What is a DBA

The lines between a system administrator and DBA have gotten blurred of late. The question of that a UNIX or Windows admin does and what a DBA does has gotten a little confusing. Let�s take a look at the differences and see what is required. We will base the analysis first on job requirements as posted on monster.com. We will then look at what it takes to be certified for a DBA and Linux admin.


 


DBA capabilities


 


First, what does monster.com list as the requirements for an Oracle DBA. We started this process by searching for an Oracle DBA in the keyword description. Fortunately, there were over 1500 matches that indicate that there is a broad spectrum of descriptions to choose from. It also shows that this is a viable job opportunity with a relatively high demand.


 


Some of the responsibilities that are commonly listed are (ranked by importance):



  • Make sure existing database instances are running and backed up
  • Plan growth of database infrastructure
  • Respond to database support requests (Build/Alter tables, run stats, load tables, data recovery)
  • Provide third level support for help desk
  • Assist resolution of production issues
  • Clone existing production environments for test and development
  • Mentor system admins and operators
  • Lead projects and implementations
  • Evaluate, define, and document standards, processes, and procedures
  • Document network topology, database configuration, and site configurations
  • Evaluate tools
  • Evaluate and recommend purchases
  • Assist in development of disaster recovery and business continuity plan

The skills that are required are



  • Good communication skills
  • Time and multiple project management
  • Advanced knowledge of Oracle 9i and newer versions
  • Comfort with all aspect of database administration (installation, configuration, performance tuning, and security)
  • College degree of some type (typically engineering, bachelor or masters)
  • Familiarity with data modeling, entity relationships, referential integrity, and cardinality
  • Familiarity with creating schemas, triggers, stored procedures, sequences, synonyms, and user defined data types
  • Experience with database backup and restore
  • Experience with database replication
  • Experience with SQL, PL/SQL, Java/JDBC, ODBC
  • Working knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL
  • Ability to write batch jobs and scripts
  • Experience with database log shipping and standby databases
  • Experience with service packs and security updates as well as rolling upgrades
  • Experience with troubleshooting HA and highly redundant configurations
  • Five or more years experience as DBA

Supplemental skills desired



  • Knowledge of IIS and Apache configurations and adminsitration
  • Knowledge of operating systems (Windows, Unix)
  • Knowledge of network hardware, firewalls, switches, and routers
  • Knowledge of business applications (SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft)
  • Experience with a programming language (Perl, Java, C##, ASP, .NET)
  • Experience with operation center software (HP OpenView, BMC Remedy, Tivoli, CA Unicenter, Nagios/NetSaint)
  • Experience with storage network hardware vendors
  • Knowledge of data warehousing tools (like ETL and Warehouse builder)
  • Knowledge of business analytics software
  • Knowledge of federal and state regulations (FERPA, HIPPA, SOX) and how it relates to data in the database

DBA Certification


 


If we shift our view to the certification process and look at what is being tested we see a slightly different list of topics. The 10g Admin Workshop 1 focuses on the following topics:



  • Installation
  • Creating a database
  • Managing a database instance
  • Managing database storage structures
  • Administering user security
  • Managing schema objects
  • Managing data and concurrency
  • Managing undo data
  • Implementing security
  • Configuring networks
  • Proactive maintenance (stats, AWR, ADDM, alerts)
  • Performance management
  • Backup and recovery
  • Flashback
  • Moving data (loading and migrating)

The 10g Admin Workshop 2 shifts the focus a little deeper into recovery and less of basic administration and user creation.



  • Configuring recovery manager
  • Recovering from user errors
  • Dealing with database corruption
  • Automating management (SQL Tuning Advisor, AWR, ADDM)
  • Using rman
  • Recovering temp tables, redo logs, index, read-only tables, and passwords
  • Monitoring and managing storage
  • Monitoring and managing memory
  • Database recovery
  • Flashback database
  • Managing resources
  • Job scheduling and management

Additional certification can be obtaines for high availability



  • Overview of RAC
  • Installing clusterware
  • Installing RAC
  • Database creation
  • RAC DB administration
  • Backup and recovery of RAC
  • Monitoring and tuning RAC
  • Managing services in HA solutions
  • Managing connections in HA solutions
  • Administering clusterware
  • Troubleshooting clusterware
  • Designing for maximum availability architecture

