Who's running the storage shop?


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How many specialists are needed?
There's no clear-cut formula for determining the "right" number of storage specialists. Factors to consider include:

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  • Number and nature of business units being supported
  • Amount of storage maintained
  • Physical complexity of the storage setup
  • Geographic issues
  • Special circumstances such as regulatory compliance
For Best Buy Canada, a $1.6 billion subsidiary of the Minneapolis, MN-based retail electronics giant, a single dedicated specialist is sufficient to manage an installation of approximately 80TB. Damian Chung, enterprise storage analyst for Best Buy Canada, gets occasional part-time help from two or three other technicians, but Chung says, "I'm the only person that has a storage-specific title." Chung assumed storage responsibilities approximately two years ago; the company has Unix, Windows and Linux servers, but the Unix servers are the primary users of the SAN.

Brian Perlstein is a senior technical consultant for Oakwood Healthcare, a Dearborn, MI, organization that manages hospitals and health care centers. Oakwood decided to dedicate personnel to storage administration when it installed its first SAN more than three years ago to accommodate its PeopleSoft system. As with other medical facilities, HIPAA-related regulatory compliance and medical imaging are key areas of concern. Perlstein says that the hospital has a good handle on its HIPAA requirements, and is preparing to bring the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) online--which he expects will require another 10TB of storage. Despite those potentially daunting requirements, Oakwood's 10TB of SAN-based data is managed effectively by Perlstein and only two other specialists who work on storage on a part-time basis. "We're pretty smooth running. We have very good communication in our organization," he says.

Similarly, Privetera's team of three storage specialists at HDR is modestly sized, considering the 50TB of data they're managing. It's a veteran group, formed about four or five years ago, and is charged with managing storage accessed by more than 200 servers. HDR has more than 80 remote locations, but the storage team is not yet involved with those facilities. "We focus more on enterprise storage as opposed to all of the office locations," Privetera explains. HDR's storage staff manages corporate data, such as corporate databases and Exchange.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bruce Hall is one of about 15 specialists who, on a part- or full-time basis, manage their company's 100TB-plus storage resources for Unix, Windows and mainframe platforms. The need for a relatively large, cross-functional storage team is related to the company's involvement in two lines of business that are data-intensive and highly regulated--finance and health services. "Before we were siloed--whether it was midrange Wintel or Unix systems--each division that managed those platforms had their own architecture, engineering and day-to-day admin teams," says Hall. The storage environment is now centralized on an enterprise level, with the full-time storage specialists concentrating on operations and the part-time participants involved with architectural decisions.

This was first published in May 2004

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