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I was wondering what the difference is between database administrators and data administrators.

    Ask The Experts published in DMReview.com
October 1, 1999
  By David Marco and Larissa Moss and Sid Adelman


I was wondering what the difference is between database administrators and data administrators.


David Marco's Answer: A database administrator (DBA) is responsible for the efficient running of the databases (relational or object) within a corporation. The DBA will install the database, make software upgrades, size the database, add indexes where necessary, create physical tables and partition the database as it as necessary. The data administrator can have varying definitions depending on the corporation. The most common definition is the person(s) responsible for data standards throughout the corporation. These standards will include data naming standards and field domain values. Often the data administrator will be the lead person in the building and maintaining of a meta data repository.

Larissa Moss's Answer: Database administrators are TECHNICIANS, while data administrators are BUSINESS ANALYSTS. Their roles and responsibilities are as follows:


  • Creates the physical data models (either two- dimensional or multi- dimensional) which process-dependent and represent the database structures that hold the data defined within the scope of the project. Works with both users and data administrators. Must have technical expertise with the DBMS optimizer and OLAP tools.
  • Provides, or captures, technical meta data from the DBMS for the central meta data repository.
  • Focuses on database activities, such as designing the databases, creating the database structures (tables, columns, indexes, etc.), monitoring the databases for performance, tuning the databases, assisting with SQL, etc.
  • Helps developers (programmers) with creating the ETL (extract-transform- load) system flow and with loading the databases. Also helps developers with tuning SQL statements for data delivery.
  • Senior DBAs perform the role of "Systems Administrator" and maintain the DBMS environments, set general parameters, set up and maintain database partitions, etc.

DATA ADMINISTRATOR (business analyst):

  • Creates the logical data model (Entity-Relationship) which is process- independent and represents the business entities, data relationships, business rules and policies for the data within the scope of the project. Works with users and must have some subject matter expertise.
  • Captures business meta data (names, definitions, domains, etc.) during the logical modeling sessions and maintains the meta data repository. May also assist in capturing the technical meta data from DBMS and tools.
  • Focuses on data management activities, such as setting data standards and incorporating them into the development methodology, managing project data models and integrating them into a conceptual enterprise view, etc.
  • Analyzes the source data to verify its compliance with business rules and policies and documents all exceptions. May also participate in writing the data transformation specs for those items chosen to be cleansed.
  • Creates the first-cut physical data model (two- dimensional relational or multi-dimensional) with assistance of database administrator. Continues to assist the database administrator during database design activities.

Sid Adelman's Answer: Database administrators do the physical work: database design, backup and recovery, performance monitoring and tuning and physical modeling. Data administrators do the logical modeling, support the meta data repository and understand the data across the enterprise.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
DW Administration, Mgmt., Performance, Business Intelligence (BI) and Databases.

David Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise architecture, data warehousing and business intelligence and is the world's foremost authority on meta data. He is the author of Universal Meta Data Models (Wiley, 2004) and Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide (Wiley, 2000). Marco has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain's Chicago Business "Top 40 Under 40."  He is the founder and president of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc., a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class business intelligence solutions using data warehousing and meta data repository technologies. He may be reached at (866) EWS-1100 or via e-mail at DMarco@EWSolutions.com.

Larissa Moss is founder and president of Method Focus Inc., a company specializing in improving the quality of business information systems. She has more than 20 years of IT experience with information asset management. Moss is coauthor of three books: Data Warehouse Project Management (Addison-Wesley, 2000), Impossible Data Warehouse Situations (Addison-Wesley, 2002) and Business Intelligence Roadmap: The Complete Project Lifecycle for Decision- Support Applications (Addison-Wesley, 2003). Moss can be reached at methodfocus@earthlink.net.

Sid Adelman is a principal in Sid Adelman & Associates, an organization specializing in planning and implementing data warehouses, in data warehouse and BI assessments, and in establishing effective data architectures and strategies. He is a regular speaker at DW conferences. Adelman chairs the "Ask the Experts" column on www.dmreview.com. He is a frequent contributor to journals that focus on data warehousing. He co-authored Data Warehouse Project Management and is the principal author on Impossible Data Warehouse Situations with Solutions from the Experts. His new book, Data Strategy, is scheduled for publication this year. He can be reached at 818-783-9634 or sidadelman@aol.com.  Visit his Web site at www.sidadelman.com.

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