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Several people interviewed for this article say storage gets little respect as a professional discipline. Those versed in storage are often lumped with systems, network and database administrators. The latest survey suggests this may be changing.
Although respondents, on average, spend almost half their time (48%) on storage--more than double the time spent on servers, applications, networks or databases--many companies fail to look at storage as a discipline in its own right. Among respondents, approximately 40% work in dedicated storage groups, second only to those working as part of systems administration groups (42%). Last year, 34% worked in a dedicated storage group compared to 48% in a systems group. The change is a positive sign that storage is gaining recognition as an IT discipline, although there appears to be no salary advantage to working in a dedicated storage group.
Part of the respect problem results from the gap between top management's perception of storage and the reality. "With such a high percentage of the IT budget allocated to storage, the importance of storage is increasing and the perception gap is closing," says Datalink's Westling.
Among the survey respondents who knew their employers' IT budgets, 66% reported storage as accounting for 25% or less of the IT budget. Only 3% reported it as more than 25% of the IT budget.
"How storage is treated and organized is a function of
The University of New Mexico just formed a dedicated storage team in 2004, following the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system that drove storage growth to 400% a year for several years. Although that growth is expected to slow in future years, the university organized five people from systems and network disciplines into a dedicated storage team. "It is a dedicated team, but each person still has responsibilities in other areas. Even the team leader only works on storage 50% of his time," says UNM's McQuade. McQuade may have the most storage experience, but his focus is strategic planning. Still, he manages to involve himself in leading-edge storage initiatives at the university, such as a Continuous Data Protection implementation of Revivio and a SAN virtualization effort using IBM Corp.'s SAN Virtualization Controller.
The City of Norfolk, VA, also experienced a centralized storage growth spurt, jumping from 100GB three years ago to 6TB today. A team of four database administrators manages the storage as part of the networking group. "I wanted to hire a dedicated storage person, but the position didn't get funded," says Hap Cluff, Norfolk's director of IT. He managed to get small raises, approximately 2.5%, for his IT staff. He'll try again to bring a dedicated storage administrator on board for the next budget cycle.
If storage isn't a place where people will get rich quick, it does provide decent pay. And with the demand for storage showing no signs of slowing, the need for storage professionals will only increase.
This was first published in December 2004