Sometimes information systems professionals can draw some very useful analogies from the hard sciences. For example physics offers us one very useful concept – the states of matter. Figure 1 shows an excellent diagram that I copied from Wikipedia explaining the four states of matter.
Looking at these four states, I’m going to suggest that from a higher level there are really just two fundamental states – bound and liberated. Bound connotes that molecular cohesion binds the matter into a semi solid to solid state, while liberated signifies that the matter overcomes such molecular cohesion to more freely “bounce around” and thus be anti solid.
It’s my contention that data is matter and that it possesses just these two fundamental states: inert (i.e. at rest) and in motion. This concept can be very useful for understanding the oft typical rifts between DBA’s and database developers.
DBA’s see their role as related more to the data at rest state. For example DBA’s define the structural definitions to both effectively and efficiently contain the data, where by definition contain means data at rest. DBA’s also perform administrative tasks such as storage allocation and planning, which again are usually measured as “point in time” (again data that is not in motion). Plus DBA’s handle backup and recovery, which also is performed for a “point in time”. Thus they view the world fundamentally from the perspective of entropy – which by definition is the tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.
Whereas database developers are tasked with putting the data into motion via programs and scripts in order to accomplish business functions. Thus they are the stimulus or catalyst for the database leaving the state of data at rest. In physics terms developers are the “force” that acts upon the data resulting in motion. So they are the fundamental cause for velocity, acceleration and displacement of the data. All of which force a temporary exit from the natural state of entropy.
So DBA’s and database developers naturally start from a position of difference. Yes there might be many other reasons and personality types involved, but it’s key to note this basic difference. Because when we keep in mind that divergent initial viewpoint, it helps us to “walk a little in the other guy’s shoes” so that we can appreciate their concerns and thus communicate a little better. Well in theory at least.