There is a change coming to the database administration role. Change brings uncertainty but it also brings opportunity. The database administration role has not really changed for a decade and although change is now a foot it will be a several years before the full force of the cloud is fully embedded in the database world. These are exciting times for database administrators.
The new offerings from Microsoft span the entire breath from Physical to Platform as a Service.
Some offerings will always stay on physical machines while I suspect the majority will move to Platform as a Service just in the same way as physical server offerings moved to virtualization platforms a few years ago.
In my opinion, the role of the administrator will not be lost. It is after all an administration role and just because some of the database services move to Platform as a Service, administrative tasks still need to be undertaken. The complexity of database management will just transition to a new level.
Moving to the Microsoft cloud offerings there are two to consider. Infrastructure as a Service, SQL Server in a VM and Azure SQL Database. SQL Server in a VM is currently a VM that is still fully managed by individual businesses. There is the opportunity to select additional options to help lighten the load as an administrator. By using the SQL Server Iaas Agent extension, it is possible to delegate the automatic backup and patching to Microsoft. These, although a critical part of the service, can be advantageous allowing DBAs to spend more time working on performance tuning, creating and testing those run books and data. These offerings are very likely to be the option of choice for many years due to the historic nature of applications and businesses needing to stay on versions of SQL Server that are supported by the applications that use them. Businesses need to be able to use support contracts with providers when product issues occur and that requires being on their supported configurations.
Azure SQL Database is an entirely different option. It is a Platform as a Service. Microsoft takes care of patching, backups, monitoring, high availability and security. The SQL database advisor provides help with performance tuning. This is an inclusive database service which will work well for new applications. There always seem to be a lot of smaller or less active databases that just take up valuable time and would suit this approach well. The administration cost of databases is very high for businesses, particularly as data is a key part of every business, and this service will enable business to better manage their services without having the dedicated need of an administrator.
There is another option which is now appearing which may affect development environments and that is the use of Docker images for SQL Server. Windows containers are isolated resource controlled environments and an application can run without affecting the rest of the system. This solution is likely to benefit the continuous deployment process and rapid test scenarios.
I believe the future of administration is architecting the most suitable database solution and recommending the tools to use. Also, through DevOps, creating deployment scripts which will need to be continually written and updated, working on performance tuning of database code and data security administration. The other key change I see is the diversification of knowledge and gaining of skills through all the peripheral data tools which now need managing.