Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Here we are at the end of another year and on the brink of a shiny New Year. Let's take this time to look back on the successes of 2013... and to examine our failures with an eye toward avoiding them in 2014.

Celebrate safely tonight... and let's all meet back here later this week to continue our series on DBA Rules of Thumb!

Happy New Year everybody!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Seasons Greetings

Just a short post today to wish all of my readers a very happy holiday season and to let you know that I will not be posting anything new between now and the end of the year...

But be sure to check back again in 2014 as I continue to write about DB2 and database issues that impact all of us!

Friday, December 20, 2013

DBA Rules of Thumb - Part 7 (Don't Become a Hermit!)

Part 7 of our ongoing series on DBA Rules of Thumb is a short one on being accessible and approachable... in other words, Don't Be a Hermit!

Sometimes DBAs are viewed as the "curmudgeon in the corner" -- you know the  type, don't bother "Neil," he'll just yell at you and call you stupid. Don't be like Neil!

Instead, develop a good working relationship with the application developers. Don’t isolate yourself in your own little DBA corner of the world. The more you learn about what the applications do and the application requirements, the better you can adjust and tune the databases to support those applications.

A DBA should be accessible. Don’t be one of those DBAs whom everyone is afraid to approach. The more you are valued for your expertise and availability, the more valuable you are to your company.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

DBA Rules of Thumb - Part 6 (Preparation)

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Being prepared means analyzing, documenting, and testing your DBA policies and procedures. Creating procedures in a vacuum without testing will do little to help you run an efficient database environment. Moreover, it will not prepare you to react rapidly and effectively to problem situations.

The old maxim applies: Measure twice, cut once. In the case of DBA procedures, this means analyze, test, and then apply. Analyze your environment and the business needs of the databases to create procedures and policies that match those needs. Test those procedures. Finally, apply them to the production databases.

  DBAs must be calm amid stress.

DBAs must prepare for every situation that can be reasonably thought to have the potential to occur...

...and when the unthinkable occurs, the DBA remains logical and thorough in collecting details, ferreting out the root cause of the problem, and taking only the necessary actions to remediate the problem.

This Rule of Thumb ties in nicely with the last one (Don't Panic!)... Every action you take should be planned and implemented with a calm disposition. Analysis and preparation are the friend of the DBA. The last thing you want to do is rage into a problem scenario making changes like gunslinger who acts first and worries about the consequences later.

Monday, December 09, 2013

DBA Rules of Thumb - Part 5 (Don’t Panic!)

Way back in the early 1990s when I was working as a DBA I had a button pinned up in my cubicle that read in large letters “DON’T PANIC!” If I recall correctly, I got it for free inside a game from back in those days based on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” When I left my job as a DBA to go to work for a software company I bequeathed that button to a friend of mine (Hello, Chris!) who was taking over my duties… for all I know, he still has that button pinned up in his office.

But the ability to forgo panicking is a very important quality in a DBA.

A calm disposition and the ability to remain cool under strenuous conditions are essential to the makeup of a good DBA. Problems will occur—nothing you can do can eliminate every possible problem or error. Part of your job as a DBA is to be able to react to problems with a calm demeanor and analytical disposition.

When a database is down and applications are unavailable, your environment will become hectic and frazzled. The best things you can do when problems occur are to remain calm and draw on your extensive knowledge and training. As the DBA, you will be the focus of the company (or at least the business units affected) until the database and applications are brought back online. It can be a harrowing experience to recover a database with your boss and your users hovering behind your computer terminal and looking over your shoulder. Be prepared for such events, because eventually they will happen. Panic can cause manual errors—the last thing you want to happen when you are trying to recover from an error.

The more comprehensive your planning and the better your procedures, the faster you will be able to resolve problems. Furthermore, if you are sure of your procedures, you will remain much calmer.

So Don’t Panic!

Monday, December 02, 2013

DBA Rules of Thumb - Part 4 (Analyze, Simplify, and Focus)

The job of a DBA is complex and spans many diverse technological and functional areas. It is easy for a DBA to get overwhelmed with certain tasks—especially those that are not performed regularly. In a complex, heterogeneous, distributed world it can be hard to keep your eye on the right ball, at the right time. The best advice I can give you is to remain focused and keep a clear head.

Understand the purpose for each task and focus on performing the steps that will help you to achieve that end. Do not be persuaded to broaden the scope of work for individual tasks unless it cannot be avoided. In other words, don’t try to boil the ocean. If non-related goals get grouped together into a task, it can become easy to work long hours with no clear end in sight.

I am not saying that a DBA should (necessarily) specialize in one particular area (e.g., performance). What I am suggesting is that each task should be given the appropriate level of focus and attention to details. Of course, I am not suggesting that you should not multitask either. The successful DBA will be able to multitask while giving full attention to each task as it is being worked on.

What is the enemy of focus? There are many: distraction, lack of knowledge, “management,” and always worrying about the next thing to try or do. Such distractions can wreak havoc on tasks that require forethought and attention to detail.

Analyze, simplify, and focus. Only then will tasks become measurable and easier to achieve.