Last weekend I, like millions of other golf fans around the world, watched as Louis Oosthuizen, an unknown (at least to me) golfer out of South Africa, won The Open Championship at St Andrews by an astounding 7 strokes. He showed confidence in his abilities throughout the tournament, never losing his composure playing in some of the toughest conditions on any course in the world. Congratulations, Louis!
As i watched the game, I began to think that being a DBA and being a champion golfer weren’t that different. Both need to be confident in their abilities, both need to have a solid game plan, and both have to be able to execute their craft under pressure, being prepared for any eventuality.
Preparing for the tournament
A good golfer gets to the course early, days before the tournament begins. They play the course, talk to locals to learn any particular quirks the course may have, and practices hundreds of shots of different lengths or difficulties.
Good DBAs do the same. They find out about the host server, talking to the system team or SAN administrator; what kind of disk subsystem is there? what’s the memory or CPU like? does the server meet the requirements for SQL?
You drive for show…
The golfer starts his round on the tee. He’ll determine the club to use based on experience and conditions; where’s the wind coming from? how long is the hole? where’s the danger spots? A well hit drive will end up far down the fairway, perfectly placed for his next shot.
The DBA does the same when he sets up the server. His experience comes into play knowing what has to be done, and server conditions will help him to correctly place the system databases and data and log files for other databases. He’ll know what options to set and what to set them to. His server will be set up to optimal conditions, perfectly placed for hosting the company data.
…the approach shot…
Now the golfer will try to get his ball onto the green. He’ll again choose the right club, line up the shot, take a practice swing or two, then hits his best shot. He’ll know how his ball will fly because he has hit the same shot hundreds of times before so he can compare against past performance.
The DBAs approach shot is to benchmark his system. He should know how the server will perform during peak and non-peak times.
---getting out of a hazard…
Sometimes, though, the golfer’s approach shot is mishit. Or maybe a gust of wind holds up the shot and it lands in a greenside bunker. A good golfer knows how to get out of those situations and save par.
Similarly, a DBA must know how to get out of disaster scenarios. He knows he has set up and is maintaining a proper backup strategy and has practiced recovering databases until he knows the procedure inside and out. He knows the different options available for DBCC CHECKDB.
---and you putt for dough
This is where the good golfers shine. They don’t fade when standing over a three foot putt with the tournament on the line. They know they’ve made the same putt over and over before, and they’ve practiced for just this occasion. They read the putt’s line, judge the speed, and with millions of eyes watching they calmly knock it hit it center cup.
The DBA also is good under pressure. They’ve written and checked over their scripts, and they’re confidant they’ll perform as written. They don’t wilt when the CIO is standing over their shoulder asking why performance is so bad on their server.
All good golfers know the value of their caddy. A caddy’s job is to help his golfer, pointing out the course yardage, offering the right club, taking some of the pressure of the golfer. Sometimes the caddy is also a teacher, pointing out flaws in the golfer’s swing.
A DBA also needs a caddy. Their caddy can be a mentor or coworker at work. They can use social networks for advice on specific problems or as a sounding board.
Preparing for the next tournament
The golfer is always practicing. He’s at the driving range on his day off, constantly working on correcting swing flaws and working on new shots.
Likewise the DBA is constantly learning. They attend their local PASS chapter meetings or go to national conventions. They’re constantly reading blogs and whitepapers, learning new skills to help them manage their servers or help their company.
The moral? Like in golf, or any endeavor, the secret of being a good DBA is to be prepared. Learn your craft. Ask your caddy when you have questions. Practice when you’re able. Keep learning. And you too can win the DBA Open.