Do I Need a Snowflake Administrator?

The Snowflake Data Cloud has fundamentally changed the way we store and manage data in the cloud. As technology and security requirements continue to evolve, so does the role of the Database Administrator (DBA). 

In the post, we’ll cover a bit of the background of the evolution of a DBA in Snowflake and ultimately answer the question, “does Snowflake require a DBA?”

How Does Snowflake Change the Role of the DBA?

Platform and data management have gone through many different cycles since software started eating all business processes over the past half-century. There are many common sayings around that you are perhaps familiar with:

  • The most secure database is the one no one has access to.
  • The most performant database is the one no one has access to.

While these provide some comic relief, they obviously don’t live in the realm of reality since the true power of data and software is getting it in the hands of those that can use it as a tool to do their job better. 

  • “The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus
  • “When you are finished changing, you are finished”. – Benjamin Franklin
  • “Data and software is a living, breathing organism that is constantly changing. Once you deploy your code, it no longer will behave as expected and you need to have a plan for handling updates, hotfixes, etc.” – Brock Noland (phData Co-Founder)

Moving from data centers to the cloud is a large change, moving from a traditional database to a cloud based database is even larger. Once it has been deployed, everything around it is constantly changing. How do you plan on supporting your Snowflake environment and what exactly has led to this change?

Macro Trends

There are many trends to choose from. Kent Graziano hits the nail on the head with his blog that touches on three of these trends, found here.

In addition to this,

Cloud

It is hard to ignore the growth of the tech sector over the past decade, specifically in the cloud space. The adoption of cloud technologies have pushed organizations to leave behind data centers and hardware refreshes for the glitz and glamour of virtualized platforms and services in the cloud.

Demand

Across many of our customers, a move to the cloud was the only option to scale due to data centers running out of space to store new hardware. Since applications and data are at the heart of many businesses, the demand for access to this data has ballooned with the data size. Without the ability to meet user demands, companies have been forced to look at the cloud to modernize.

Security & Compliance

The rise of digital privacy and security has seen the passing of laws like GDPR that require businesses to “forget” individual data points and ensure that data does not leave geographic borders. For organizations that span multiple countries, orchestration of multiple data centers and the operational team required to support these efforts becomes very challenging. Additionally, each of the largest cloud providers have been certified to meet the privacy laws put in place by these new requirements, so organizations are now comfortable with the idea of storing their data in the cloud.

Functional Changes

While the macro trends tell us a story of why applications and data are moving to the cloud, the functional changes and architecture that Snowflake has built allows us to take a peek at how the role of administrator has changed. A more exhaustive look at how Snowflake has changed the DBA role, this Snowflake community post is excellent.

Platform Upgrades

No longer are DBA’s required to perform upgrades and take outages for security patches. Snowflake handles this transparently.

Hard Drive Backups

No longer are DBA’s required to take database backups or snapshots to ensure hardware failure doesn’t end up in data loss.

Index and Partition Design

Many databases have different types of indexes to choose from based on the query being performed and as data grows on the underlying table, partitioning data to help with performance may be required. This is no longer a requirement.

Do I need a Snowflake DBA?

It should be obvious by now that the traditional DBA role has drastically changed and requires a team that is more aligned with automation and scale. To directly answer the question, no, the DBA role is dead.

We view the functionality of a Snowflake Administrator to be enabling end users, deploying applications, managing costs, and tuning warehouses. Snowflake is the best of breed Data Cloud and phData is happy to support our customers with our Snowflake Administration services.

This team is critical to your Snowflake Platform success across the organization due to their deep knowledge of the platform and their ability to enable anyone to use the platform seamlessly.

What Does a Snowflake Administration Team Look like?

This is too complex a topic for this blog, but our Snowflake Administration Expert, Jay Dunga, helps break this down with the following blog.

Outsourced Snowflake Administration

While Snowflake doesn’t necessarily require a DBA, it’s still a complex process to build, run, and maintain the enterprise cloud data platform, especially with the added complexity of security measures. Organizations who either appoint or outsource the role of a Snowflake administrator tend to have the best results with the platform. 

At phData, we’ve been able to help our customers cut administration costs on average, around 45% — all while providing best-in-class service. 

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