I'm amazed at the volume of responses I received from last week's commentary, which asked you to help "SQL Server newbies" take their careers and skill sets to the next level. I received dozens of letters in just a few days, and during the next few weeks, I'll share some of those great ideas with you. But this week, I want to focus on a serious problem SQL Server faces in the enterprise—a problem related to SQL Server newbies. I call it the paradox of simplicity.
Most people agree that SQL Server is much easier to install and administer than its competitors. That's great news for SQL Server's long-term success, right? From many perspectives, it is. But SQL Server's ease of use also creates serious problems. SQL Server is so simple to set up that almost anyone with little or no training can install the software. Some DBAs who install SQL Server simply don't have the proper level of skill and experience to do so. As a result, SQL Server applications can perform poorly and seriously affect important business functions. More often than not, SQL Server gets blamed for this situation by managers who think they should have used "one of those incredibly expensive databases running on one of those four-letter OSs." They perceive SQL Server as inferior, and the software gets a bad rap when the real problem is human in nature. In contrast, UNIX-based database management systems (DBMSs) are rarely installed by untrained IT staff members because UNIX-based systems are more difficult to get up and running and require a higher level of skill and experience.
Because SQL Server has a reputation for being inexpensive and easy to use, some managers mistakenly think that SQL Server doesn't need the same level of care and feeding that its UNIX DBMS cousins require. I've seen the following scenario many times at customer sites: The database is managed by a team of experienced UNIX and database administrators who pull down six-figure salaries, while the SQL Server/Windows servers reside in a cubicle and are maintained part-time by someone who became a paper-tiger MCSE 6 months before.
The solution to this problem might be a product that's so difficult to install and administer that only highly trained IT staff can handle it. But that's not a very attractive scenario. After all, it certainly isn't the newbies' fault if they're put into difficult situations and forced to assume responsibilities they aren't trained to handle. We need to figure out a way to help them succeed, so keep those suggestions coming.