IDC is wrapping up its annual Top 10 Predictions process for 2010, and the storage team just issued its findings in both a study and a Webcast. If you're interested in learning more about our predictions, please head to the above referenced sites. I want to spend a little time discussing an interesting theme that emerged as we developed these predictions in October and November. We had the opportunity to chat with a number of CIOs and VPs of IT at several conferences and events put on by sto
To paraphrase a famous quote from the military sphere:
- one comment is an interesting thought
- two comments could be a coincidence
- three people saying basically the same thing means its time to do some more research.
In all the larger enterprises that IDC interviews, I'm always interested to hear that they have 10, 20, 30 or even more server and application administrators, but just 2 or three storage administrators (even in sites with well over half a Petabyte of deployed storage). Why the sudden desire to pick on the small band of storage admins?
Digging deeper into the statement, we should say upfront that storage administrators aren't facing a looming employment crisis. It's clear that their job needs to change, however. What's really going on is that companies want to remove storage administrators from "the loop" when it comes to day-to-day application and server management, especially in increasingly virtualized data centers.
To retell a little history, storage administrators evolved from the folks who managed tape libraries into the folks who managed disk storage systems and then storage area networks (SANs) back in the late 90s. They were supporting storage for high value, transaction intensive applications, so considerable tuning and redundancy in configuration was a desirable trait. Server administrators came to depend upon storage administrators to provision, tune, and migrate storage assets. Since these systems are fairly stable, the relative high level of active administrative overhead required was onerous but tolerated.
In the middle of this decade, the situation began to change. The proliferation of x86 servers and then the adoption of server virtualization led to an explosion (often a doubling or tripling) in the number of physical servers connected to SANs. Add in the virtualization multiplier effect, and the number of logical servers requiring storage administrator support can increase 10x in a very short period. The final nail in the coffin is that these new servers (while often low-level generators /users of data) turn out to be big "over-consumers" of storage capacity and storage administrator time.
As your IT organization contemplates the deployment and management of hundreds or thousands of virtual servers in your data centers, how will you address this "storage problem"? You need to eliminate the requirement that storage administrators provision, configure, and monitor storage assets every time an application is added or changed. The key capabilities to look for in storage solutions all fall under the term "storage virtualization" and include:
- Volume virtualization which breaks the "hardwired" link that storage administrators have to build between a physical block of disks and a specific application
- Thin Provisioning which eliminates the need for storage administrators to oversubscribe and physically adjust disk pool allocations for each application
- Automated data movement which gets storage administrators out of the business of manually migrating data from expensive to inexpensive storage tiers
Is your IT team deploying or testing these types of capabilities. Is your storage solutions provider helping them take advantage of these capabilities? If not, you should be asking some pointed questions.
Now, back to the "endangered" storage administrator. Not to worry, your organization has a large and growing number of information management challenges where storage administration and planning skills are critical:
- Setting up and running an enterprise-wide (including remote sites) disk-based backup and recovery environment
- Implementing data retention and data disposition processes to meet regulatory mandates and the looming data storm that is eDiscovery (an important topic I'll be addressing again soon)
- Helping business units and the physical security team set up reliable and scalable storage environments for new, and fast growing, pools of rich content (images, video surveillance,etc...)
Its time to stop administering the storage and start managing the information.