Datacenter Trends

SolarWinds' Take on the Borderless Datacenter and Cloud DBAs

Thomas LaRock, tech evangelist, discusses the company's vision of the changing datacenter.

The borderless datacenter isn't a new concept. It's been years now since the cloud and mobile began knocking down the walls around enterprise data, ratcheting up the complexity and management challenges for database administrators (DBAs). The DBAs who appear to be coping most effectively with those changes are evolving into what Thomas LaRock calls "Cloud DBAs" -- database professionals who understand "the broader set of interconnected technologies that make up the infrastructure their organizations rely on, especially the networks that transmit their data, both on-premises and in the cloud."

LaRock is a Head Geek at IT management solutions provider SolarWinds, an Austin-based company with a massive product list -- 30+ offerings -- that includes database performance monitoring solutions, network and systems management tools, IT security products and help desk support. ("Head Geek" is the company's term for technology evangelist.)

He reminded me that the title DBA means different things in different organizations. In one it's more of a developer role; in another, its mainly about backup and recovery. The Cloud DBAs are emerging from the ranks of those responsible for datacenter performance, he said. "If you're the person who picks up the phone and the person on the other end of the line is telling you that the system is slow," he said, "then you are somebody who needs to understand basic networking and to have access to troubleshooting tools."

LaRock's point is that DBAs who have to manage datacenters in hybrid environments don't have physical access to the servers, so it's much more important for them to understand the network -- essential, in fact -- and to develop some nuts-and-bolts network management skills.

"The advent of virtualization was a big change for DBAs," LaRock said, "and they adapted to it by learning how to deal with an abstraction layer. The cloud is essentially another type of virtualization, but they can't tell Azure or Google or Amazon,' hey, go over to that rack and reconfigure it to how I need it.' So they need much more general networking information and trouble-shooting skills. Otherwise, they could find themselves left in the dark." 

"If you're not onboard with figuring out how the network is playing a role in your overall support of the datacenter," he added, "you should get out of the way, because the train is coming."

LaRock's name jumped out at me from an e-mail I received from SolarWinds about a recent update of its Database Performance Analyzer (DPA), which the company bills as the only tool on the market providing "Multi-Dimensional Performance Analysis." That's a SolarWinds term for a comprehensive view of "how every aspect of a system affects performance across SQL database operations, host server and OS, virtualization resources, and storage I/O."

LaRock joined the company in 2013 with the acquisition of Confio Software, where he was a Technical Evangelist. He helped to create the Ignite database performance management solution that became SolarWinds' DPA. When he's not evangelizing his company's products, he speaks to groups about data and database technologies, and writes an engaging and useful blog about his work and experiences. A book he wrote back in 2010 aimed at new database administrators called DBA Survivor: Become a Rock Star DBA, is still in print. "It was the book I wish someone would have handed me on day zero of becoming a DBA," he said. "It contains just about every mistake I made as a production DBA."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at


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