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> It seems to me databases are uniquely treated this way, as some kind of disposable, simple piece of side equipment

This is exactly right - lots of people are still cargo-culting rules of thumb that no longer make any sense.

This was an artifact of the last generation's commercial DB market. Open source DBs weren't "there" yet; a combination of real limitations and risk-conservatism kept companies shoveling huge amounts of money at vendors for features and stability now provided by `apt-get install postgresql-server`.

If you just lit seven figures on fire for a database license, you're not hungry to do it again, so you wanted all your software to be compatible with whichever vendor you just locked yourself in to. And certain DB vendors are very well known for brass-knuckle negotiation; if you could credibly threaten to migrate to $competition instead of upgrading, it was one of the few actually useful negotiating levers available.

Today, open source DBs are better than the commercial ones in many situations, certainly not worse in general use, and the costs of running a bunch of different ones are far lower. Not to mention, the best way to win a software audit is to run zero instances of something.






Very useful historical perspective, thanks! Confirms what I had pieced together, that DBs used to be a big liability for organizations, with a special clan (DBAs) of people gatekeeping and introducing patterns that programmers found infuriating. Hence the hatred towards stored procedures, layered schemas, and databases in general. It's probably important to keep stressing, as you do, how different things are now. It's only been a fews years that Postgres has had row level security for example.

DBAs still have their place. In my shop, we have more DBAs than infrastructure people.

When you have a small team working on a given tool that only really needs to manage its own data, it really doesn't matter. But some point, you do need expert gatekeepers to tell engineers when they're Doing It Wrong when there are many heterogenous clients accessing large datastores for different purposes, complex audit requirements, etc.


Yes specialization is often useful. But the divide between developers and DBAs seems to have been similar to the dev/ops divide. Probably still is in many places. There is always a need for seniors or specialists to guide work, I'm not against that. But something like DevOps for RDBMS is needed. DevDat?



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