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What does an Oracle DBA do?

Some people might answer this question rather facetiously, and say “not a lot!” Others, like many Oracle DBAs themselves, would say “Manage, maintain and improve an application built upon an Oracle database.”

So, what jobs would you expect an Oracle DBA to do? Here is a list of some general things that you would be expected to do when working as an Oracle DBA:

1. Storage and capacity planning

Ensure there is enough space, check growth rates, plan for future disk space requirements, especially as part of an upgrade.

2. Installation, configuration, upgrading and patching

Install software for new environments, and configure it. Patches need to be applied regularly for security updates which are sent out quarterly from Oracle. Existing databases need to be upgraded to new releases and/or have interim patches applied to keep them up-to-date and apply bug fixes.

3. Backup and recovery

This is the most important job of an Oracle DBA. Without a good backup you face a very high chance of data loss. It’s not that complex to set up, but requires water tight attention to detail and regular checks to ensure all is working properly.

4. Database security

Be it on a production environment which faces the WWW or within a development environment, there will always be data security threats, and these aren’t all necessarily from hackers. You may have to implement security procedures to adhere to data protection laws or contracts that you have with specific clients or you may need to comply with Payment Card Industy (PCI) regulations if you store or interact with credit card details.

5. Data integrity

Ensuring the integrity and validity of your data is also essential. Ensuring that you have the latest patches applied, that your software is installed correctly and that everything is working as it should do, will all help to prevent data corruption.

6. Evaluate new features and products

There are lots of Oracle products and features out there. More come along with each release, and it is important to know what the advantages an disadvantages of each are. If you keep on top of what features are coming along, you will know what to look into when a new project or requirements is sent your way.

7. Performance benchmarking

When new servers are tested or new versions of code released, both application and database code, it is useful to have a performance benchmark against which all changes can be measured.

8. Manage Different types of database

In a lot of companies, there will be different types of databases with distinctly different characteristics and, therefore, ways to manage them. Two that are most obvious are Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) and Data Warehouses (DW) databases. Good practices in one are not necessarily good practice in the other, so the Oracle DBA must know what methods are best suited to which environments.

9. Performance tuning

This can be of new code which is being developed, which links closely with the role of a Development Oracle DBA. It could be of existing code in the application that needs a re-write because it has been identified as a poorly performing. Or, the tuning may not be looking at SQL at all, but at the database instance itself. On the other hand, it may be the I/O subsystem that is being looked it. As you can see there are a multitude of scenarios which involve tuning. A good Oracle DBA will have knowledge about all of these areas and be able to work alone in some instances, and also alongside others with different technical skill sets to his own.

10. Implement new features

With each Oracle release new features are introduced. It is the job of the Oracle DBA to look at these, as previously mentioned. It is also down to the Oracle DBA to develop and test an implementation plan for them, should they be deemed as performant and required to implement.

I have also written about the difference between Oracle Development DBAs and Oracle Production DBAs.

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