The Rise of the Clones: Will Database Automation Replace DBAs?

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Database automation is here to stay. 

Both Microsoft and Oracle use an element of automation in their technologies, with Azure Automation and Autonomous Database respectively.

But if you’re a manager, what does this mean for your DBAs (Database Administrators)? And do you still need a managed service if your database is automated?

At first glance, it may seem like an opportunity to cut costs and save significant amounts of money. 

However, like most things, it isn’t that straightforward.

What does database automation offer?

The principle behind database automation is to eliminate routine maintenance tasks. These might include patching, scaling, database tuning, and the management of security.

Coincidentally, these areas of database management occupy a significant proportion of DBAs’ time.

Adding to this, Oracle notes that ‘machine learning and AI algorithms include query optimization, automatic memory management, and storage management to provide a completely self-tuning database.’

Put simply, database automation offers some truly brilliant innovations.

So, will database automation replace DBAs?

Not entirely, no.

You may find that database automation allows you to have a smaller team of DBAs. However, it is not a like-for-like replacement for your skilled workers. Nor is it a valid replacement for a database managed service.

There are a handful of reasons for this.

Rule-based systems require human intervention

In order for automation to work, rules and triggers need to be implemented. An experienced DBA is therefore required to do this.

And for database schema and rules to be properly set up, a conscious awareness of the value of specific data sets is essential.

The autonomous database cannot determine this.

Rule-based systems also need to be maintained to ensure that they’re working at their most efficient.

Reasons to outsource your DBA function guide

Constant optimisation and improvements can be made, which in turn benefits the end user experience.

Again, this is something that would require DBA to perform part of their ongoing duties.

Database automation empowers your DBAs

In spite of the name, Oracle Autonomous Database is not designed to replace a DBA. 

Instead, it’s a tool that helps augment the strongest qualities of your DBAs. Automation frees time for an organisation’s DBA team, enabling them to focus on far more than just routine maintenance. 

With automation, their expertise for value-add functions.

This is because a skilled DBA is of far greater value to an organisation if they are not pinned down by manual chores. 

For example, if database automation is handling the manual work, your DBA can focus on improving the architecture of the database, delivering higher performance and therefore productivity.

Tony Baer, of database analytics firm, dbInsight, argues that “You might not need as many DBAs, but an autonomous database is not a replacement for a smart DBA.”

The role of DBAs in a disaster

Finally, consider the following scenario.

You’re running a complex, fully-automated database estate. Things are running smoothly.

One day, you suffer an outage for no explicable reason.

Like every enterprise organisation in the world, your business is completely reliant on your database, so downtime brings your operations to a complete standstill.

With no database experts on hand, whether it’s an internal DBA or a database partner like Xynomix, how do you plan to diagnose the issue and perform any remediative measures?

Database Automation replace DBAs Disaster

 Sure, you could call around for a break/fix solution, but this will be costly and it is very unlikely that you’ll get a fix actioned immediately. It could be hours.

And when you consider that the average cost per hour of downtime is anywhere between £65,000 and £83,000, the agility afforded by having DBAs on-hand is a big loss.

Simply put, database automation cannot replace the role of the DBA – nor is it designed to. 

It can relieve the DBA of tedious manual management, but ultimately a DBA must be on hand to ensure that the automation is functioning as it should be. And, of course, to perform the critical roles that database automation cannot perform.

However, DBAs must expect their responsibilities to evolve, to a certain degree.

How database automation will evolve the DBA role

What will change is how DBAs work. 

As technology inevitably becomes smarter, and database automation more sophisticated, DBAs will be required to perform more analytical functions. Identifying which data holds strategic value, for example, and how to make that data more readily available.

In fact, according to Statista, the value of data is expected to grow to around $103bn (£72bn) by 2027. Contrary to the idea of database automation being an existential threat – it actually means that DBAs are likely to become far more valuable than they already are.

This is because DBAs are naturally suited to build (and maintain) automated systems that enrich data. 

This means less time spent on user administration and more time strengthening the security surrounding the database. And less time patching, with more time allocated to pinpointing valuable data and cleansing irrelevant noise.

On this point, Penny Avril (former Vice President of Oracle) commented:

‘One way we look at this change is to think about the title without the “B” in DBA—moving them to a “DA” (data administrator or a data architect).

A data administrator isn’t just keeping data in a database, but understands the importance of that data to key business stakeholders and in driving the business forward.’

The DBA role is not going away. 

It’s actually becoming more enhanced, with automation another game-changing tool in the DBA’s arsenal. DBAs of the future will be less concerned with admin, and more involved in strategy. 

Oracle acknowledges this in Advice for Upwardly Mobile DBAs – a helpful document that’s well worth a look at. In this document, it advises DBAs on the opportunities afforded by automation, and the steps they can take to embrace it as part of their changing role.


Database automation has not, and will not, replace DBAs or the need for a database managed service.

What it will do is alter the way that DBAs perform their role. This means a shift away from housekeeping and maintenance, and a leap towards database architecture and strategic planning.

This is a net positive. It adds an additional layer of strategic value to the role, benefiting your business. Plus, if you’re a DBA, it adds some variation to the work day!

And that’s a win for everyone involved.

Contact Xynomix

Xynomix has unrivalled experience across the full range of Oracle and Microsoft SQL server database environments and are, therefore, perfectly positioned to offer independent enterprise-grade support to keep your critical systems up and performing perfectly. Get in touch now on 0345 222 9600 or via [email protected].