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The Value Of A Storage Administrator

Storage hardware and software manufacturers are trying to make the process of managing storage easier. There are simplified storage infrastructures, simplified storage management systems and software to monitor the storage environment, but reality is even the smallest of storage environments need someone focused on the task of making sure that everything is operating as planned.
Storage hardware and software manufacturers are trying to make the process of managing storage easier. There are simplified storage infrastructures, simplified storage management systems and software to monitor the storage environment, but reality is even the smallest of storage environments need someone focused on the task of making sure that everything is operating as planned.The goal of storage intelligence, monitoring and automation is to have less people spend less time focused on managing storage, but I don't think we will ever get to the point of not needing any storage administration, where the system can take care of everything for us. While selecting the right platform can help, as the storage environment grows no matter which protocol, cabling infrastructure and storage platform you choose you are going to need to spend time managing that platform.

The time served in storage administration usually is caused by two events. The first is initial implementation which is generally motivated by a desire to do something more than have locally attached disk to a server. The primary motivation since the emergence of server virtualization is sharing storage to enable key features like virtual machine migration. The second event that costs storage administration time is when something goes wrong or changes. In the virtualized server environment something is changing all the time. As we discuss in our recent article "Unpredictability Makes VMware Storage More Complex" what makes the virtualized server environment so challenging is its unpredictability. You can only plan for so much. At some point you will need to physically manage the environment and it is going to take some skill to solve problems.

The storage system, protocol and infrastructure you select can help reduce some of this complexity as the environment scales and changes. Since it is unlikely that the storage systems will evolve to the point that they will be able to automatically react to every change in the environment, it is important to be realistic that at some point you will have to get involved. What you are looking for then when making storage infrastructure decisions are things that make the act of storage management easier.

Automation is fine, but when you do have to get involved how hard is it to diagnose a problem and fix it? There are two keys to look for to make the management part of storage easier. First the fewer devices you have to manage individually the better and second, the more universal the management tool the better. We'll explore both of these in our next entry.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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