System Administrator requirements


 


If we shift our focus to what is a systems administrator the job description found on monster.com is a little different



  • Setup and configure hardware boxes with operating systems
  • Patch management for operating systems and applications
  • Support customer requests for operating system and application loads
  • Tune application and operating system configurations
  • College degree (computer science or equivalent)
  • 5 years experience
  • Focus on network, systems, and application security
  • Support and maintain web sites, intranet, and project web sites


  • Provide third level support for help desk
  • Assist resolution of production issues
  • Clone existing production environments for test and development
  • Mentor system admins and operators
  • Lead projects and implementations
  • Evaluate, define, and document standards, processes, and procedures
  • Document network topology, database configuration, and site configurations
  • Evaluate tools
  • Evaluate and recommend purchases


  • Assist in development of disaster recovery and business continuity plan
  • Support network team

Must have proficiency in



  • Good communication skills
  • Time and multiple project management


  • Operating system (Linux, Windows, pick one)
  • DNS, DHCP, IMAP, POP, SMTP, RADIUS, PHP, LDAP, Active Directory, Samba
  • Programming and scripting languages (Perl, csh, sh, java, c, c##)
  • Backup and restore procedures for operating system
  • Experience with VMWare


  • Experience with blades or partitioning of hardware


  • Phone systems (POTS and VoiP)
  • Printer and copier maintenance
  • Experience with firewall and network security

System Admin certification


 


If we shift our focus to what is part of the certification process we see:



  • User environements and logging in
  • Command line basics
  • File system management (disk partitioning, file system types and management, LVM, RADI, Quotas)
  • Users, groups, and permissions (NIS, LDAP, Active Directory, files, ACL)
  • Shell basics
  • Standard I/O and pipes
  • Shell scripting and text processing
  • Managing processes
  • Network administration (device recognition, kernel drivers, DHCP, DNS, TCP, IP, filtering, firewalls)
  • System installation and configuration (BOOTP, jumpstart, kickstart, flash install)
  • System initialization and services (boot, BIOS, kernel procedures, init scripts)
  • Kernel services (/proc, kernel modules, system monitoring)
  • Package and application management (RPM, patch management)
  • Printer administration
  • Backup and restore basics (dump/restore, tape, cpio)
  • X window configuration and security
  • Fault analysis (rougue processes, priorities, memory leaks)
  • Network services (FTP, NFS, Samba)
  • Web services (Web server, CGI, SSL, certificates, email, SMTP)
  • Encryption technologies and key management, PAM, Kerberos

Commonalities between DBA and System Administrator


 


The two jobs do have some overlap. Mainly education, communication skills, and support of help desk. If we list the job functions that are the same we see:



  • Provide third level support for help desk
  • Assist resolution of production issues
  • Clone existing production environments for test and development
  • Mentor system admins and operators
  • Lead projects and implementations
  • Evaluate, define, and document standards, processes, and procedures
  • Document network topology, database configuration, and site configurations
  • Evaluate tools
  • Evaluate and recommend purchases
  • Assist in development of disaster recovery and business continuity plan

Skills that are similar



  • Good communication skills
  • Time and multiple project management
  • College degree of some type (typically engineering, bachelor or masters)


  • Programming knowledge
  • Experience with firewall and network security

Differences between DBA and System Administrator


 




























DBA


System Administrator


Make sure existing database instances are running and backed up


Make sure existing operating systems and applications are running and backed up


Plan growth of database infrastructure


Plan growth of hardware and network required to run applications


Respond to database support requests (Build/Alter tables, run stats, load tables, data recovery)


Respond to user support requests (load operating systems, add applications, printer problems)


Patch management for database


Patch management for operating system and applications


Tune database


Tune operating system and applications running on system


Focus on database and application security


Focus on network, system, and applicaion security


Support developers in accessing data stored in database


Support and maintain web sites, intranet, and project web sites


 


The training required for both jobs are radically different. The DBA focuses more on administration of data and users. The sys admin focuses more on components of the operating system and applications. The DBA is aligned a little more with the business units while the sys admin is more aligned with the help desk. Both are important relevant jobs but few people cross the boundaries between the two because the training required to become an expert in both is time consuming.

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