Storage Admins Evolve

Storage administrators are changing and evolving. Will you be left behind? Find out what’s changing and what you can do to prevent becoming obsolete.

Storage Grows Up

Storage systems can still be complex, but they are getting smarter and more intuitive. Features like SSD, autotiering, massive caching, and simple NFS setup have made even high performance storage something that the intermediate-level IT admin can set up and administer. Features previously reserved for high-end SAN arrays, like replication, can now be done using software. With many storage arrays (like Tintri, for example), you don’t need a team of dedicated storage admins—or perhaps even a single storage admin—to take care of the SAN. Storage can now just be one of the pieces that make up the infrastructure. The one or more full-time employees taking care of storage can now take care of the entire infrastructure including servers, network, hypervisor and storage.

In many cases storage and servers are working together to be smarter and more efficient. VMware’s API for Array Integration (VAAI) allows the vSphere hypervisor to talk to the storage array to detect when an LUN is running out of space or performing poorly, and take action without direction from the admin. This is just one example of how servers and storage continue to work close together, reducing or eliminating the need for a dedicated storage person (or team) to coordinate SAN changes with server and hypervisor changes.

Cloud Computing Is Real & Changes Your Job

In addition to advancements in storage, changes in cloud computing are also pushing storage admins to change. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings have become more mainstream and acceptable solutions. Moving servers to the cloud and connecting local end-users to the cloud via hybrid VPN can be done in self-service portals. While local storage will be needed at most companies for the foreseeable future, we have to take these new remote virtual datacenters into account in infrastructure design.

What Can You Do?

While many people don’t like change, if you are a storage admin, it’s time to change or become extinct. Companies will need more infrastructure engineers and fewer SAN admins. What can SAN admins do?

  • Today’s private and public cloud infrastructure solutions make common storage tasks, such as provisioning a LUN, a self-service capability. To stay current, storage admins need to take a project-oriented, rather than a task-oriented approach. Take time to understand what the business needs, what the big picture is, and how you can make a difference. For example, focus on larger projects like data protection and DR instead of smaller tasks like nightly backup processing.
  • Work with other members of your team to cross-train on all the pieces that make up the datacenter. Show you can do more than just provision a LUN—you can be the superhero of the datacenter, solving problems no matter where they pop up.
  • Begin training on all the components that make up the infrastructure. I suggest doing this by building your own virtualization lab infrastructure that has NFS storage, server, and virtualization hypervisor, simulating the current or future datacenter infrastructure.

Technology is always changing. Don’t let it pass you by!