage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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