A year ago, with data growth still off the charts, storage administrators were a hot commodity. Today and for the foreseeable future, other IT skills such as network administrator will be in higher demand according to IT compensation and staffing specialists as well as industry analysts.
Meanwhile, storage technologies are improving to the point where the need for administrator intervention or tuning is much less of an issue, while tiering is also being taken over by more sophisticated software applications - not to mention a raft of newly minted cloud-service offerings that have entered the market.
In addition, while business line application owners care about performance, availability, manageability, data protection, security, and cost within the context of meeting or exceeding their requirements, and the question of keeping infrastructure in house vs using an external service provider may be a relevant part of that discussion, application owners seldom care what brand or type of storage is implemented if optimum service levels are maintained.
For better or worse, application owners have become increasingly more involved in driving technology purchasing decisions, and application vendors have a leg up on infrastructure providers. There are several reasons for this including:
- Application vendors bypass IT and sell to lines of business,
- Applications vendors speak the users' language and understand their needs better,
- Infrastructure vendors, especially storage providers, appear largely irrelevant to users,
- Users view storage largely as a utility or commodity.
Unfortunately, application owners often make technology purchasing decisions that negatively impact their enterprise's existing IT infrastructure. The plethora of crudely implemented archiving, collaboration, content management and e-discovery tools are perfect examples.
Given the fact that services or functions like data replication, archiving, and backup have application performance implications, storage suppliers need to provide an understanding of how their capabilities impact application performance, availability, and overall service levels. But as long as storage companies sell primarily to infrastructure heads, the disconnect between infrastructure and application environments will persist.
Action Item: Storage providers must link their solutions to an overall service level for the applications, and sellers need to market to application heads as well. This means providing simple data about application level metrics, user availability, user performance, etc., versus just device-level metrics. Storage vendors need to quantify their contribution to application service levels. This includes creating reference architectures like the IBM red books and EMC proven solutions. The application stack approach has a great advantage in this regard so integrating with application stacks (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, etc) is a good idea. If Oracle asks for a service and a storage vendor provides it, then it’s a win for both sides of the application and infrastructure equation.