In most enterprises, the IT focus these days continues to be on cloud services and Internet-facing applications. If storage is considered at all, it is usually in the context of backup, disaster recovery, and failover. All of these functions are important. They should be on the front page of everyone's cloud deployment plan. But that doesn't change the fact that storage in IT departments continues to lag as a strategic concern.
That needs to change.
The reasons storage takes a back seat in IT consciousness are as cultural as they are technical. Historically, IT performance recognition and promotions have been disproportionately awarded to those who come out of the applications and technical systems groups.
Storage guys are seldom invited to IT strategy meetings. They are simply asked to report how much storage is needed to support a strategy -- and they are then told to order up the storage in the same way that we order one or two loaves of bread from a baker. This is because hard drives (HDD), the staple of storage technology, are such low-cost commodity items that they are able to be absorbed "on the cheap" into any budget at any time.
Storage thinking has to change if enterprises are to succeed in new "hybrid" cloud environments that require the concurrent running of transaction-oriented and analytics-oriented applications. Why? Because, in these new scenarios, storage matters -- and it is anything but "business as usual."
For one thing, commodity hard drive technology doesn't work in many rapid-access cloud scenarios. Nearly every major tech vendor knows this, which is why most of them offer hybrid tiered storage solutions that include both solid state disk (SDD) and hard disk drive (HDD) technology.
In the cloud, tiered storage works like this: Data that is most frequently accessed (e.g., for a movie vendor, it would be the most popular movie titles) is placed on rapid-processing SSD/cache storage, while less frequently accessed data is stored on slower, cheaper hard drives. Tiered storage vendor solutions come preconfigured with automation algorithms that determine which data should reside where, based upon usage history. Enterprise IT also has the ability to add its own data usage rules and policies for storage.
Any enterprise pursuing cloud deployment also knows how integral virtualization is to the cloud. What enterprises sometimes forget, though, is that this virtualization must extend to storage in order to enable cloud providers to perform end-to-end business service provisioning and management.
Finally, it's time for CIOs to rethink how they treat storage professionals in their organizations. Here are three recommendations for helping companies retain great storage professionals:
The status of storage pros should be elevated. Storage professionals, especially in the era of big-data and burgeoning data in enterprises -- need to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts and expertise. There should be legitimate senior management positions in IT for persons who choose to make storage a career. Once storage professionals obtain the same pay and advancement opportunities as other IT area pros, there will be less tendency for them to "jump ship" to another IT discipline so they can advance their careers.
Investments should be made in storage education. There is hardly any storage education on the open market. Compare this with the plethora of courses and certifications for networks, servers, and databases.
Storage should be put on the strategic IT roadmap. For cloud or any IT strategy to succeed long term, the storage manager needs to be sitting at the same planning table as the DBA, the systems manager, the applications manager, the network administrator, the QA manager -- and the CIO.
— Mary E. Shacklett, President, Transworld Data