Should DBAs learn Hadoop?

I’m a DBA with a working knowledge of Oracle, SQL Server, and MySQL. I have been reading more and more about big data, should I learn Hadoop?

First, thank you for emailing your question. The mere nature of your question tells me that you’re pointed in the right direction. As a database administrator, keeping abreast of database oriented trends and products will service you well.

For those not familiar with Hadoop, it’s an open source framework created by the Apache Software Foundation, the same group that created the Apache HTTP Server. At a very high level, Hadoop is a software framework designed to store and process very large data sets across multiple servers.

To your question, yes, given that you are a database professional, it is only to your advantage to learn about the products and technologies in your professional area. Big data is certainly a megatrend within the IT industry and as a result, very worthwhile to become involved.

Regarding Hadoop, you may or may not have the opportunity to use it in your current role based on the nature of your company’s data, business model, and business needs. That said, it would still be very advantageous for you to learn about it for a number of reasons:

• As a techie, Hadoop is a very cool technology. You may just find it fascinating and conceptually interesting to learn. • Even though your company is not currently involved in big data today, it doesn’t mean it won’t become involved tomorrow. Being curious and learning Hadoop on your own as an at-home “science project” can position you as the internal Hadoop and big data expert should the need arise. • Big data is a major technical megatrend within the IT industry. As a result, there is a very real potential that knowledge of big data’s “poster child technology”, Hadoop, can open doors and opportunities for you that may otherwise remain closed. • Even if you don’t end up working directly with Hadoop and/or super large data sets, as a DBA you may be asked to pass data to and/or receive analyzed/summarized data from these super large data sets. This understanding will provide you with insights on how to best develop innovative solutions and/or uses for the data under your control.

Regarding getting yourself up to speed on Hadoop and big data in general, consider the following:

1. The official Hadoop website, is a great place to start. There is much information about Hadoop and its related projects. Also, being an open source, you can even download a free copy to play with. 2. There are various MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) classes that you can take at no charge on Hadoop and other big data related topics. 3. There are great YouTube tutorials describing Hadoop principles and techniques. 4. If there is a local Hadoop Special Interest Group (SIG) in your area it would be very worthwhile for you to attend. Not only can you increase your knowledge by listening to the meeting speakers, but you will also have the opportunity to talk to and learn from other likeminded professionals. 5. There are also a number of online Hadoop discussion groups and blog sites. Rather than suggesting a specific one, there are a number of them to choose from. I think it would be best for you to research your various options and select the one that is most aligned with your interests and expertise. 6. Lastly, as stated earlier, you can download Hadoop free. Take advantage of this incredible opportunity. If you think your employer will have a future need for the technology they may let you load it onto a company server and even allow you to play with it on company time. If not, try to set up a home network with two or three usable but old servers and set up your own little network. After all, just because Hadoop is designed to manage very big data sets it doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with it using little ones.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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