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Tell me about databases

 
 
Wilso
 
Reply Tue 18 Sep, 2007 07:53 am
I'm studying IT, and pretty soon have to choose a major. My first choice would have been network engineering. The problem is that doing it by distance ed, we don't get any practicals, and the only access we've got to our instructors is by the online subject forum and email. Last semester I did the first introductory database subject. The lecturer teaches other database subjects. She was fantastic. Answered questions on the forum every day. Answered emails within 48 hours or less. She was very available and helpful. Right now I'm doing my first network/communication subject. Up to about week 10, and so far the ignorant navel staring academic has not answered one single question on the forum. I sent him a question via email a week ago, and still haven't got a reply. I'm not going to go through almost two years of a degree possibly at the mercy of this guy's total refusal to actually do his job. So maybe someone could tell me a little of what it's like to be a DBA.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Sep, 2007 05:05 pm
I studied DBA but never actually did it as I didn't want to be tethered to a pager and work, potentially, 24/7. After all, the down times allowable by contract are often rather tiny, as in less than one day per year. So if something goes wrong, you're working to get it up and running again as soon as possible.

I have worked with some DBAs in terms of getting access to a table or tables or to suggest improvements. Some are certainly more reachable than others. I think that there's a big push to denormalize data but the reality is that that can make for rather convoluted querying. I recall when I first started getting into data I worked on queries that had maybe 14 tables in them and they were a slow godawful mess. Therefore my colleagues and I tried to get the DBA to create either linking tables or combined tables or views so that we could get our work done more quickly. This had varying degrees of success.

In my current gig, I was asked to run reports on a certain field and it turned out I did not have access to it. A call to the DBA and I'm still waiting. It's been close to a month. In addition, getting access to a scheduler has proven impossible. Instead of just being given one, like I was at an earlier job, it's proven to be a lot of hoop-jumping. I might start bringing in homemade cookies and see if that makes a difference. It is rather frustrating.

Hence some, in my experience, have been more vigilant gatekeepers than others. Whether that really is a desire to maintain data integrity, or if it is an attempt to throw up a wall around the role of DBA, it's hard to tell from where I sit. As an experienced (and, I like to think, trusted) user, I find it maddening. I'm all for the company saving money but it cannot be saving if I spend my time sitting watching a query run because it takes up all of the random access memory on my machine, rather than run it through a scheduler in 1/10 of the time.

DBAs gatekeep access to parts of the database and they also assign roles. Roles are usually the way that they put together access levels. Hence a beginning user might see only a few tables whereas a seasoned one might get a much larger view of the database. Certain data entry personnel would get write access in addition to read, but the prudent DBA will not hand out write access to the entire database as that's just asking for trouble. DBAs also watch security but security through the assignment of (or withholding of) roles is not good security at all. They also update the database, say, if Melbourne changed its name to Melborn probably the easiest way to make that change would be via an update query. But update, append, delete and truncate are kinda dangerous acts and can cause trouble if the consequences are not well understood prior to being undertaken.

Anyway, that's my experience of DBAs. I hope that's of help to you.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Sep, 2007 10:20 pm
People protecting their roles is certainly not localised to DBA's. There's a lot of that goes on where I work. It certainly happens in engineering.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Sep, 2007 03:45 am
Yeah, I've seen it a lot, too, I suppose it's the nature of how some people work -- they're too insecure in their abilities so they throw up obstacles in front of those who could conceivably be a threat.
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