When I meet with IT personnel or speak at events, I always try to find out what people are doing in their positions in IT. Finding out what their daily work entails gives a good barometer on what is happening in IT and helps to identify where the problems are. One trend I notice is there are fewer storage specialists these days. A storage specialist is someone who understands how the storage systems work, how data flows through IT operations, and how to manage the information.
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There is a great deal of tribal knowledge that the storage specialist learns, especially around Fibre Channel. This knowledge may be critical to maintaining operations, but this is changing as storage specialists give way to a growing number of IT generalists.
There are several reasons why IT generalists are replacing storage specialists. A generalist may have more flexibility because he or she can work in many areas. The generalist probably is not as well paid as a storage specialist would have been on average (and the generalists appear to be much younger than storage specialists I’ve known), so. IT managers have consciously developed the generalist to provide the resources that can be applied where needed.
But the movement to server virtualization has done more to develop the IT generalist than probably any overt IT management plan. The management of the virtual machine operating system – specifically VMware – is closely linked to storage. VMware has included storage management functions and has continued to improve those capabilities. This has led to the task of storage administration increasingly being included with the server virtualization function. Evaluator Group has an article on simplifying VMware storage management and the emergence of storage and server management for virtual environments.
A question to ask is whether the trend to IT generalists at the expense of storage specialists is a detriment to IT or not. The answer is not simple. Storage system vendors have recognized this trend and reacted by greatly simplifying the configuration and administration of storage systems. They have intentionally targeted the IT generalist with the system management software. Movement to the IT generalist may be considered a good idea, but that really doesn’t matter. It is happening anyway.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).