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I have Jr. experience with SQL Server and a desire to dive deep into Windows System Administration.

Are these fields too separate to combine skill sets? Would I be marketable as a Windows Admin who knows SQL Server, or vice versa, a SQL Server admin who knows Windows Server?

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    Your question would be better phrased "should a DBA know about the OS?" regardless of whether it's Windows or Unix. The answer, of course, is yes, a DBA should have a very good in-depth knowledge of their OS environment, be it Unix or Windows (or both for some (unfortunate :-) ) people). But be aware, that if you are a DBA, then those duties come first. You don't really need a lot of OS knowledge to go through your company's backup process, but you'd better get those backups right! – Vérace Apr 9 '15 at 6:45
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As a database administrator, you are part of a team whose goal is to make a job easier, or just possible, for someone. The team includes system administrators, database administrators, database programmers, application programmers, network administrators, and so in.

A valuable team member knows not only their own role but a little bit about every role in the team.

Specifically, as a database administrator, it will help you to know some or all of the following.

  • How to create and modify Active Directory user, group, machine, and managed service accounts.
  • What Kerberos Constrained Delegation is and how to set it up (including setting up Service Principal Names).
  • The basics of .NET programming (to help you talk to the application programmers).
  • The basics (and maybe the intermediates) of database design, e.g. normal forms (to help you talk to the database programmers).
  • Indexing (to help you get involved in database optimisation).

In addition, anyone working in an Active Directory environment will find it useful to know the basics of Group Policy.

As to whether or not you are better off being a "DBA who knows Windows" or a "Windows Admin who knows databases", that depends on the IT industry where you live. For example, I live in New Zealand (a country of 4½ million people). If you want to work in IT here then you have to be a "Windows who knows databases and email and terminal services and printing and troubleshooting and lots of other stuff." The industry is too small for specialists. :-)

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No, the skill sets are not too separate at all. As others have indicated knowledge of AD, group policy, authentication protocols, programming, the fundamentals of database design and querying are all important and make you both more effective as a DBA and more marketable. Also, ignore your knowledge of storage, it's configuration, and performance at your peril. In my experience, storage is often ignored and often a crippling bottleneck.

Knowledge of the mechanics of the client-server application paradigm (if you will) help make you more effective in support of your employers resources. For instance, being able to advise the app team that looping over a query vs. querying all the rows they need at once is generally a poor idea and why. Even something as simple as advising on the configuration of a connection string can be of tremendous value.

You also need to be able to explain to Sr. System Admins, storage admins, etc., in clear terms what your db server needs in terms of resources and configuration and why. Knowledge in these areas only aids you in this. For example, in many cases, the storage team will not know how to configure disks for SQL Server. You need to be able to tell them how and justify it.

When interviewing at my current employer the statement that "you're also a Windows Admin" was explicitly made in terms of a benefit to the organization. That skill (and many others) only make you more valuable and certainly do not diminish you or are a waste of your time.

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