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Why DataOps strategies are worth investing in

Sascha Giese

Sascha Giese

Head Geek, SolarWinds
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DataOps

In a post-pandemic world, businesses across all industries are doing everything they can to gain a competitive advantage. Running a successful business has never been easy, but it’s a whole lot tougher during times of uncertainty and instability, as we’ve seen during the past 18 months. Organisations do have one key tool in their arsenal, however: data. And DataOps strategies can make a huge difference to the success of a business.

Companies have been using databases for years, but during this time, we’ve seen them grow, evolve, and become ever more complex. In fact, according to the recent SolarWinds Query Report 2021: Database Priorities and Pitfalls, 31% of the tech pros surveyed said complexity increased in response to Covid-19 and the transition to remote work over the past year, citing increased data demands from users, increased volume of data, and security and compliance issues, such as GDPR, as the top three drivers of added complexity.

Though it’s easy to fear change, the evolution of database management is the ideal opportunity for a company to thrive, with an effective DataOps strategy offering a number of functional benefits. These include increased efficiency and productivity among teams, reduced manual effort and time spent on menial tasks, automated management processes, and faster access to actionable business intelligence and decision-making.

Delivering value through data

An effective DataOps strategy can more than pay for itself, turning a company’s data into value. Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines provide a platform for testing and validation, making it easy to check the results of data being passed through the pipeline. Validation of this data can be done as part of the production monitoring process during the continuous search for anomalies. Incorporating both processes into database best practices can yield great results, helping avoid the usual reactive method and giving a business the opportunity to stay ahead of issues.

Mapping your data estate for migration and cost efficiency

There’s always been a strong need to thoroughly map your entire data estate and the applications supported to make it possible for DBAs to extract as much value and computing power as possible from the technology at their disposal. However, the impact of Covid-19 has only accelerated corporate planning for cloud computing and digital transformation.

A DataOps strategy should start with a basic data and code cleanse designed to ensure only what’s truly needed is being migrated to reduce complexity and overall cost — after all, flash storage for cloud-based databases doesn’t come cheap. A comprehensive and successful migration strategy should also include a detailed assessment of the data estate. Taking these preliminary steps will help organisations avoid surprises down the road.

Database professionals should also have visibility into their companies’ spending when it comes to IT, whether it’s through managing cloud and computing costs to optimise performance or testing data fidelity to validate data integrity post-migration. Together, these steps will help ensure a smooth, trouble-free process.

Benefitting from open-source databases

As DBAs look for ways they can better harness technology, it’s becoming increasingly apparent NoSQL and open-source databases have a place in contemporary DataOps strategies. The cost benefits and preference of developers are just some of the reasons why organisations are increasingly looking to these platforms, and although tooling for open-source databases has yet to mature, it’s the ideal opportunity for early-adopter database and technology professionals to build their knowledge and skills for managing and building on such platforms.

Even major cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure are embracing open-source databases and NoSQL data platforms. It’s already possible to run not only SQL Server in the Azure cloud but MySQL and PostgreSQL, and they can also run on the Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB NoSQL data platform. With the ability to manage all these platforms using the Azure Data Studio tool kit, tooling friction is kept to a minimum.

Managing the little things

Managing database platforms is a huge undertaking, and it’s always been a balancing act between proactive and reactive responses. Tech pros need to ensure they cover all the bases when it comes to security and compliance (and, on occasion, cost and licensing). Taking the time to learn about different costing measures will enable the team to achieve more with less, and it can also lead to more buy-in from senior members of the business.

This could make a huge difference for the effectiveness of a company’s databases, with 44% of the tech pros who responded to the Database Priorities and Pitfalls report highlighting a lack of budget and resources as one of the leading challenges to DataOps implementation. Another 33% also flagged the difficulty of securing buy-in from business leadership.

And while licensing, security, and compliance are never going to be at the top of a DBA’s list of fun things to manage, they can do a great deal of damage if ignored. A simple cost benefit analysis may be all it takes to highlight the potential impact of not upskilling in one of these areas and can give you a reason to move it back to the top of the priority list.

Letting technology do the work

As always when it comes to database management, daily maintenance makes a huge difference to the speed of operations. It doesn’t necessarily provide the best value for a business, however, and as part of an effective DataOps strategy, it’s worth considering how your database professionals can spend more time on value-added tasks.

An effective DataOps strategy will see tech pros working smarter, driving down the time spent on maintenance by implementing automation and monitoring tools. This can improve overall performance and eventually lead to reduced costs. More than this, implementing these tools frees up time so IT pros can focus on more proactive database management, giving DBAs time to focus on tasks capable of adding value to the business.

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