The changing role of the IT storage pro
Virtualization may not change everything, but it will change the way enterprise IT operations groups function and how storage professionals fit in.
Recently I heard the chief information officer of a large technology company observe that the consolidation and convergence of IT infrastructure is forcing a consolidation and convergence within his own department. He observed that because platforms are converging around server virtualization projects and a future rollout of virtual desktops, narrowly focused IT administrative groups must also converge. In the future, IT competency will be in systems and services delivery rather than in stove-piped areas of expertise like servers, networks, and storage. Furthermore he believes that the IT jobs market will value "converged' administrators.
As a final point, he observed that the role of the storage administrator within IT operations was disappearing--this from the CIO of a large storage vendor.
For the last few years, enterprise IT operational departments have been segregated by technological boundaries--separate server, networking, and storage groups managing IT infrastructure, each focused on their own areas of expertise. While the groups communicated with one another, the relationships could sometimes get testy to say the least. Some years ago I attended a Network World show and observed people wearing buttons proclaiming "The Problem Is Not The Network!" Later that year I heard a CIO from a large university lament that his operations groups had turned into armed camps.
Now virtualization and the convergence of Fibre Channel and Ethernet within the data center come along and change the nature of the relationships between enterprise IT operational groups as well as the traditional roles of server, networking, and storage groups. For storage professionals, the change may well be career threatening as observed earlier.
As the virtual operating systems (VMware, MS Hyper-V, etc.) progress, we will see an increased tendency to offer administrators the option of doing both storage and data management at the server rather than the storage level. Backups and data migrations can be done by a VMware administrator for example. Storage capacity can be managed from the virtualized OS management console.
Today's enterprise IT storage professional (storage administrator, storage architect, etc.) should now be broadening his or her technical horizons. I recently asked one how server virtualization was changing his life. His (ironic) answer: I'm learning more about networks. But don't stop at the network. Know what characteristics of a storage system enhance the performance and manageability of virtual server environments, how to architect a storage infrastructure in a world where everything is a virtual machine, and under what circumstances is it better to manage data and storage from within the storage layer. In short, become a converged storage pro.