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Hot Spots: Just say 'Yes' to a new IT strategy

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Something needs to change. Backup technologies are an improvement, but they require capital expenses for disk and potentially new software. Online backup offerings are an operational expense, but they require an enterprise to be comfortable with outsourcing storage of corporate information. To date, this has usually been restricted to desktop and remote-office environments. Typically, there will still be a central administrator to handle requests.

While there's software available to help automate storage provisioning, its control and use is still restricted to the storage domain. This reduces the amount of time required to provision the storage, but still requires an extensive process of change control. But what if storage administrators could delegate that authority and responsibility? Picture a scenario in which the application administrator, needing a snapshot to test a new patch, could simply provision storage themselves. Even better, what if access to provisioning their storage was integrated into their applications to further simplify the process? As data centers continue to become more complex, the industry needs to find ways to help IT staff scale more effectively and work more closely as an integrated team. The days of strictly divided infrastructure teams are nearing their end. Cross-functional teams and software will be necessary for IT to meet the increased service levels demanded

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by the business moving forward.


Faith in new processes
Software will increasingly transcend the self-imposed technology barriers that have evolved in larger data center environments. The ability to create policy-based programs that not only automate processes but empower others to help themselves will dramatically improve efficiency.

For example, online backup services take cross functionality beyond the data center. Many of these new services have shifted the burden of file retrieval from the data center staff to the actual user. Not only does the software automatically back up files to a geographically distant location and greatly accelerate the recovery process but, in most cases, it will eliminate any intervention from the storage or backup teams. What about delegating responsibility for provisioning additional storage? Are storage teams ready to give other departments limited permission and access to storage? Think of the benefits that application-empowered data management could bring. Application admins, QA or test/development personnel could provision and create their own virtual infrastructure and data images instead of having to wait for storage administrators. This would eliminate huge time sinks for all involved, resulting in less operational burden to others and faster time to value across the board. It should also improve service levels, reduce errors and accelerate application deployment.

The big issue here is trust: Do storage teams trust the software and other parts of their organization not to disrupt their area of responsibility? A prudent first step for cutting-edge technology like this would be to fully vet the technology in a test environment and then roll it out to production in a well-controlled pilot program. Once a level of trust has been established, early adopters of this technology will be rewarded with faster time to market and greater efficiencies.

You don't have to make huge, wholesale changes to your world. You can start small and become comfortable before implementing across the entire environment. But make no mistake; this is the way of the future and you can either participate or continue to be marginalized. Progressive IT shops are creating cross-functional teams on a per-project basis and are continuously looking for opportunities to drive greater efficiencies.

This was first published in May 2008

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