I, along with a number of colleagues on Dell’s EqualLogic line, have had the pleasure of talking with Marc from time to time at industry events. It has been a pleasure in part because Marc always ‘got it’ when EqualLogic experts were explaining the point of having a virtualized storage architecture or talking about a recent automated feature.
While an unsolicited plug is always nice, Marc’s analysis of the benefits of storage automation in terms of the evolution of IT human resources – i.e. skilled and new labor — is insightful. Common misperceptions and skepticism about “ease-of-use” as a benefit in enterprise storage systems should fade, Marc points out, because “storage administrators managed far more storage and spent less time managing it with this type of simple-to-use SAN storage vs. traditional SAN storage” in a user polls Dragon Slayer did with analyst firm ESG.
A related point: enterprise storage managers shouldn’t worry that ease-of-use will threaten their jobs. Skilled storage engineers and managers will always have a depth of experience that new blood to the IT world will lack until they’ve spent time hip-deep in the technology. You can’t replace decades of experience with a slick GUI and a new college grad.
What smart IT departments CAN do with skilled managers and administrators with decades of storage experience is apply their knowledge to larger issues of prioritizing DR/BC activities according to business value of the data, archiving and considerations of next-generation flexible virtualized datacenter architectures. Such an orientation of storage skills towards the application and services that matter to the business will benefit storage personnel.
One example of what a slick GUI on top of a virtualized storage architecture CAN do, though, is eliminate the need for professional services for basic tuning/re-tuning, configuration and expansion of storage that eat up IT budgets. There’s still a place for professional services from channel partners or vendors in the IT world, particularly for customers, large or small that prefer the assistance. But if IT organizations that can select an storage platform that requires less tuning, they can hopefully apply some of those saved configuration services dollars to rewarding SAN managers who are keeping tabs on even larger and larger volumes of data.
Dell actually introduced some new services built around the EqualLogic line, but notably none of these new services tackle ‘old-school’ problems of re-balancing RAID sets to eliminate hot spots or doing an install of an incremental PS Series array. What the Dell ProConsult services do address is taking some of the EqualLogic line’s built-in features and helping IT department extend replication, snapshots, application integration, etc. to meet business goals.
My one critique of Marc’s piece: I’d like to think the revolt that Dell is fomenting with easy-to-use storage hasn’t been so quiet…