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The Storage Economist

Transformation and the Impact to your IT Staff–Part 2

by David Merrill on Oct 17, 2012

This is a multi-blog series on IT transformations and the impact that must be considered to your IT staff. I will cover virtualization, with an emphasis on storage virtualization, in this summary of my thoughts and ideas on how virtualization technology impacts organizations and storage teams.

What is it?

  • SearchStorage says that virtualization is the pooling of physical storage from multiple network storage devices into what appears to be a single storage device that is managed from a central console. Storage virtualization is commonly used in a storage area network (SAN). The management of storage devices can be tedious and time-consuming. Storage virtualization helps the storage administrator perform the tasks of backup, archiving and recovery more easily, and in less time, by disguising the actual complexity of the SAN.
  • Users can implement virtualization with software applications or by using hardware and software hybrid appliances. The technology can be placed on different levels of a SAN.
  • HDS employs virtualization from the storage computer/controller, and provides enterprise-class, heterogeneous virtualization.
  • Virtualization can have a significant impact on data migration. If an organization has more than 200-300 TB they are probably in a constant state of migration and virtualization will practically eliminate the organizational and technical function.

Read more about storage virtualization here.

  • Storage administrators may be fragmented by managing storage from different vendors, or different tiers of storage as part of their duties.
  • Some storage is presented and managed by different groups or teams. Different storage pools can exist for:
    • Backup
    • DR
    • Archive
    • Content management
    • Server storage
    • These teams that are/were managing desperate pools of storage need to be re-organized to administer one virtual pool of disk. Some of these teams may also be aligned with certain network protocols (FC, IP, FICON) and these will also need to be reconsidered for a multi-protocol single pool of virtual storage.
    • Cross-team cooperation, span and control will change as islands of storage are brought together to be managed under a single framework.
    • With various, heterogeneous storage systems comes various and incompatible management tools or consoles dispersed in the enterprise. The unification of storage also requires unification of the console and management tools.
    • New training will be needed for the unified management platform, to incorporate best practices and processes with this new level of automation.
    • Some people may feel threatened if their expertise is on one vendor’s platform and management tool set. Perhaps there have been customer scripts or tools written that will be left behind in the transformation to a single virtual storage pool and single pane of glass management.
    • Full-time migration teams may be/can be abandoned. This may be a sensitive problem if an incumbent vendor has a (long term) contract to provide on-going migration services. These contracts need to be severely cut or cancelled.

What operational changes are needed?

  • Training on virtual storage management.
  • Working with vendors will change as some of the arrays will be subordinate to the virtualization platform, so some of the vendor/customer relationships will change.
  • Moving from multiple tools to a common toolset for management. Operational processes may need adjustment to a single toolkit.
  • With the significant impact to migration policies (scheduled outages) several migration policies/procedures will need to be revisited and re-written.
  • Service levels will improve, so SLA and OLA requirements will need to be updated.
  • Change control, to handle virtualization and subordinate hosts, may need to be updated; along with referential architectures, schematics, etc.
  • If you use chargeback, there may be different rates or SLAs for virtual and non-virtual storage capacity.

What career enablers are available?

Besides the considerable cost savings of virtualization, there are new career options and growth potential for individuals and teams. Virtualization is a key enabler to cloud services, whether you are developing private or public offerings. Storage engineers become “cloud infrastructure engineers” and have the option to develop new skills and capabilities within virtual environments. Data center virtualization is required right now, so teams and individuals can capitalize on advanced skills, training and technical/operational leadership positions to make these transformations successful. Managers have to consider breaking down old or archaic organizational structures to enable collaborative and multi-vendor/multi-platform teams. With virtualization, technical leadership will float to the top with those that embrace and exploit the benefits of virtualization within the organization. Organizations need to help these leaders measure and track the improvement paths that often begin with these types of transformations.

Now I know this is not a complete list, but a composite of observations and details shared by (somewhat larger) clients over the last year or so. I would be interested in your comments and feedback, as this blog series continues. I am thinking about updating an old paper on storage team optimization, especially considering the transformations that have happened the past few years with architecture, process, economics and data growth.

My next blog will cover chargeback, and the impact it may have on your staff and operational behavior.

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David Merrill - The Storage Economist

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