How Is A Data Engineer Different From A Database Administrator?

Database administrators and database engineers work to create, maintain, and improve systems and frameworks to guarantee data remains secure, sorted out, and available. If you analyse, the two positions require remarkable programming aptitudes and understanding of software systems. Database administrators are liable for the upkeep and day by day function of a database, while database engineers work to refine existing databases or create new ones. Here we look into the two job roles in a little detail:

Database Admin

A DBA’s usual job is to ascertain everything is working smoothly with things like performance tuning and monitoring, data migrations of third party systems, performing backups, checking performance, and load balancing, and everything to do with databases. On the other hand, the truth is that the DBA matches the role of the data engineer in mid-size and smaller organisations. It depends on the kind of organisation a person works in, the size of the technical team, etc.

The position entails running regular diagnostic tests to ensure data is not corrupt and combing for bugs or glitches within the system. Safely storing and backing-up data in case of a system failure or memory loss and creating plans for addressing large-scale errors are also essential responsibilities of a DBA.


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Database admins work across a broad range of platforms, including Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL and more. Their work needs streamlined, efficient workflow, task automation, granular coverage for each database platform, advanced SQL optimisation, performance testing, real-time performance diagnostics, and sensitive data discovery and protection.

DBA offer includes working with the software development team to implement schema changes, doing migrations, writing Bash and SQL scripts for the database. DBAs are generally focused on operational aspects of relational systems — keeping RDBMS performing, tuning queries, managing schema evolution, backup/restore operations.

Data Engineers 

Data engineers are usually considered to have a solid knowledge of the information within a system they work with but do not have an understanding of the database engine or the infrastructure that supports it.

Data engineers are focused on manipulating data in a software engineering capacity. Some of that data might live in relational systems, but it’s increasingly moving towards NoSQL systems and data lakes. They normalise databases and ascertains the structure of the data meets the requirements of the applications that are accessing the information. 

So, data engineers work with a lot of streaming systems, and more likely to be working in a big data ecosystem involving Hadoop, Spark, Kafka, Kinesis, cloud storage, Cassandra, elastic search, and other NoSql storage.  

You will need to learn the rest very quickly on the job, like specific tools (Spark/Hive/Airflow etc.), particular databases (Redshift/Snowflake) query tuning, monitoring, data validation, cloud infrastructure, DWH data modelling. 

Final Thoughts

The specific obligations regarding database administrators and engineers can contrast dependent on the organisation or industry objectives. The ranges of skills required for these two positions may also overlap.

What separates a database admin from a database engineer is the focal point of their duty. An admin is generally worried about the ordinary capacity of the database all in all. Their undertaking is to ensure the database runs easily and safely. Database engineers centre more around the effectiveness of explicit procedures used to gathering and move information inside the database.

These days DBAs frequently spend their time maintaining legacy database systems running, until a time when they may be migrated to newer systems. As a data engineer, a person should not be responsible for provisioning and maintaining the data infrastructure, and so it should not matter whether it is on-premise or cloud. 

According to experts, the cloud has made obsolete a lot of the skills which DBAs have. They say that database administration role may tend to decrease because of higher-level databases which require less administration, and mainly because of cloud solutions that may not require much administration. Whereas data engineering will keep growing with the cloud, maybe not indefinitely either, but surely has a transparent future.

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Vishal Chawla
Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.

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