New demands, new opportunities

New demands, new opportunities

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New demands, new opportunities

This is my first turn at filling this space. Over the past couple of years, I've managed to pound out enough prose to fill a number of pages in other parts of Storage, but in my new role I have some pretty big shoes to fill delivering a monthly editorial.

For me, a new job means new opportunities, along with the challenge of providing commentary here that meets the standards established by my predecessor. But I'm just another face in the crowd when it comes to dealing with change. In one of the fastest developing technology domains IT has ever seen, storage professionals are grappling daily with ever-evolving roles and responsibilities.

Maturing storage environments, coupled with data stores that have grown beyond all reasonable expectations, are redefining responsibilities. Tossed into the mix are other forces, such as regulations that dictate data-handling practices; and while the cost of buying storage continues to drop steadily, the cost of owning that storage is soaring. All of that adds up to a nearly constant change and shifting of responsibilities. But it also means there are now fresh opportunities for creating new storage jobs.

I'm specifically thinking of the issues related to data retention-- what data to keep, where to put it and how to find it when it's needed down the road. It's a huge area of concern, with direct links to regulatory compliance, tiered storage, information lifecycle management and just about everything that's on most storage managers' to-do lists.

At a recent Storage Decisions conference, attendees rated data classification as one of their top priorities--a key part of the process for determining the intelligent placement of data and its successful retrieval. Storage pros are generally on the right track, and are beginning to address these issues and take responsibility for them. That's a good thing, because more and more frequently, top brass will be looking to their company's storage managers for critical concerns like ensuring the integrity of data archives for compliance and mitigating legal exposures.

Some storage purists might see this as a very broad interpretation of traditional storage management--which it is. Others will see the new responsibilities as an opportunity to fill a gap in IT and corporate bureaucracies.

It's a new job, for sure; perhaps the closest analogy is the role a business analyst plays on the application development side of the IT house. The business analyst helps translate businessprocess needs into code that will effectively meet those needs, turning technology into a business tool. Similarly, this new storage function would combine the technical knowledge of storage systems with a far more than cursory understanding of business requirements.

It's hard to overstate the importance this new storage function will have, given the criticality of a company's data to its mere existence. It's not inconceivable that this could lead to a C-something slot in the corporate hierarchy, like chief data officer (CDO) for instance. The CDO's responsibilities would run the gamut from data classification to e-discovery, and would be the guiding force behind maintaining regulatory compliance, meeting legal requirements and making data--old and new--generally more useful to the business.

These CDO ruminations aren't so far-fetched when you consider how the emphasis in storage has swung from hardware to software in a relatively short time. Traditional storage roles will undoubtedly persist, but if you can distinguish between opportunity and demands that seem unreasonable, you just might have a bead on a new career. Carpe diem.

What do you think about the idea of a CDO? Drop me a line and share your thoughts.

This was first published in January 2006

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