None of this is news to anyone, but what is changing is the willingness of organizations to throw bodies at the problem. Global economic uncertainty means the pressure is on to keep headcounts down. Everyone wants a company that grows and makes more money, but few are willing to invest in the wetware to make it go.
IT staffs rarely complain. They take the burden upon themselves and simply try to do more with the same staffing levels. While this can help a Pointy Haired Boss’ (PHB’s) quarterly numbers, the long-term impacts of this are devastating. Morale suffers. Staffs burn out. There are finite limits to what any person can realistically do.
With the world’s major powers entering a new era of economic détente that may well evolve into Cold War II, the tug of war between business demands and IT requirements isn’t going to get better any time soon. The economy will bounce between outright lousy to dangerously uncertain and pressure on IT will continue. Faced with realities outside their control, what is a storage admin to do?
When you can’t use wetware to do a job you turn to software. A great many jobs can be partly or even fully automated. Storage administration is no different.
A business doesn’t make money copying LUNs, and a storage administrator isn’t going to demonstrate their ongoing value to the business by doing so. Basic tasks like copying, snapshotting, cloning and so forth are scut work, unworthy of a storage administrator’s time. These are the sorts of things that should be happening in an automated fashion, freeing the storage administrator to work on grander things.
Storage administrators understand storage. They understand the impact that storage has on networking, on compute workloads, on WAN bandwidth and more. Storage administrators are domain specialists in a difficult field and they should be architecting long term solutions, not putting out fires.
Templates, profiles and role-based administration are the future. For storage administrators, virtual administrators, network administrators and every other discipline within IT. It is long past time that this is where we put our efforts instead of manually configuring and executing tasks.
Passing the buck
Some of this is passing the buck. Instead of being the one to push the button that causes a workload to clone, snap or replicate a storage administrator focusing on automation will instead define rules and parameters in which these events can occur. The storage admin will then make an interface available to virtual admins, devs or other interested parties who can then cause the data management event to occur as they please.
For devs, this is probably going to take the form of an API call executed from a script they’ve written. For virtual admins, they may use a GUI to make it go. Either way, the buck is being passed in that the “scut work” of executing storage management is up to a downstream administrator.
The wonderful part of this arrangement is that the downstream administrators don’t feel slighted by this; instead they feel empowered. Now they can act on storage needs without a burdensome change management process. This allows them to execute storage events both in real time and to a schedule, allowing them, in turn, to automate the scut work of their jobs.
All of this sounds great in theory, but it is terribly complicated to build and implement. I certainly wouldn’t want to code such a beast from scratch. Fortunately, there are startups who have arisen to meet this need.
Copy data management software – the decent stuff, at least – allows storage administrators to do exactly what is described above. For storage administrators, copy data management is the means to cope with scale in a world where getting more bodies to push the buttons just isn’t likely to occur. Have you automated yet?
For more information on Copy Data Management, please see the previous blogs in this series, Copy Data Management is Much More than Just Making Copies and Too Many Things Demand Your Attention: Solving the Conundrum of IT Automation.
Trevor Pott is a guest writer with Catalogic Software. Trevor is a full-time nerd from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He splits his time between systems administration, technology writing, and consulting. As a consultant he helps Silicon Valley start-ups better understand systems administrators and how to sell to them. He currently pens a weekly column for The Register; one of the world’s largest online science and technology magazines, with monthly readership of 7.2 mil. people worldwide.Trevor can be found at http://www.egeek.ca/ for those looking to engage his jedi-like guidance.