When staffing IT functions, the choice of a generalist versus a more expensive specialist depends on the complexity and maturity of the solution and size of the company. SMB staffs often have a single person managing storage, networking, and server technologies, while enterprise accounts will have groups supporting each of these silos. The role of the virtualization administrator is new compared to these other roles but has been growing in importance. VMware and its ecosystem partners have been working on integrations such as VMware vCenter that support central management of the full data center infrastructure. These VMware administrators often fill the role of “IT generalist”, meaning that they touch on topics that traditionally were handled by individual database, server, networking, and storage administrators.
One of the fundamental reasons to move to server virtualization is the rapid pace of deployment compared to traditional infrastructure. One of the reasons for this is that a VMware administrator can spin up a VM without having to go to each of the physical infrastructure teams. As virtualization has spread beyond the low-hanging fruit of simple consolidation and into more areas including business-critical environments, virtual environments have not been immune to some of the process challenges that physical environments have. This includes VM sprawl and VM stall.
With the release of vSphere 5, VMware looks to mature the management of virtual environments to move from processes (where there are many administrator touch-points) to policy-based management (where administrators are alerted, but typically do not need to approve anything once the policies are set).
Additional features that simplify management from VMware's Cloud Infrastructure Suite announcement include:
- Linked Clones functionality in vCloud Director 1.5 provides fast provisioning that uses of templates and users no longer have to wait for a full copy each time they deploy a vSphere vApp.
- Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 5 supports automated failback, eliminating the need for scripting or administrator intervention for failback.
- Storage DRS automates the initial placement of data (see Duncan Epping’s post for many more cool ways to use this feature.)
The rise of IT generalists does not mean that specialists are not needed, but there will be less of them. Cross-training is important as the rise of virtualization and converged infrastructure solutions can make troubleshooting even more difficult than it was in siloed environments.
Action Item: CIOs should look to flatten the organization to assist in busting the silos based on physical infrastructure components. More collaboration between IT groups is a necessity to efficiently leverage new VMware capabilities. By aligning organizational structures with new capabilities, IT staffs will be more likely to keep a productive staff at a flat headcount despite growth requirements.